Despite a six-page scouting report written for the American team in Ukrainian by a Ukrainian savant who described himself as the Father of Volleyball, the United States lost an emotional cold war battle last night, falling to a volleyball team of Russians, two games to one.
The east-west struggle waged annually in the cramped gymnasium at the Duke Ellington School in Georgetown was part of the regular Tuesday night schedule of the Embassy Volleyball League sponsored by the D.C. Recreation Department.
Another week of games remains to be played among the eight teams in the league, but last night's contest settled the standings for the regular season. First place went to the squad from the Soviet Embassy, led by the savage spikes and "dinks" of Yevgeniy Vtyurin, the 7-foot Soviet captain.
With precious few exceptions, first place has been going to the Soviets with dismal regularity since the inception of the league about 20 years ago. (Not even District recreation official Anna E. Honabach, the Philip Habib of the volleyball league, can remember when the league began.)
The United States, represented by a team from the State Department, has been smarting since last year when it was forced to forfeit a game to the Russians after the latter group protested that the U.S. players had inserted a ringer in their lineup.
Rivalry has always been high between the two teams. "This is the game for us," said Michael Farbman, a 39-year-old State Department player. "It's always us and the Soviets. Part of it is the history--Afghanistan, Poland, the Cold War. It suffuses the game."
This year, helped perhaps by the memo written by George Powstenko, who advised the Americans to try to get the Soviets to start squabbling, the State Department team won the first game, 15-12.
But the Soviets, garbed in red Adidas jogging gear with red stars on their sneakers, preserved harmony in their ranks, and spiked their way to victory, 15-13, in the second game. In the rubber game, spurred on by the crowd of Russian wives and children, shouting "Molodtsi," (good fellow!), they edged the Americans, 16-14.
"It makes it more intense playing the Russians," said dejected U.S. team member Gene Stakhiv. "But it's still just grade B volleyball."