Souhan: Berg enjoys view from atop world of volleyball

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 31, 2012 - 6:47 AM

The former Gophers star is now the U.S. captain, orchestrating a talented squad toward its first gold medal.

hide

The United States’ Destinee Hooker dominated play against Brazil. “The kid is just incredible,” said teammate Christa Harmotto.

Photo: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

LONDON - Lindsey Berg's world travels usually keep her far from her alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Hugh McCutcheon has yet to start his next job, as the volleyball coach at the University of Minnesota.

Both are scheduled to arrive on campus this fall, Berg to receive an award and McCutcheon to coach the Gophers, and by that time they should be wearing the first Olympic gold medals ever won by the United States women's volleyball team.

Berg, the team captain, and McCutcheon, the team's coach, were the brains behind the United States' 3-1 victory over Brazil on Monday in the second round of pool play. Neither wanted to admit that beating Brazil was symbolic or important. Maybe that's because the U.S., in the past two years, has evolved from targeting Brazil to expecting the world.

The U.S. is ranked first in the world by a wide margin. Four years ago in Beijing, Brazil beat the Americans for the gold. Since then, with McCutcheon taking over as coach, the U.S. has accelerated past the Brazilians, beating them in all four meetings this year.

"I don't think I've seen our peak yet in this squad," Berg said. "And that's exciting, and scary, because I think we're amazing."

The adjective preferred by the British would be "brilliant." The U.S. won 25-18, 25-17, 22-25, 25-21.

"Gosh, it's so incredible to be playing with this team," Berg said. "Even when we were down in the third, we fought back and had a chance to win that set. That helped us in the fourth.

"They're an emotional team. If they had stomped us in the third, they would have come out in the fourth with a lot of confidence."

The Americans are chasing history. The women never have won an Olympic gold, and McCutcheon is trying to become only the second coach ever to win an Olympic volleyball gold medal with men and women. He led the U.S. men to gold four years ago in Beijing.

As with most people chasing milestones, Berg and McCutcheon are concentrating on the nagging details of their craft. For all of top hitter Destinee Hooker's high-velocity, high-altitude smashes, the play that defined the Brazil match was a dramatic save, well off-court, by Christa Harmotto that led to a key point in the fourth set.

"Anytime one of our middle blockers makes a spectacular defensive play it's a boost," Berg said. "I think it shows our defensive desire now, our drive. We had a couple of balls that dropped in the first set and at one point we just said, "That's enough.'"

Berg and McCutcheon stressed the intricacy of teamwork required in volleyball, but it was hard to overlook Hooker's physical dominance. She couldn't have been more effective if she had used stilts and a tennis racket.

At 6-4, with tremendous leaping ability, Hooker's elevator stops on a different floor.

"There are certain plays where you just shake your head and have to smile," Harmotto said. "The kid is just incredible."

Asked whether she is tempted to constantly set up Hooker, Berg gave a glimpse into the responsibilities of a setter, and captain.

"You can't do that because teams will just start going to block her," Berg said. "My job is to put my hitters in the best situations possible. I try to watch the block and get everyone a 1-on-1. That's my goal, in my position.

"Destinee hits a fast set as well, so if they want to go to her they have to leave so early that I can see it."

Berg's international and national team career has led to this moment. She is the captain of the best team in the world.

"I'm honored, completely honored to be on a team with this many incredible players and to be named captain," she said. "It's something I've worked on for a long time, to be a leader and to make the players around me better. Honored -- that's the only word I've got for that."

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Lindsey Berg

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
St. Louis 0
Washington 2 Top 3rd Inning
Atlanta 0
Miami 1 Top 3rd Inning
Boston 1
Minnesota 1 Top 3rd Inning
Tampa Bay 0
NY Yankees 0 Delayed
Philadelphia 0
Baltimore 0 Delayed
Toronto 0
Detroit 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
NY Mets 0
Cincinnati 2:05 PM
Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles 2:05 PM
Milwaukee
San Francisco 2:05 PM
Texas
Chicago WSox 2:05 PM
San Diego
Kansas City 2:05 PM
Cleveland
Seattle 2:05 PM
Los Angeles
Colorado 2:10 PM
LA Angels
Oakland 2:10 PM
Arizona
Pittsburgh 6:05 PM
NY Yankees
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Sacramento 6:00 PM
Orlando
Utah 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Miami 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Cleveland 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Boston 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Detroit 7:00 PM
Houston
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Memphis
Phoenix 7:00 PM
Brooklyn
Denver 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Dallas 9:30 PM
Golden State
Columbus 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 6:30 PM
Detroit
Edmonton 7:30 PM
Chicago
Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Longwood 61 2nd Half 1:15
Char Southern 54
Ark-Pine Bluff 85 2nd Half 1:20
Miss Valley St 71
Southern Ill 16 1st Half 3:54
Wichita State 22
Winthrop 1:00 PM
Radford
Evansville 2:35 PM
Illinois State
Towson 5:00 PM
Elon
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
High Point
Samford 5:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Ball State
Bowling Green 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Brown 6:00 PM
Dartmouth
Toledo 6:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Akron 6:00 PM
Kent State
Ill-Chicago 6:00 PM
Oakland
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Ohio
Columbia 6:00 PM
Penn
Cornell 6:00 PM
Princeton
Central Mich 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Bradley 6:05 PM
Northern Iowa
Morehead State 6:30 PM
Murray State
UNC-Asheville 7:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Yale 7:00 PM
Harvard
Furman 7:30 PM
Citadel
Coll of Charleston 7:30 PM
Drexel
Texas Tech 8:00 PM
Baylor
Pacific 8:00 PM
San Francisco
Detroit 8:30 PM
Cleveland State
Belmont 8:30 PM
Eastern Ky
Loyola-Chicago 8:35 PM
Indiana State
Loyola Marymount 10:30 PM
Santa Clara
Chicago 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
(21) George Washington 77
Wake Forest 68 FINAL
(16) Duke 77
Furman 55 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 68
Monmouth 61 FINAL
Quinnipiac 82
Michigan State 30 2nd Half 15:53
(4) Maryland 39
Belmont 34 2nd Half
UT Martin 38
Arkansas 17 1st Half 0:41
(3) South Carolina 31
Mercer 7 1st Half 13:04
East Tenn St 7
Richmond 1:00 PM
Fordham
Miami-Florida 1:00 PM
(2) Notre Dame
Siena 1:30 PM
Iona
Washington St 1:30 PM
(9) Arizona State
Ark-Pine Bluff 1:30 PM
Miss Valley St
(23) Rutgers 1:55 PM
(24) Northwestern
Tennessee St 2:00 PM
SIU-Edwardsville
Loyola Marymount 2:00 PM
Gonzaga
(18) Texas A&M 2:25 PM
LSU
Cincinnati 3:00 PM
UCF
Saint Josephs 3:30 PM
Dayton
UCLA 4:00 PM
(19) Stanford
Santa Clara 4:30 PM
San Diego
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
(7) Florida State
SMU 5:00 PM
Memphis
Lehigh 5:05 PM
Holy Cross
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Duquesne
North Florida 6:00 PM
(20) Fla Gulf Coast
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
Jacksonville
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Stetson
Nebraska 6:00 PM
(14) Iowa
Saint Peters 6:00 PM
Marist
Navy 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Lafayette 6:00 PM
American Univ
Colgate 6:00 PM
Army
Georgia 6:00 PM
(5) Tennessee
Dartmouth 6:00 PM
Brown
Penn 6:00 PM
Columbia
(13) Princeton 6:00 PM
Cornell
Kansas 6:00 PM
Kansas State
Harvard 6:00 PM
Yale
(15) North Carolina 7:00 PM
(10) Louisville
San Jose St 7:00 PM
UNLV
Houston 7:00 PM
Tulane
Utah State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Colorado 8:00 PM
(8) Oregon State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Minnesota 8:25 PM
Ohio State
(12) Kentucky 8:25 PM
(11) Miss State
San Diego State 8:30 PM
Nevada
Niagara 8:30 PM
Fairfield
Texas Tech 8:30 PM
West Virginia
Boise State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Washington 10:30 PM
California

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

Countdown to great deals

Bid March 15-23

    ADVERTISEMENT

    ADVERTISEMENT

    ADVERTISEMENT

    ADVERTISEMENT

    Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

    ADVERTISEMENT

     
    Close