The expected Olympic showdown between the top two women’s volleyball teams in the world turned out to be a one-sided affair.
The U.S. women swept defending gold medalist China 29-27, 25-22, 25-21 on Tuesday in a pool-play match that left the Americans at the top of Pool B and the Chinese seeking to win their first set of the tournament after two straight sweeps to open the Games.
“When we play them, it’s always a great competition,” U.S. captain Jordan Larson said. “But ultimately, I thought we controlled what we could on our side of the net. I think it put them in a lot of trouble. Really proud of our team for imposing ourselves on them. But we know that the history of China and how they were in Rio, you just never know what could come.”
China was also swept by Turkey in the opener but showed five years ago in Rio de Janeiro how little the pool-play matches can mean after losing three of five of them before rallying to win gold.
That’s similar to what happened in London in 2012 when Brazil finished fourth in its pool before winning gold, as U.S. coach Karch Kiraly was quick to point out.
“It’s not unusual for a team to struggle in preliminary and then catch fire with a key win in the quarterfinals,” he said. “I wouldn’t count China out at all right now. They don’t want to be down 2-0, but that doesn’t mean they’re not capable of doing major damage in this tournament.”