LONDON - She became the captain of the U.S. women's volleyball team late in her career, and her rise in importance coincided with the rise of the team to the top of the world rankings.
Lindsey Berg, the former Gopher and starting setter for the U.S., decided before the Olympics that this would be her last tournament. Turns out she's sitting on the sideline ahead of schedule.
A leg injury that the team is unwilling to discuss kept Berg out of the U.S. team's straight-sets victory over the Dominican Republic. She hopes to return for the semifinals on Thursday, but did not sound certain that she'll play again.
"I have no idea," she said when asked if she'll play on Thursday. "Hey, I've watched many times. I've been on the bench for two Olympics. I'm really good at cheering."
Tuesday night, Courtney Thompson replaced Berg as the team's primary setter and helped dispatch the Dominican Republic, 25-14, 25-21, 25-22, setting up one of the strangest news conferences of this Olympics.
American coach Hugh McCutcheon brought with him a player who didn't play, in Berg. And the Dominican coach and player representative saw the rest of their team walk in while they were speaking, as the Dominicans turned it into a farewell party.
The U.S. is trying to win its first gold medal in women's volleyball under Hugh McCutcheon, who is trying to become the second coach ever to win a men's and women's gold in Olympic volleyball. The U.S. is ranked first in the world and beat second-ranked Brazil in four sets in the first game of the Olympics. Brazil beat the U.S. in the gold-medal game in Beijing, when Berg was a substitute.
Berg walked without a limp before Tuesday's match, and warmed up without a limp. She appeared to suffer an ankle injury during her team's final preliminary round victory, but she and the team were intentionally vague about the injury.
"It's actually not my ankle,' she said.
"I'm just a dumb jock," McCutcheon said. "I'd say it's her leg."
While the U.S. men's and women's basketball teams and the U.S. women's soccer team have been extremely accommodating, acting as ambassadors for their sports, Berg and star hitter Destinee Hooker were the only U.S. players who spoke at length after Tuesday's match, and a team official pulled Hooker away during an interview. Berg was happy to talk.
"We have 12 people for a reason,'' she said. "Things happen, and unfortunately this happened to me, but I can't be selfish. If I can't be out there and be my best, it's better that someone who's 100 percent be out there, and Courtney did great.''