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Olympic Outlook: U.S. volleyball in Dream-land

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer
Destinee Hooker (left) and Foluke Akinradewo have had plenty of reasons to smile in London. (AP)

Five thoughts to match the five Olympic rings for what transpired Friday in London:

1. Maybe it's the U.S. women's volleyball team we ought to be comparing to the Dream Team. No, Destinee Hooker, Logan Tom, Lindsey Berg and Co. aren't dominating people on the scoreboard the way LeBron, Melo, and Kobe are these days, or the way Jordan, Bird, and Magic did back in Barcelona. But given that the level of competition for the U.S. women is far higher -- those Brazil and China squads the U.S. spanked this week to the tune of 6 sets to 1 were the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the world -- what they're doing right now is arguably just as impressive.

The Americans' run continued Friday with a 25-17, 25-20, 25-16 demolition of Serbia, one highlighted by another 19 points for Hooker. At the rate the U.S. is going, they'll win their first women's volleyball gold medal without even being challenged--and if that's not Dream-like, we don't know what is.

2. The biggest story in the pool is that there is no story. Friday night's action at the pool produced storyline after storyline after storyline -- Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin sharing the American swimming spotlight for one final night before he turns it over to her for good, Katie Ledecky continuing to turn this into The Olympics of the 15-Year-Old, Team USA surging to the top of the gold and overall medal count behind their three-gold, five-medal performance -- but one seems to have gone relatively unnoticed: that both the U.S. swimmers in the 50 freestyle final, Cullen Jones and Anthony Ervin, are of African-American descent. That Jones's silver is another landmark accomplishment to go with the four medals he and Ervin have already won. That -- maybe biggest of all -- this wasn't a story going into the 50 final, and it still isn't afterwards.

3. Tennis belongs at the Olympics. The debate over whether tennis should be an Olympic sport has raged for decades before now and will go on raging in certain corners for years to come. But the emotional reaction of Roger Federer to winning his four-hour epic of Juan Martin del Potro -- and clinching his nation's first medal of the Games -- should be all the evidence you need that the Olympics offer the sport something it just doesn't get elsewhere. At the majors, players play for both themselves and their country; at the Olympics, they play for the latter first and then the former. That's difference enough to have made this Olympic tournament must-see viewing. (That Serena Williams looks like -- and has played like -- the female Captain America in her Team USA outfit is a nice bonus.)

4. U.S. women's soccer may get their shot at revenge. We're getting a little ahead of ourselves with this one--the U.S still has a highly difficult semifinal to come against a Canada team playing its best soccer in years, and Japan will have its hands full and then some with France's dynamic attack. But judging by Japan's comfortable 2-0 victory over Brazil Friday (and the U.S.'s positive history vs. the Canadians), we could well be on our way to a rematch of last year's classic World Cup final. Given how badly the U.S. would love to repay the Japanese for that penalty-kick victory -- and how comprehensively they defeated them the last time the two teams met -- that's likely a meeting the U.S. would welcome.

5. We don't care that the U.S. women's basketball team keeps starting slow. They did it again vs. the Czech Republic Friday, trailing 26-24 after a quarter against a team that likely won't even escape the group stage. The U.S. wound up winning by 27 anyway--just as they won by 25 over Croatia and 31 over Turkey. Until they're tied or trailing in the fourth quarter rather than the first (or even the third), we're not going to worry.

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