Aug. 18 - USA vs. Serbia, 12:00 p.m. EST (Semifinal)
By Terry Liskevych and Mas Shibata
The USA women, ranked No. 1 in the world, will take on sixth-ranked Serbia on Thursday (Aug. 18) in the Olympic semifinals. The U.S. beat Serbia in pool play 25-17, 21-15, 25-18, 25-19 on August 10 and went on to a 5-0 pool record. Serbia finished 3-2 in pool play. To get to this match, both team scored sweeps in the quarterfinals. The U.S. beat fifth-ranked Japan 25-16, 25-23, 25-22 and Serbia beat fourth-ranked Russia 25-9, 25-22, 25-21. Below is Terry and Mas’ analysis of Serbia.
1 Bianka Busa – OH (height: 6-2; age: 22)
2 Jovana Brakocevic – opposite (6-5; 28)
4 Bojana Zivkovic – setter (6-1; 28)
6 Tijana Malesevic – outside hitter (6-1; 25)
9 Brankica Mihajlovic – left-side hitter (height: 6-2; age: 25)
10 Maja Ognjenovic – setter (6-0; 32)
11 Stefana Veljkovic – middle blocker (6-3; 26)
12 Jelena Nikolic – left-side hitter (6-4; 34)
15 Jovana Stevanovic – middle blocker (6-4; 24)
16 Milena Rasic – middle blocker (6-4; 25)
17 Silvija Popovic – libero (5-10; 30)
19 Tijana Boskovic – opposite (6-3; 19)
- Serbia played an outstanding match vs. Russia in the quarterfinals, winning 3-0.
- Excellent serving team. Serbia had 12 aces in their win over Russia. They have 2 very good jump spin severs: lefty opposite Boskovic (#19) and outside hitter Mihajlovic (#9). All of the other servers use some form of a jump float serve.
- Serbia’s top 2 attackers are opposite Boskovic (#19) and outside hitter Mihajlovic (#9). Booth of them attack from back row.
- The two middle blockers are decent, and they blocked well against a formidable Russian attack.
- Setter Ognjenovic (#10) is Serbia’s captain. The 32-year-old veteran is crafty, and she got a few important sideouts against Russia on dumps when she was in the front row. She likes setting the hot hitter.
- This team is well coached by Zoran Terzic, who has coached them for the last 14 years.
- This is their first Olympic semi-final. (The same is true for Netherlands, which will play China in the other semifinal.)
- U.S needs to practice receiving hard-driven topspin jump serves. They also need to block well, especially against opposite Boskovic (#19) – she likes angle but can hit line – and outside Mihajlovic (#9), who has all the shots: line, angle, tool off block, roll shot and tip.
- USA beat them 3-1 in pool play, but Serbia played very well technically, tactically and with lots of focus and inspiration. They have nothing to lose but must come out tough at the outset of the semifinal to have a good shot to upset the U.S.
- In their pool play match vs. the USA, Serbia started Set 1 in Rotation 1 with setter Ognjenovic serving. After a 17-25 Set 1 loss, they began Sets 2, 3 and 4 in Rotation 5 whether they served or received the first ball. Rotation 5 puts outside hitter Mihajlovic (#9) in the left front position.
- Serbia did use the double sub in Set 2 with setter Zivkovic (#4) in for opposite Boskovic (#19) and opposite Brakocevic (#2) in for setter (Ognjenovic) #10. Serbia won Set 2 by a score of 25-21.
Serbia’s primary playset in the pool play match was the (Red/5)(1)(Go/4) combination. They ran this playset 13 out of the 18 times in this rotation. The (Red/5)(3)(Go/4) was used 4 times. Rotation 1 had the most evenly distributed set totals with OH Mihajlovic and MB Rasic each receiving 9 sets and 14 sets going to opposite Boskovic.
The playset of choice in Rotation 2 was the (Go/4)(1)(Red/5), which was used 7 out of 9 opportunities. Opposite Boskovic received 7 out of the 15 sets in this rotation.
Only two playsets were used in Rotation 3. The (Go/4)(3)(Red/5) was used 8 times and the (Go/4)(1)(Red/5)(Pipe) was run 6 times. Opposite Bockovic received 50% of the 18 sets in Rotation 3.
In Rotation 4, Mihajlovic and Boskovic both received more back-row sets than outside hitters Malesevic (#6) and Nikolic (#12) combined. The playset (Go/4)(Slide)(Pipe) was used in 7 of 9 plays. MB Stevanovic (#15) had 4 slide kills in her 4 attempts in this rotation.
OH Mihajlovic (#9) rotates back into the front row for Rotation 5 and 6. Playset (Go/4)(Slide)(Dump)(Pipe) was executed in 10 of the 14 serve-receive opportunities.
Of the 17 total sets in this rotation, 10 went to OH Mihajlovic and 6 went to opposite back-row hitter Boskovic. Outside hitter Malesevic (#6) started in Sets 2 and 3 and was targeted by the USA servers. She passed relatively well in Sets 2 and 3 but struggled considerably in Set 4 with her ball control in serve receive.
- Tall team but not a great blocking team. Struggles with quick attacks.
- Average defensive team. Libero Silvija Popovic (#17) is strong. Otherwise, not much to offer in backcourt.
USA vs. Serbia outlook
Serbia has sufficient talent to defeat the USA – or any other team, for that matter. Both teams are very good offensively. Serbia combines a good serve with a very good offensive attack. However, USA is more consistent in all aspects of the game. The offense for both teams will be effective. The difference in the match is that the USA is a better blocking and defensive team. USA is also mentally stronger and capable of withstanding Serbian offensive runs. USA will win the long rallies.
1 Alisha Glass – setter (height: 6-0; age 28) – Leland, Michigan; Penn State
2 Kayla Banwarth – libero (5-10; 27) - Dubuque, Iowa; University of Nebraska
3 Courtney Thompson – setter (5-8; 31) – Kent, Washington; University of Washington
5 Rachael Adams – middle blocker (6-2; 26) - Cincinnati, Ohio; University of Texas
6 Carli Lloyd – setter (5-11; 27) – Bonsall, California; University of California-Berkeley
10 Jordan Larson – outside hitter (6-2; 29); Hooper, Nebraska; University of Nebraska
12 Kelly Murphy – opposite (6-2; 26) Wilmington, Illinois; University of Florida
13 Christa Dietzen – middle blocker (6-2; 29) Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania; Penn State
15 Kim Hill – outside hitter (6-4; 26) Portland, Oregon; Pepperdine
16 Foluke Akinradewo – middle blocker (6-3; 29) Plantation, Florida; Stanford
23 Kelsey Robinson – outside hitter (6-2; 24) Bartlett, Illinois; University of Nebraska
25 Karsta Lowe – opposite (6-4; 23) Rancho Santa Fe, California; UCLA