Rio Roundup: Day Ten

Monday was mostly a day of other fringe sports that grabbed the spotlight.

There was one basketball and beach volleyball game of note however:

Spain beat up a disinterested Argentina team by a score of 92-73.  Argentina did in fact race out of the gate scoring the first eight points in a 90 second span.  However, led by the steady play of Rudy Fernandez who finished with a game-high 23 points on 8-for-10 shooting, he also compiled seven rebounds, two assists and one steal. Pau Gasol had his usual double-double, chipping in big time tallying 19 points and 13 rebounds.  The loss also ended Brazil’s hopes of advancing to the medal round.

Case of near mistaken identity on windy Copacabana Beach

A pair of teams from the Netherlands sported the same colors, albeit one team was wearing blue shorts and orange cutoff shirts, while the other had it switched up just like the Denver Broncos when they switched out of their wildly popular “Orange Crush” uniforms in the mid 1990’s to the darker contrast of the navy blue with a small hint of orange on the side of the helmets.

The team of Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen ousted fellow countrymen Christiaan Varenhorst and Reinder Nummerdor (in possibly his final ever international match) by scores of 25-23 and 21-17.

Sadly, Team USA’s final hopes for a medal were snuffed out thanks to the host nation as Brazil’s Bruno Schmidt and Alison defeated Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in a stunning upset 14-21, 21-12, 9-15.  The key to this match was Brazil attacked the Americans by a whopping 54-14 clip, with 29 of those attacks turning into points for Brazil and only seven came up positive for the Americans.  Also not helping the Americans’ cause was making 13 errors.  That simply will not win beach volleyball matches, or no matter what surface–indoor or outdoor you play on.

Thought of the Day/Game Day Preview:

The semifinals in women’s beach volleyball are going to be some outstanding matches.  On the top side of the bracket is Brazil’s number one ranked team in the world–

“We’re believing with this one goal in mind–and that is to win the gold in Rio.”

Larissa in NBC Olympics online video profiling her partnership with Talita

Larissa, 34 and Lila got married in late 2013.  One year later, good friend Talita, 33 joined in with Larissa and they have gone to be quite a juggernaut.

At 3 p.m. Eastern time, they will take to Copacabana Beach in front of their closest friends and fans against the German pair of Laura Ludwig, 30 and Kira Walkenhorst, 25.

Keys to the Match:  Germany needs to take advantage of Walkenhorst’s height at standing a full six (6) feet tall without heels.  Larissa is 5’11”, while her partner Talita is only 5’9″.  If the returns come Kira’s way, look out.

For Brazil, feed off the crowd.  Volleyball isn’t the second most popular sport behind soccer for nothing.  But can they use that extra energy to their advantage?

At 4 p.m. begins the men’s semifinals, as the Dutch pair takes on Brazil.  The second semifinal is to set to spike off at around 10 p.m. Eastern as a pair from Italy will take on a duo from Russia.

And just like in these last several nights, as NBC lead volleyball announcer Chris Marlowe affectionately has said:

“Midnight Madness has come to beach volleyball.  The longer Kerri and April keep playing, all of their matches will begin precisely at midnight.”

That is 11 p.m. Eastern for us here in the United States, and what a blockbuster matchup this will be in the second semifinal.

Kerri Walsh-Jennings and April Ross are the last hope for Team USA as they will take on Brazil’s second dynamic duo of Agatha and Barbara Seixas de Freitas.

Keys to the Match:  Barbara is the young pup in this group at 29, while Agatha is 33.  April Ross is 34 and Kerri is 38.  Both American ladies are three and four inches taller than their Brazilian counterparts.

While Team USA has all of their legendary AVP titles and past Olympic experiences as a firm guide, the Brazilians have themselves for inspiration.  Agatha and Barbara’s husbands are both athletic trainer and head coach of the squad.  Certainly, there won’t be any happy moments if their team manages to lose out on their chance for gold.

Kerri is a master at finding weaknesses in opponents.  Whenever she serves, April Ross can act almost like a decoy, snooping around waiting for the right moment to strike.  Another key for Team USA is to limit their unforced errors.

Brazil is known for taking advantage of nearly every opponents’ mistake.  I saw Agatha and Barbara slice and dice their way to victory in a FIVB event in St. Petersburg, Florida and it is no secret–they are that good.  Their strategy is not that complex–they find the ball and attack with pure athleticism.  And yes, both ladies have to wear their hearts on their sleeves.  What I mean by this is they have to take advantage of almost free ball and see them try to reach deep down inside for that little something extra.  This match is not just about proving to their own nation and the world over that they are the new class of beach volleyball on the planet, while other teams act as second fiddle.  A crucial key to watch is how well can they defend Kerri Walsh-Jennings.  Clearly, this is a once-in-a-generation matchup.

The team with the most drive and guts, along with making key aces and hustle plays will survive to play for the gold medal on Wednesday night at 11 p.m. with the loser having to play for the bronze one hour earlier at 10 p.m.  The men will decide their bronze and gold medal winners on Thursday at 10 and 11 p.m. Eastern, respectively.

Bottom line, the women’s matches are going to be lots of fun.  Hope everybody on both ends of the globe can enjoy beach volleyball the way it is supposed to be played.

Please have a good night, everybody.  Sure hope Rio’s weather stays nice.




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