1985 USSR v USA

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In July 1985, about exactly half way between this match and this match, the reigning World Champion Soviet Union met Olympic gold medallists USA in a friendly match in Leningrad.  This was a time in volleyball history when friendly matches had actual meaning, and a time in world history when any meeting between USA and USSR was a headline event.  That this match came so close to the boycott marred Los Angeles Olympics meant that a major US TV network sent a crew to broadcast the match.  The last video you will see below is that broadcast.  Some comments about the match…

– Overall the level is not particularly high compared to the match at World Cup a few months later (based on one set shown).  The commentators mention a lot that Kiraly is the serving target, but he is also excellent in attack.  By November of the same year, the Soviet serving tactics were completely different.  There is no sight of Jaroslav Antonov or Raimonds Vilde who would be a starters later in the year, or for that matter Dusty Dvorak.  The Soviets seem out on their feet in the fifth and if one were being honest, one would have to say they looked like they gave it up.

– Karch Kiraly had a reported jump height of 40″ (102cm).  Aleksander Savin’s jump was 42″ (107cm).  The commentators talk a lot about how these players are the best in the world, with Savin as the one who is perhaps just past his peak, and Kiraly just approaching his.

– Pat Powers is not the dominant force he would be at the World Cup but he does make one extremely impressive six pack on Vyacheslav Zaitsev that inspires the commentator, Chris Marlowe, to use the phrase ‘facial disgracial’.  I have no idea what that is, but the six pack was excellent, and comment is certainly memorable.  In the video here, you can see that Zaitsev would have not have seen it coming as he was obscured by another defender.  It is worth mentioning that USSR lost the next three points very quickly.

– Aleksander Savin is strangely muted, neither playing as well as he did at the Japan Cup, nor as vocally as at World Cup.  The commentators constantly talk him up however, and at some point mention that he had recently missed one month with a back injury and was probably not at 100% fitness.

– Vladimir Schkurikhin was ‘in the coach’s (Platonov’s) doghouse’ and doesn’t appear until the fifth set.  According to Chris Marlowe, the coach is ‘trying to stimulate him’.

– Chris Marlowism… A big block is a “heavy roof with an extended awning”. ‘Monster Block’ is catchier, but less descriptive.

– As it was big media event, there were some prepared pieces that they showed during the broadcast.  In this clip, Marlowe uses the players to explain the theory behind and execution of the backrow attack.  It is hard to imagine a coach allowing that to happen in 2020.

– Steve Timmons was cut from the roster for the 1982 World Championships.  When he walked out to his car he discovered that his car had been broken into and his luggage stolen.  He vowed to Marlowe (then a player on the team) that this would never happen to him again.  He refocused, especially in the weights room, and in a short time became one of the best in the world.

– The Whole Broadcast is here.

– As always, the DV Match Report is here.

Click for more Matches From History.

Tagged Vyacheslav Platonov, Karch Kiraly, Aleksander Savin, USA Volleyball, USSR Volleyball

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.


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