U.S. sweeps away Dominican Republic


The U.S. women's volleyball team, currently ranked No. 1 in the world, remained on Wednesday very much in the mix for an upgrade of the Olympic bronze medal it won at Rio 2016.  

The Dominicans certainly weren't overwhelmed, but Team USA never came off the gas, sweeping into the Toyko Olympics semifinals at Ariake Arena.

Six-foot-7 Brayelin Martínez provided a steady hand and fierce work at the net for the Dominicans, but the outcome was never in doubt during the U.S.'s 25-11, 25-20, 25-19 triumph.

With recently injured stars Jordyn Poulter and Jordan Thompson out of action, the U.S. looked sharper than ever at times, particularly when Annie Drews and Michelle Bartsch-Hackley had it going at the net. And they did, often, and typically were joined by Foluke Atinuke Gunderson (nee Akinradewo) in hammering away at the proud, plucky Dominicans.

In for Poulter as the starting setter, Oklahoma native, Penn State product and Italian pro league star Micha Hancock was a standout as well.

The U.S. will face Serbia in the semifinals. 

South Korea takes care of world No. 4 Turkey


South Korea and Turkey put on a show Wednesday at Ariake Arena, where the South Koreans earned a spot in the semifinals of the women's volleyball tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

The teams swapped 25-17 victories in the first two sets, and the third was a back-and-forth thriller eventually claimed by South Korea, 28-26 to put Turkey's collective backs against the proverbial wall.

Meryem Boz, Turkey's 6-foot-4 outside hitter who claimed MVP honors at the CEV Tokyo Volleyball European Qualification tourney, responded to the pressure by helping her squad jump out to a 10-3 start to the fourth set. South Korea came roaring back behind outside hitter Yeon-Koung Kim to pull within 16-14 before Turkey hopped onto the back of its pink-haired, 6-foot-5 outside hitter, Ebrar Karakurt, and rallied back for a 25-18 victory.

Turkey, ranked fourth in the world prior to the Olympics, fought off two match points, but South Korea hung tough on the way to a 15-13, fifth-set triumph and a raucous on-court celebration.

Serbia sends Italy packing


Entering the quarterfinals, Serbia and Italy seemed to be pretty evenly matched. Both finished second in their respective pools, and both swept a few of their previous opponents. But when the two teams met to decide which would advance to the semifinals, Serbia asserted its dominance. 

The first half of Set 1 was as closed a predicted. The teams were locked in a tie, 15-15, at one point, but Serbia pulled away and ran off with the first victory, 25-21. 

The Italians couldn't rally in Set 2, dropping it 14-25, before orchestrating the beginnings of a comeback in Set 3. They led Serbia 13-11 but couldn't hold on as their opponents took over and never looked back. Italy saved two match points, but a blocking fault allowed Serbia's Tijana Boskovic to bring up the final score, 25-21. 

Brazil upends ROC; South Korea next


World No.2 Brazil fended off the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) 23-25 25-21 25-19 25-22. Five Brazilians finished in double figures led by Gabriela Guimaraes' 18 points.

Up next on Friday, Brazil will clash with South Korea, which it had defeated in a preliminary match.

"We just need to keep our patience and understand what we did wrong today to change a little bit," Guimaraes said.