Friday, June 22, 2007

USA Looks Strong Against Young Italian Team During FIVB World League Chicago Opener

I am capturing this article in my blog since I will eventually be moving the article off of the home page.

USA Volleyball has strongly encouraged me to write an article about my coverage of the match. For what it is worth, here is my first ever match coverage…

Tonight’s match was held at the Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center at Chicago State University. The USA vs. Italy World League match was the first sporting event to be held in the brand new center. It has only been open for about a month and the only other use was for Chicago State’s recent graduation ceremony. The facility was beautiful and allowed one whole side of the court to be within feet of the action.



The first two sets ended in the same score 25-21 USA. In the first set, it was 8-6 at the first time out. Reid Priddy delivered back-to-back aces to stretch the lead. The US maintained a steady 4 to 6 point lead throughout the rest of the match. Clay Stanley subbed in as a serving specialist at the 17-12 mark but no fireworks were generated. Statistics wise, both teams had 5 service errors but the US had two aces to none for Italy. Star player, Alberto Cisolla had three of those 5 service errors in this first set. The US hit a blistering .640 compared to a respectable .460 for Italy.

The second set was fairly tight until the 16-16 point. A Gardner high hands kill was followed by a Millar block resulting from bringing down an Italian roll shot using his high hang time. This generated energy for the US as they widened the lead and maintained it for the rest of the set. Tom Hoff was subbed in for Brandon Taliaferro while the US was serving. This paid off with a Hoff-Lee stuff block the very next play. The set ended with a Priddy tool shot. Once again both teams had the same number of service errors (10 each). The difference was USA having four aces to go with their service errors. Italy had no aces.

The third set started out strong for the US with a 2-0 and 6-3 lead. During the second point of the set, the up official called a replay during the middle of the action. He had seen Alberto Cisolla take a knee to the head during a scramble for a deflected ball. The US was surprised that the official had stopped action before the completion of the point but dropped any protest. Gabe Gardner responded with an ace during the replay. I guess the old saying, “the ball never lies” worked out for the US this time. Alberto Cisolla and Allesandro Paparoni started getting hot for Italy and the digging and blocking was significantly better than the last two sets. Italy had 10 digs in the third set alone. Late in the set, the US block started to dominate bringing the US back to a 21-21 tie. Each team sided out until Italy finished off the set with a hard kill ricocheting off a US back row player. Sean Rooney, the local favorite, was subbed into the match in a blocking role for one play. Riley Salmon was quickly subbed back in during the next rotation. Italy had 15 kills and the previously mentioned 10 digs. However, they still had 0 aces to their now 15 service errors. The US had 14 kills and added a fifth ace to their 15 service errors.

In the final set, Italy jumped to a lead including an 8-13 lead during a streak of serve-receive problems for the US. Kevin Hansen was subbed in at setter at the 5-7 mark. As with the last set, the Italian digging and blocking had improved. The US tied up at 15-15 once again using back-to-back stuff blocks. It was here I noticed that Italy was using a short server whenever Reid Priddy was in the back row. When I asked Coach Montali about the short serve, he said it was intentional. It impacted the ability of Priddy to get ready for his back-row attack and allowed the Italian middle to read their blocking assignments. Clay Stanley was brought in as the serving specialist once again and delivered two aces tying the setup at 19-19. Alberto Cisolla and Allesandro Paparoni contributed kills but the US fought back to a 24-24 tie with a quick attach by David Lee and a Salmon kill. The US jumped ahead 25-24 but a Priddy service error tied it up again. It was Priddy throughout the last few plays. He was called for over the net when he contacted a ball being set by the Italian setter but delivered two back-to-back kills to make up for it. The final score was 29-27.

During the post-match press conference, Coach Montali mentioned that he has four players currently not traveling due to injuries. As a result he had several younger players on the roster and starting. Coach believed this contributed to their slow start as the players were getting adjusted to playing with their teammates and against the tough US competition. When Coach was asked whether Pool B was the toughest World League pool this year, he smiled and agreed that it was.

Coach McCutcheon opened the US press conference by stating that a win over Italy is always a good win. Coach McCutcheon also indicated that he thought Pool B was the toughest World League Pool this year but did not speculate whether the 2nd place team from Pool B was most likely to receive the Wild Card position to advance to the final round. It was his experience that the wild card was just that, a wild card and there seemed to be no consistent rationale behind the selection. Tom Huff stated that during the third set, the Italian hitting and digging had improved but the US should have been prepared for that. It took them awhile to adjust not getting the kills that had during the first two sets. Lastly, Sean Rooney was asked about his old high school who had recently won their fourth Illinois state boy’s volleyball championship. Sean was a senior in high school when Wheaton-Warrenville South won their first. Sean said he knew of their victory and recently spoke with his old high school coach.

OK, that is enough for my first ever sports story…. Please feel free to provide me any feedback.

Middle Hitter

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