Behind Uvaldo Acosta's jump serve and Allen Allen's powerful hitting, the U.S. men's volleyball team defeated the Soviet national team, 15-12, 15-9, 15-12, last night before 3,917 at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.
The match was the first of a five-match, weeklong series that is preparing both teams for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
This was a younger Soviet squad, with only one player from the team that competed in July at the Goodwill Games in Seattle.
Ironically, Acosta, a George Mason University graduate, wasn't even sure he would make the team while he was on a six-month tryout earlier this year.
Now, as it turns out, he is the main cog in a new offensive scheme inserted by U.S. Coach Bill Neville since the Goodwill Games.
The taller Soviets were unable to muster an effective passing game against Acosta's fleeting serve, which abruptly dipped after crossing the net and kept the receivers off balance.
"I thought the serving was the key," Neville said. Acosta "got a roll going there and it just kind of rubbed off on the other guys."
"He's one of the best I've ever seen," said Allen.
In the new offense, Acosta's quickness was a key as he also used deceptive outside hitting. He impressed the crowd with 15 kills in the match.
But Allen was the big hitter on the evening. His 23 kills led both squads and was another key ingredient in the U.S. victory. After a morning practice Thursday, Acosta said that the Soviets "are a blocking team. If they don't block, they don't win."
Allen's huge hitting offset the Soviets' size and kept them from tallying numerous blocks.
"Allen occasionally plays at a different level than other guys," Neville said. "Check his legs out and you'll see why. They are efficient jumping machines."
The Soviets "didn't have an answer for him all night. I'm just glad he's on my side of the net."
After winning the first game, the Americans appeared to be running away with the second game, scoring the first eight points. But behind 6-foot-9 Oleg Kriakov's blocks and Sergei Tchebotarev's serves, the Soviets drew within 10-8 before American setter Dusty Dvorak, who was playing his first game since the 1986 World Championships, had two consecutive kills to end the game.
The United States had trouble serving in the final game and the Soviets surged to an 11-6 lead. However, Acosta and 6-8 veteran Craig Buck, who played on the 1984-88 Olympic gold medal teams and ended last night with 17 kills, combined to give the Americans nine of the next 10 points and the victory.
The teams will play again tonight at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.