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"Tonight," said Brazilian volleyball star Marcia Cunha, "is a
very special night." Special in women's volleyball is needing
only 55 minutes to beat the undisputed world champion, which is
what Brazil did last night at the Omni with a decisive 15-11,
15-10, 15-4 victory over Cuba.

The Cubans rarely showed their free-wheeling, aggressive fire.
And they turned passive in the third set, when the
Brazilians--their rabid fans singing When the Saints Go Marching
In--went for the kill.

"It's a very important result, but it's not the crucial result,"
admitted Brazil's Ana Moser. "We're trying to be the best team
in the world, and tonight helps us get there."

Afterward the dispirited Cubans dismissed the rout, as well they
should have. They're all but a lock to reach the eight-team
medal round, at which time they'll probably have an opportunity
to even the score with Brazil. Still, the one-sidedness of this
match will make the Cubans think twice about their invincibility.

The U.S. believes itself capable of beating Cuba, but the
Americans will have to play better than they did last night in a
sluggish four-set victory over the Netherlands. Still, U.S.
coach Terry Liskevych seemed unconcerned. "We're a very deep
team," he said after a 12-15, 15-10, 17-15, 15-7 victory. "It'll
take a great team to beat us."

It wouldn't have last night. The Dutch were one point away from
taking a 2-1 set lead. Clearly the U.S. misses the high-speed
kills and blocks of its biggest hitter, Teee Williams, a
two-time NCAA player of the year from Hawaii. She played
sparingly with a lingering lumbar sprain, and her condition will
go a long way in determining the U.S. medal fortunes.

The Americans, 2-0 in round-robin play, most likely need one
victory in their remaining three matches to advance to the medal
round. That's where their toughest competition surely lies,
because the world's two premier teams, Cuba and Brazil, are in
the other pool.

Against the rangy Dutch, unforced errors were to blame for the
first-set loss, and the Americans trailed 6-0 in the second set
before rallying. In the third set, poor American setting and
terrific Dutch spiking negated a 13-6 U.S. lead, and Tara
Cross-Battle saved a set point with an outstanding dig. "At some
point," Cross-Battle said, "I knew I'd be the go-to person and
have to make a play." The U.S. breezed through the fourth set
playing the athletic and high-powered style that has become its

Liskevych had predicted that only the U.S. and Brazil could beat
the formidable Cubans. The Brazilians proved him right. The
Americans? Liskevych might want to check with Williams's doctor

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Lori Endicott (5) and Elaina Oden put up a good defense on an otherwise sloppy night for the U.S.