Destinee Hooker scored 19 points and the undefeated US women’s volleyball team wrapped up preliminary pool play at the London Olympics with a straight-set victory over Turkey last night.

But the top-ranked US team was hurt in the third set when captain and three-time Olympian Lindsey Berg injured her left ankle.

Foluke Akinradewo added 15 points in the 27-25, 25-16, 25-19 victory for the top-ranked United States, which had clinched the top seed in its pool for Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

Yesterday was the final day of the preliminary round.

Nataliya Goncharova scored 33 points and Russia clinched the top spot in its preliminary round pool with a five-set victory over Italy.

Ekaterina Gamova added 31 points in the 26-28, 25-19, 22-25, 25-16 15-11 victory for ninth-ranked Russia. Simona Gioli had 21 points for the No. 4 Italians.

Both teams were undefeated going into the match, and both had dropped just two sets. The teams had also earned spots in the quarterfinals, so the match decided pool finishing order.

Russia and Italy were joined by Japan and the Dominican Republic in advancing. Britain and Algeria were eliminated.

Neriman Ozsoy scored 14 for Turkey, which was eliminated from the competition when defending Olympic champion Brazil beat Serbia (25-10, 25-22, 25-16) in the late match to survive.

Turkey, which came into the match 2-2, was fired up at the start and took a first-set 11-5 lead to the delight of a big contingent of Turkish fans at Earls Court. The US came back with an 11-3 run and won it on Christa Harmotto’s block.

The US team breezed through the second set and took a 9-5 lead in the third, but then Berg limped off the court. The setter removed her shoe, and a trainer wrapped the ankle in ice.

Her team prevailed without her, winning the match on Akinradewo’s kill. Berg limped to congratulate Turkey after the match. Berg said afterward she would have the ankle examined further, but she didn’t think the injury was serious.

“I’m OK,” she said. “I felt something that wasn’t worth pushing through.”

The US women have never won a gold medal in indoor volleyball. The team fell just short at the Beijing Games under coach Lang Ping, taking home the silver after falling in the final to Brazil.

Now playing under Hugh McCutcheon, who led the US men to the gold in Beijing, the United States is among the favourites. He said he was pleased with the effort of his team on Sunday.

“To me, one of the important characteristics of a great team is how you perform when there’s nothing on the line,” McCutcheon said.

In the quarterfinals, top seeds will play the fourth-ranked pool teams, while lots are drawn for the other matches.

China defeated South Korea 3-2 with both teams earning a spot in the quarterfinals because of the five-set result.

A five-set match was the only way mathematically for both teams to advance to the quarterfinals. Had one team won all three points, the other team would have had to depend on results later in the day.

China won it 28-26, 22-25, 25-19, 22-25, 15-10, taking match point on Xu Yunli’s kill.

Both coaches emphatically denied that they had purposely pushed the match to five sets to ensure a quarterfinal berth for both teams.

Japan defeated Britain 3-0 (25-19, 25-14, 25-12), eliminating the home team from the Olympic competition.

The 69{+t}{+h}-ranked British women, who earned a spot in the Olympics as the hosts, surprised the field with a five-set victory over Algeria earlier in the preliminary round. Britain was not expected to win many sets, let alone a match.

The British, who had to raise money themselves to train and practiced in a small fire station gym, were given a sustained standing ovation from the crowd at Earls Court after Sunday’s loss. One fan held up a hand—lettered poster that read “Thank You!”

“It has been unforgettable,” British middle blocker Ciara Michel said. “We’ve been playing against the best teams in the world. It has been a phenomenal experience.”

The Dominican Republic defeated winless Algeria 25-15, 25-16, 25-13 to advance.

(This article was published on August 6, 2012)
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