The U.S. women’s volleyball team closed its 1988 season by overpowering Japan, 15-9, 6-15, 15-11, 15-13, Saturday night at San Diego State’s Peterson Gym.
It seemed fitting that the final point of the season’s final match came on a block by Keba Phipps, at 19 the youngest player on the U.S. team, and Jayne McHugh, the oldest at 28.
It was the final point of McHugh’s career; the reserve middle blocker is retiring. She finished with 6 kills, playing mostly in Game 4.
The victory gave the Americans a 4-1 edge in a 5-match series and a 12-3 record for the year against the Japanese, who finished fourth at the Olympic Games in Seoul.
The United States dominated the series despite the fact that its two Olympic setters and a starting middle blocker retired after the Games. The victories brought a little redemption for a team that finished seventh at Seoul.
“I think that showed how suspect that other pool was in the Olympics,” Coach Terry Liskevych said. “Japan had its same 12 players from the Olympics and four from the team that won the bronze medal in 1984.”
Japan finished second to the Soviet Union, the eventual gold medal winner, in its Olympic pool. The U.S. finished third in its pool, a victory away from the medal round.
Despite what the team felt as a poor Olympic showing after it won the silver in 1984, Liskevych said he has high hopes for the future.
“I can’t tell you how much better we are now than in February 1985,” said Liskevych, who took over the women’s program after the 1984 Games with just one returning player. “In the next 2 years we will be one of the top 3 teams in the world. There is no question in my mind.”
The top priority is to find a setter.
Cathy Noth and Liane Sato, who played setter at SDSU and was a defensive specialist at Seoul, both set during the series with Japan. The Americans occasionally fell out of sync offensively Saturday night.
“We have to do three things (to break into the top three internationally),” Liskevych said. “We have to identify a setter. A setter who can block. We have to get technically better at ball control, and we have to focus on tournament play.”
Caren Kemner led the United States with 20 kills, and Phipps added 17.