Story By Bill Kauffman
The United States opened the FIVB World Championship NORCECA Pool G with a 25-10, 25-9, 25-5 victory over Netherlands Antilles on Monday evening at UCF Arena in Orlando.
Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) and Cynthia Barboza (Long Beach, Calif.) led the United States in scoring with 11 points apiece. Haneef-Park converted seven of her 10 attacks into kills, while Barboza provided 10 kills on 21 swings. Jane Collymore (Seattle, Wash.) added eight points, while Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.) chipped in seven points.
“I was happy that our team could implement some changes from the Pan Am Cup,” U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon said.
Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) added five points, six digs and 14 assists. Angie Pressey (Lake Mary, Fla.), from a suburb just outside Orlando, added three in the victory including two blocks despite being just 173cm in height. Christa Harmotto (Aliquippa, Pa.) and Kristin Richards (Orem, Utah) each tallied one points to round out the scoring. Stacy Sykora (Burleson, Texas) lifted up 14 digs and five excellent receptions on 10 attempts to pace the U.S. back-row defense.
McCutcheon started Collymore and Barboza at outside hitter, Scott-Arruda and Harmotto at middle blocker, Haneef-Park at opposite and Thompson at setter. Sykora was the designated libero for the match.
Christine Anthony provided Netherlands Antilles with a team-high four points, while Sonela Philips contributed three points.
Team USA held a 7-2 block advantage during the match, while adding a 9-0 margin in aces. Setter Courtney Thompson scored four of her five points with aces. The Americans also held their miscues to 12 and gained 28 points directly off Netherlands Antilles errors.
“My compliments to Netherlands Antilles,” U.S. captain Danielle Scott-Arruda said. “They played some good defense during the match.”
Netherlands Antilles stayed close in the first set trailing only 5-3. Barboza sparked a 5-0 run with two kills while Haneef-Park chipped in an ace. After Netherlands Antilles cut the deficit to 13-8, the U.S. finished the set on a 12-2 run that included four of Haneef-Park’s 11 points in the match.
The Americans opened the second set with a 6-0 advantage on Thompson’s serve, including the first two points of the set via ace. Leading 9-3, the U.S. rolled off nine unanswered points for an 18-3 lead as Haneef-Park capped the run with an ace. Netherlands Antilles scored four of the next six points to cut the gap to 22-8 before the U.S. earned three of the final four points of the set for a 25-9 victory.
Thompson led the U.S. to a 9-0 lead in the third set as Barboza was credited with two aces.
“USA is a great team,” Netherlands Antilles Head Coach Patricio Bridgewater said. “I have a young team and in a rebuilding process. I think the players had a little bit of nerves knowing they were playing one of the top teams in the world. I did not expect to win today – but maybe 10 years from now that is the hope. Overall, it was a great honor to be here tonight playing the United States.”
“It was an honor to play versus the United States, a team that was on television during the Olympic Games,” Netherlands Antilles captain Jeanne Keller said. “We played with a lot of heart and fight against one of the top teams in the world."
The U.S. hosts Barbados on July 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET on the second day of competition, while Netherlands Antilles faces Costa Rica at 5 p.m. ET.
NORCECA Pool G, a four-team round-robin event played over three days, is a third-round qualification tournament into the 2010 FIVB World Championship to be played in November next year in Japan. The Pool G winner advances directly to the FIVB World Championship, while the second-place finisher advances to the NORCECA Playoff round that will fill two additional World Championship vacancies.