Volleyball: Beaten Brits cling to last-eight hopes
August 4, 2012 01:02 am
The Dominican Republic ripped up one of Great Britain's two quarter-final tickets in the women's Olympic volleyball at Earls Court.
In the wake of their first-ever Games success against Algeria on Monday, Audrey Cooper's side were left knowing that a win either here or on Sunday against Japan would take them through to the last eight.
Such a result would be the equivalent of a gold medal for the self-funded squad who arrived in London with little more than a prayer, but it did not come on Friday, with the Dominican Republic barely putting a foot wrong.
They hardly missed a block or a spike - outscoring with 13 to three kills - with Britain guilty of being too chaotic at the net. They are still alive, though, and a win over Japan, however unlikely, would still do the trick.
"I think in two areas of our game we outplayed them," coach Cooper told Press Association Sport. "We out-passed them and we out-served them, clearly, but at the net we were not at the races. They did a really amazing job on the block, we found a team on song and if you ever want to watch a libero, then she was unbelievable."
Cooper was referring to Brenda Castillo who produced a one-woman exhibition of how to defend. She managed to get fingertips under balls that were seemingly dead time and again, with her never-say-die attitude allowing a strong front row to dominate.
"We tipped a ball and she came from eight metres back to get it, and then one that looked out from our hardest hitter, Janine Sandell, she got an arm to it," Cooper added. "But I'm not getting down about this because we stayed aggressive, tried to play smart, but they were just on their game.
"We've got ourselves in the most amazing position. We're playing for a quarter-final place today and Sunday, so I'm delighted we got ourselves in that position. We said at the start that it would come down to the last two games and boy it has."
Cooper's thoughts were echoed by vice-captain Lucy Wicks. As the team's setter, she found the frustration harder to deal with than most, with wing spikers rarely in position to take her ball owing to the scrambling defence they had been forced to perform.
"We didn't get out of the starting blocks in any area of our game. They're a very aggressive team, they had a lot of firepower and we couldn't get it under control," she said. "Coming here, no game was going to be easy for us, we have a win under our belts and have a chance against Japan, a team we really enjoy playing, and we need to take our game to them."
Two devastating runs contributed to the loss, with the Dominican racking up 12 points on the reel in the first set and another eight in the second. Britain were run ragged during those periods, seemingly unable to get a handle on what was coming their way.
Wicks felt they had to take risks in order to stay afloat, though, and that their plan had simply backfired.
"They put us under a lot of pressure and a lot of unforced errors appeared," she said. "We had to take some risks and that forces errors too, but you can't play safe in these games. Volleyball in this country isn't big enough for us to play safe and take on the rest of the world.
"We are a work in process, there are some good things to take out of that. There is still hope, our goal was the quarters, it was a stretch, but we have played some of the best goal we have ever played"