By Robert Weinstock
SOFIA, Bulgaria — The U.S. Women’s Volleyball Team prevailed over Russia in a hard-fought battle Saturday before about 500 spectators at Arena Armeec Sofia.
The match, which the Americans won in four sets — 25-23, 21-25, 25-21, 25-23 — was easily one of the most exciting matches in recent Deaflympics history. It featured long volleys, incredible digs by both teams, spectacular kills, and numerous lead changes, particularly in the deciding fourth set.
Coach Lynn Ray Boren said before the match that the team with the best passing and defense would win.
Boren’s prophecy turn-ed out to be true.
In the first set, the U.S. had only eight kills — two each by Kelly Kyle, Ann Whited, Katelyn Reese, and Ludmila Mounty-Weinstock. Most of the team’s points came off its strong defense and Russian errors.
After losing the second set, the U.S. rallied to take the third and fourth sets.
The turning point in the third set came when Pia Marie Paulone made a diving save of a ball at the team bench.
The highlight reel-worthy dig led to a crucial point and silenced the raucous Russian crowd. The Russians could not stop the U.S. after that, and the Americans won the third set handily, 25-21.
In the fourth set, the U.S. raced out to an 8-2 lead but promptly lost it. Seven lead changes in the set kept spectators on the edges of their seats, but the USA held on, winning the final point, set, and match on a receiving error by Russia’s libero.
After a slow start in the first set, outside hitter Kelly Kyle had five, five, and six kills in the next three sets for a total of 18. She now has 32 kills in international play.
Katelyn Reese had eight kills, and Ludmila Mounty-Weinstock had six. Reese led the team in attack percentage with 54 percent. Kyle had 16 digs, leading the team in that category as well. Paulone and Kristina Burke each had 10 digs, and Paulone had 29 assists.
Blocking was the key to this win.
Mounty-Weinstock had five block solos and three block assists, and Jessica Israel and Reese each had four block solos and three block assists.
However, eight service aces were negated by 12 service errors.
Team USA, now 2-0 in pool play, faces Uzbekistan at 11 a.m. Sunday at Arena Armeec Sofia.
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