The U.S. rallied from one set down and again behind 2-1 to win 18-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 15-8 on a day Netherlands captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues had to be helped off midway through the fourth set with a right ankle injury and didn’t return.
RIO DE JANEIRO –This past year in Istanbul, U.S. assistant coach Jamie Morrison worked alongside a man he considers among the best volleyball minds in the business.
And fired-up, Italian-born Netherlands coach Giovanni Guidetti is suddenly making quite a splash in Brazil with a group of tenacious Dutch women determined to spoil the fun for the top teams in the tournament. Even if few might have expected them to contend while playing in their first Olympics in 20 years.
Morrison was an assistant on Guidetti’s staff at club power Vakifbank in Turkey, coaching Olympians Lonneke Sloetjes, Anne Buijs and Robin de Kruijf and also U.S. outside hitter Kim Hill, who through the net saw several familiar faces.
So, when the top-ranked Americans received a real push from the Netherlands in a hard-fought, five-set victory Monday, Morrison and the rest of the U.S. group were nowhere near surprised by the stellar display on the other side.
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The Dutch had already spoiled China’s Olympic debut Saturday.
“They’re not intimidated by anybody now, and they shouldn’t be. They’re good,” said U.S. coach Karch Kiraly, who figures the group winners won’t go unscathed. “And that’s great, because the Olympics are about being good.”
Guidetti said he credits Morrison for helping him become a better coach.
“I learned a lot from him and I hope I can keep learning a lot from him,” Guidetti said after the match. “He’s an amazing coach. He’s an amazing man and he knows volleyball very well. He’s like a lead guy.
“I’m really trying to learn every time from the people that can teach me, and he’s for sure one of the ones that can teach me.”
The U.S. team, which includes former Washington Huskies player Courtney Thompson, rallied from one set down and again behind 2-1 to win 18-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 15-8 on a day Netherlands captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues had to be helped off midway through the fourth set with a right-ankle injury and didn’t return.
The Netherlands is a squad Morrison had seen make big strides in a matter of weeks ahead of the Olympics.
Post-match, beach and indoor gold medalist Kiraly was “getting goose bumps on top of my goose bumps” thinking about the important test the Americans had just received.
“They pushed us,” U.S. middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo said afterward. “That’s what we love. We try and embrace those moments.”