GB beaten by Volleyball world champions
July 28, 2012 16:33 pm
Great Britain's women's Olympic debut ended as they were defeated 3-0 by Volleyball world champions Russia at Earls Court.
Taking the stage after a six-year battle with funding problems, Audrey Cooper's women were understandably brimming with enthusiasm and matched their well-regarded opponents for the majority of the first set.
A predicted gulf in class eventually appeared, though, with concentration errors costing them the opener and giving Russia the platform they needed to go ahead and secure a comfortable opening win 25-19 25-10 25-16.
Such an outcome was always expected - especially as Russia boast the two tallest players in the tournament - and Britain often struggled to find any rhythm amid the chaos at the net. There were bright spots, with Ciara Michel performing well up high and Rachel Bragg and Grace Carter displaying some hitting that will certainly trouble Algeria on Monday.
But regardless of the way things panned out, the squad will forever recall taking their first point in the Olympics when Russia touched the net and after that managed to stay toe-to-toe with their opponents through to the first time out. Two piercing spikes from Bragg and Lynne Beattie excited the audience, while some impressive work from Michel at the net largely stifled the 6ft 8in Ekaterina Gamova.
Russia found a way to pull clear after that break, though, edging three points ahead when GB touched the net and then Bragg served long. But Beattie and Carter prevented them from getting too far clear, while Michel - Britain's tallest player at 6ft 4in - did her best to keep things together at the net.
But Bragg committed another service error that saw the gap go to a set-high five points and Russia saw it out 25-19. Poor serving affected the hosts at the start of the second set too, with mistakes from Savannah Leaf and Lucy Wicks seeing them go 6-2 down and coach Cooper called a technical time-out to try and steady the ship at 8-3.
The move did not work, however, and with Wicks unable to get good position to set the ball to either Michel or Bragg, the signs were worrying, especially when a Maria Borisenko serve was allowed to land untouched.
To their credit, GB stayed competitive, with captain Beattie doing her best to rally her team-mates with some impressive hitting down the middle, but it was not enough to prevent Russia running away with the set. The difference was proving to be the sheer brutality of Russia's hitters and it was when she was found that her side generally won the point.
They went out to 8-6 by the first time-out in the third came and were finding Britain more like the side they were in the first - especially when libero Maria Bertelli took a six-foot slide to keep a point which Michel eventually won alive. But Russia eventually took the first match point that came their way when Borisenko shut down Beattie at the net.
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