It's been a good summer for lovers of top-level indoor volleyball in Southern California. First the U.S.A. Men's National Team faced Russia in June and over Fourth of July weekend, the U.S.A. Women's National Team took on their Olympic nemesis, the top-ranked Brazilian team.
The Brazilian women have taken Olympic gold in the last two competitions (in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012), beating the U.S.A. both times in the gold medal match.
On July 5 at the Bren Event Center at UC Irvine, the two teams faced off, with the Brazilians boasting eight players who are Olympic veterans. The Americans, led by famed player and now coach Karch Kiraly, had only four Olympians in their lineup.
But despite that imbalance in experience, the U.S. Women were victorious that evening, winning the three-out-of-five match in four sets behind the strong play of Jordan Larson Burbach, Kelly Murphy and Kim Hill, aided by setter Alisha Glass.
Then it was on to USC's Galen Center on July 6, where the powerhouse teams met again in another match, all part of the USA Volleyball Cup tour that will take both teams on to Hawaii for more competitions (July 11 and 12 in Honolulu) and also bring the U.S.A. Men's National Team to Southern California to play against Iran's squad in mid-August.
For this match, Coach Kiraly chose to use some of his less-experienced players, with only Libero (defensive specialist) Nicole Davis having any Olympic experience. In fact, the two stars of the night, American spikers Kelsey Robinson and Alix Klinemann, experienced their first starts at the elite international level. Robinson's aggressive jump serve and Klinemann's unstoppable hitting helped bring the U.S.A. squad their second win in as many days, this time in just three sets.
The Brazilian team, with Olympic veterans Fabiana Claudino, Thaisa Menezes, Fernanda Garay Rodrigues and Sheilla Castro, just seemed overpowered by the American squad, many of whom are fighting for a place in the team's starting lineup.
And it also helped that the stands at Galen Center were full of cheering Angelenos (although the lines at the ticket windows still stretched around the block at game time, for some inexplicable reason), all thrilled to see top-flight international-level indoor volleyball here in our fair city and determined to give the U.S. women all the support they deserve.
Follow Jenny Peters on Twitter at @jennpeters.