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Lang guides high-spirit U.S. to upset China in Olympic women's volleyball
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10:24, August 16, 2008

The confident American women volleyballers, led by their China-born coach Lang Ping, captured a sweaty 3-2 win over China on Friday night.

As top four of the six-team group will survive, the United States has collected three wins after beating China to advance to the quarterfinals, while the host' fate is still pending for a record of two wins and two losses.

It took the Americans more than two hours to finish the toil 23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20 and 15-11. Kimberly Glass contributed 20 points for the U.S., while China's Wang Yimei presented the game high 22 points.

"We didn't play very smoothly. The U.S. team did a great job in blocking which stopped our attacking. In the later sets we became anxious and too eager to win," said China's star middle blocker Zhao Ruirui.

China's head coach Chen Zhonghe attributed the loss to the inexperience of his players to deal with the crucial points under the "tremendous" pressure in front of more than 14,000 wild fans.

"It's a tough match, I think we tried our best but we still lost. We lacked control of our frame of mind, especially in the fourth set. Many of the key points were not handled well," said Chen.

The coach said the "home advantage" sometimes could work in an opposite way.

"I can feel the cheers of home fans are too much for the players, especially when we were falling behind. They got in fluster and failed to concentrate," he said.

However, the Americans have prepared for the passion of the Chinese audiences and obviously Lang played a key role.

"She (Lang) told us the crowd would be crazy tonight and that they would be cheering both for and against us. We were ready for it, " said the American spiker Heather Bown.

According to another ace spike Logan Tom, Lang's preparation started much earlier than expected.

"Our coach made us play with speakers of people shouting at you at training. In fact on the court I heard my team shouting more than the crowd," she said.

China had played the U.S. seven times and kept a 5-2 win-loss record since Lang took the helm of the American team in 2005. But Lang led her team to beat China after five-set tussle in the last match at the final round of the World Grand Prix in July, ranking the fourth with a 2-3 win-loss record, while China finished a dismal fifth.

China fielded their first line-up composed of the Athens Games players Feng Kun, Zhao Ruirui and Zhou Shuhong, while the U.S. sent the World Grand Prix squad, led by captain Robyn Ah Mow-Santos.

After pulling back twice from one set down, the Americans pushed the match into the decider, when they took an early lead 6-1 as the Chinese kept committing errors.

The hefty spikes from Kim Willoughby, Tayyiba Haneef-Park and Bown tamped the American's dominance to take the match point 14-10. China saved one match point by Wang Yimei's spike, but a kill block of Glass helped the U.S. take the set 15-10.

Despite the inspiring victory, Lang never took her homeland team lightly.

"China is a great team and has had great results from all the tournaments. It doesn't mean you win one game and you're better than China," she said.

Twelve teams are competing in two groups in the preliminary round with top four finishers from each group reaching the quarterfinals. China will guarantee a quarterfinal berth if they can beat Japan, the last opponent in the group.

"We desperately want to beat Japan, but as for lots drawing (for the quarterfinals), it's hard to tell," said Chen Zhonghe.

Brazil, Italy, Russia and Serbia, finishing top four after Friday's matches, all went to the final eight club with one match not yet played, while Algeria and Kazakhstan lost chances to go further after four losses in a row.


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1 China 25 9 5 39
2 USA 14 12 18 44
3 Germany 8 2 4 14
4 South Korea 6 8 3 17
5 Italy 6 4 3 13
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