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Another step toward that elusive gold

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    Logan Tom and company have beaten the world's second- and third-best teams in the Olympic volleyball tournament.

LONDON » In its 100-plus years as an entertainment arena, the aging but revered Earls Court served as the site of several events at the 1948 Olympics.

The U.S. women’s volleyball team will fetch the latest piece of history in the old domain if it keeps playing this way.

The U.S. beat China here Wednesday in preliminary play, 26-24, 25-16, 31-29, another productive step toward its first gold medal after a handful of almosts and so-closes since the sport’s Olympic debut in 1964.

There was a silver medal in 1984 and again in 2008, plus a bronze wedged in there in 1992, but that has been it for the U.S. women.

There’s still an eternity left to play in London, the medal matches not even taking place until Aug. 11, but the U.S. looks as close as ever to finally breaking through.

Reserve outside hitter Megan Hodge had 18 kills and Destinee Hooker added 17 kills as the U.S. improved to 3-0 in the tournament.

More impressive than the record is whom the U.S. has beaten: Brazil, the No. 2-ranked team in the world; up-and-coming South Korea; and now China, the world’s No. 3-ranked team.

Hooker was solid on the attack, as usual, but Hodge was highly effective after not getting off the bench the first two matches. She ended Wednesday’s action with a delicate hit off China’s block after the U.S. squandered five match points.

The U.S. came back from plenty of deficits throughout the night: 23-20 in the first set, 11-7 in the second and 23-21 in the third set.

"That’s kind of what we do," Hodge said. "We just keep grinding it out."

Hodge wasn’t the only non-starter to make a difference.

Danielle Scott-Arruda, 39, helped stabilize the block up front and also had five kills. A five-time Olympic participant, she might know more than anybody the not-so-memorable U.S. record.

"I just love the composure of our team in every position. Everyone played an important part." she said. "You can’t compare this team to the other four Olympic teams I’ve played for because systems and tactics change, but this is a great team."

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