Team USA defeated Turkey in straight sets (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, US PRESSWIRE)
LONDON -- Destinee Hooker scored 19 points and the U.S. women's volleyball team clinched the top spot in their pool with a preliminary-round victory against Serbia in straight sets Friday at the Olympics.
The top-ranked USA has won all four of its matches in London, dropping two sets. The team, which has never won Olympic gold in volleyball, is among the favorites to medal in London.
Logan Tom added 12 points for the USA in the 25-17, 25-20, 25-16 sweep. The team will wrap up the preliminary round with a match against Turkey on Sunday.
There are two six-team pools in the preliminary round. The top four in each advance to the quarterfinals.
The U.S. women brought the silver home from Beijing after falling in the final to Brazil. In an early-round rematch in London, the USA came away with a 3-1 victory vs. the second-ranked Brazilians.
Coach Hugh McCutcheon, who led the American men to the gold medal in Beijing before shifting to the women's team, led the USA to the top spot in the international rankings late last year to end Brazil's four-year run at No. 1.
"I know we've clinched, but we look at it as another step. We're on a roll, and if we can continue the roll, it will be amazing," U.S. captain Lindsey Berg said.
China, Serbia, Turkey and South Korea are also in the pool with the USA and Brazil, which is unexpectedly fighting to advance to the quarterfinals.
Japan, Russia, Italy, Algeria, the Dominican Republic and Britain make up the other pool.
The U.S. team was workmanlike in its victory against seventh-ranked Serbia, which finished fifth in Beijing. It was eliminated with the loss.
McCutcheon says he likes what he has seen from his team.
"They understand it's the Olympic Games. Every set, every point, every play matters," he said. "They treat the game with the right amount of respect and that's important, too."
Brazil stayed alive in the preliminary round with a 3-2 victory vs. China on Friday. Now 2-2, Brazil has one match left against last-place Serbia on Sunday.
"It was a difficult match, but we knew the difficulties," Brazilian captain Fabiana Oliveira said after a victory against China, 25-16 20-25, 25-18, 28-30, 15-10. "We had a lot of pressure because we knew that if we lose, we could have been out of the Olympic Games."
The Chinese women, who are also 2-2 but have the points advantage over the Brazilians because of sets won, were hampered without 6-2-inch spiker Wang Yimei, who has struggled with an ankle injury during the Games and played just the opening set against Brazil.
Brazil wasn't helped when Turkey defeated South Korea 3-2 (25-16, 21-25, 25-18, 19-25, 15-12) in a later match Friday. Neslihan Darnel had 27 points to lead Turkey, which improved to 2-2 and edged ahead of Brazil in the points standings for the fourth spot in Pool B.
Turkey won despite missing middle blocker Eda Erden, who injured her ankle earlier in the competition.
Making its first Olympic appearance in women's volleyball, Turkey faces a challenge against the USA in its final match of the preliminary round Sunday.
Russia defeated Japan 3-1 (27-25, 25-17, 20-25, 25-19) to improve to 4-0 in Pool A. Japan fell to 2-2.
Ekaterina Gamova, Russia's 6-8 opposite, had 29 points in the match. The Russians had already clinched their place in the next round.
The Dominican Republic won its first match of the Olympics with a sweep of Great Britain. Bethania de la Cruz de Pena had 12 points in the 25-9, 25-18, 25-19 win, which puts the Dominican Republic ahead of the Brits.
Great Britain, playing in the Olympics as the hosts, surprised everyone by defeating Algeria earlier in the competition. Ranked 69th in the world, the British were not expected to win many sets, let alone a match.
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