By Robert Weinstock
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Despite some sloppy, uninspired play, the U.S. Women’s Volleyball Team is in the playoffs of the 2013 Sofia Deaflympics.
With a 3-0 (25-22, 25-10, 25-18) win against Italy on Tuesday, the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals, which begin Wednesday afternoon at Arena Armeec Sofia.
The first and third sets were full of mental errors, co-captain Katelyn Reese said, and the team needs to adjust quickly. She listed serving, passing, misplaying, and miscommunication as some of the team’s issues in the match.
On the bright side, of 10 team members who saw playing time, eight notched a total of 46 kills. Outside hitter Kelly Kyle led the attack with 17 kills, followed by Ann Whited with nine, Jessica Israel with five, and Ludmila Mounty-Weinstock and Sarah Tubert with four each. Pia Marie Paulone had 20 assists, while Tubert had 16. Paulone also had three service aces.
On defense, libero Payton Brown had 12 digs, and Kyle had six. Jessica Israel had the team’s only block solo, while Katelyn Reese had two block assists. Mounty-Weinstock and Reese each had three block errors, however.
In the first set, the U.S. tried to assert its authority early, racing to a 9-2 lead. Reese sent a serve out too far, and Italy picked up four points before Mounty-Weinstock ended the rally with a kill. Several volleys later, with the score 17-15, the team’s Indiana contingent – Paulone, Kyle, Whited, and Fetzer – contributed two service aces and two kills. Mounty-Weinstock and Kyle launched kills to bring the match to 23-18. Several self-inflicted lost points ensued before Kristina Burke hit a booming cross-court kill to put the set away.
Ann Whited, who had four uncharacteristic attack errors in the first set, rebounded in the second with five kills. With the set tied at 4-4, Mounty-Weinstock served for 12 consecutive points. Italy broke the streak after a technical timeout but never recovered from the barrage of kills.
The second set and the first were “like night and day,” one spectator said.
The statistics tell the story: The U.S. improved from a dismal 16 percent attack rate in the first set to a 45 percent rate in the second.
The U.S. was buoyed by its strong performance in the second set but fell back into its error-prone ways in the final set.
Only midway through the set did the Americans find their groove. Kyle had seven kills, and Sarah Tubert smartly put away two successive points with dinks when everyone expected her to set. The errors in this set were mainly on defense.
The quarterfinals begin Wednesday. The U.S., first in Pool B, play Mexico, the fourth seed in Pool A, at 7:00 p.m. in Sofia (noon ET) at Arena Armeec Sofia.
The schedule of other quarterfinal matches and the live stream schedule were not yet available at press time. However, Internet connection permitting, the match will be live tweeted by @USA_DeafVB.