Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beijing Olympics - Day Thirteen - May/Walsh Golden; Inside Volleyballers Advance to Gold Medal Game

10:55 p.m. - Sorry for the skimpy coverage. Busy day of medical appointments and meals out. The US men carried on and beat Australia 116-85 and will face Argentina in a semifinal basketball game.

We got back just in time to see two very happy women in a rainstorm - Misty May-Trainor and Kerri Walsh - celebrating their gold medal in women's beach volleyball. They beat a Chinese team in straight sets. Winners of 107 straight matches and prohibitive gold medal favorite, the pair did everything expected of them. At the end they hugged everyone in sight and expressed both joy and relief at the victory and possible end of their careers. Both women are recently married and ready to start families. As Walsh said to the interviewer, "you can't imagine how much I want a baby." They joked about needing to start the next generation of beach volleyball champions. The relief no doubt arose from the concern about a crushing upset that would spoil the end of their fabulous careers. And in a bittersweet moment, May-Trainor scattered a small vial of her mother's ashes on the sand, as she did in Athens when the team won their first gold medal in 2004. Overall, a long-running story with the happiest of endings.

Midnight - I'm very happy that NBC is covering live the women's volleyball game between the US and Cuba. This is a semifinal game. Cuba whipped the US in pool play, but US is doing well tonite, winning the first set by 25-20. Set two is tied 4-4. Nice dig by US results in a kill by Logan Tom. 5-4 US. Hitting error by Cuba. 6-4. Over the net on Cuba. 7-4. Ace by Scott-Ahudda. 8-4. Technical timeout.

Now 10-6 after great dig by Logan Tom. Now Cuba timeout. Cuba kills makes score 12-7 US. Service error by Santos. 13-7. Lift by Cuba. 14-7. Cuba stuff. 14-8. Logan Tom is tournament's top scorer. Very versatile player--aces, kills and stuff blocks are added together as points. Tom has 97. Cuba kill. Now 15-9. Cuba stuff block. 15-10. Service error. 16-10. Too many errors by Cuba. Timeout. Cuba's fifth straight trip to Olympic semis.

Now US up 18-12 after commercial. Cuba hits out. 19-13. Errors are 19-2 in "favor" of Cuba. Stuff block by Tom. 20-13. Big kill by Santos. 20-14. Kill by Tom. 21-14. Timeout. Tom serving. Cuba hits into antenna. 22-14. Set two close at hand. Willoughby kills. 23-14. Cuba kills 23-15. Tom kills from backline. 24-14. Ten set points. Cuba kill. 24-15. Willoughby kill takes set two. 25-15.

Set three. Expect more focused effort by Cuba with their backs to the wall. US has to stay strong and avoid errors. US receiving serve at 86%.

Cuba starts with service error. 1-0, US. Big hit by Cuba. 1-1. Bad reception by US, but Cuba hits long. 2-1. Stuff block by Tom. 3-1. Easy kill by Cuba. 3-2. Tom/Bown block. 4-2. Cuba kill 4-3. Bown kills. 5-3. Ace for Tom. 6-3. Cuba timeout.

Analysts wondering if Cuba was ready for morning match. Most other matches played at night. Cuba kill off head of Bown. 6-4. Glass kills cross court. 7-4. Corner kill by Cuba. 7-5. Glass from left side. 8-5. Technical timeout.

Upset in making. Cuba was undefeated in pool play. Now 11-7 US. Scott-Ahudda ace. 12-7. Brazil and China in other semi. Brazil is world #1. Calderon kill for Cuba. 12-8. Ruiz makes it 12-9. Ace by Cuba. 12-10. US timeout. Match about where Cuba was against China. China was up two sets and 15-11. Blocked out by Cuba. 13-10. Santos kill. 13-11. Cuba warming to task. Serve long by Cuba. 14-11. 25th error by Cuba. Receiving error. US kill at net. 15-11. US serves long. 15-12. Rare US error. Santos serves into net. 16-12. Technical timeout.

US up 18-14 coming back from commercial. US kill. 19-14. Cuba kill 19-15. Service error by Cuba. 20-15. Good set. Haneef-Park buries it. 21-15. Tallest US player.

Goal within sight now. US hits out. 21-16. Tom passes. Haneef-Park kills. 22-16. US in net. 22-17. Too bad. Spike was out. Could see net call on replay. Willoughby kills after long rally. 23-17. Tom serving. Willoughby kills. Blocked long. 24-17. Seven match points. Tom serving. Best rally of match. Willoughby ends it with a kill from right side. 25-17 and three game sweep. Best game of tourney by far for US. Might be hard to US to get back to that level for gold medal game on Saturday. First trip to volleyball final for US women since 1984.

7:30 a.m. - Despite the late night I still had to get up early to eat and watch the US-Australia men's basketball game. So far Australia has been worthy of respect, trailing 41-32 with 5 minutes to go in the second quarter. Now 41-36. Aussies shooting over 50%. US getting many more offensive rebounds. James makes basket; misses free throw. Anthony rebounds and gets fouled. Now 45-36. Aussies shoot threes well and can catch up in a hurry. Newley makes two free throws for Australia 45-38. Kobe makes circus shot and gets fouled. Misses free throw. 9-18 from line for US. Aussie makes field goal. 47-40. Long three misses. Aussie misses early putback. Prince misses first free throw. Makes second. 48-40. Lebron drive the middle. 50-40. Newley hits three. 50-43. Kobe misses. Mills misses three for Australia. Rebound OB. Deron Williams misses three. 2 for 12 from long range. James misses on drive. Acrobatic rebound and putback by Bryant. 52-43. Williams hits three at the buzzer. 55-43.

Lithuania and Spain will play in other semifinal. Winner of US-Australia will play winner of Argentina and Greece.

US opens second half with threes by Bryant and Anthony. Lead now 61-43. Bryant drives and gets fouled. Great hustle by James to save a loose ball. Bryant makes one of two. 62-43. Twelve in a row for US. Kidd makes layup. 64-43. Great one-on-one move by Bryant. Makes layup and goes to line. 66-43. Timeout Australia.

Kobe misses free throw. US rebounds. Air ball by Australia. Kobe hits three. 69-43. Gotta go.

US women's softball beat Japan in 9 innings. Will play Japan again for gold medal. Japan beat Australia in 12 innings to get into gold medal game.

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