Modi'in, the city where the Maccabees started is the perfect venue to have at least some of the events in the Maccabiah Games, and women's volleyball has provided excitement to the spectators in the early rounds of competition in the 19th Maccabiah this summer.
Team USA, bolstered by a roster consisting almost entirely of collegiate volleyball players, had no trouble Sunday defeating Chile in three straight games in a best-of-five competition. The North American squad's players towered over their South American counterparts by at least 10 centimeters on average, but what the Chilean team lacked in physical stature, they more than made up for in spirit. The final scores for the three games were: 25-8, 25-7, and 25-14. Approximately 100 fans of all ages were in attendance at the game.
One of the players on Team USA, Billie Hirsh, who hails from New Jersey and who played for NYU, commented, "I think the competition is really strong but we have a strong team and we are up for the challenge." Her father, Carl, noted that this is their second Maccabiah. Her mother, Phyllis, said "We love Israel and we would come back again without the Maccabiah Games." Phyllis said that her favorite part of Israel were the "opening and closing ceremonies, and touring all over Israel."
Team USA, however, met its match Monday when it was soundly defeated by Israel in three straight games, 25-11, 25-11, and 25-19 before 250 spectators. In the first two games it was no contest right from the outset, but in the third game of the series, Team USA came from a 10-4 deficit to trim Israel lead to one point at 11-10. At that point, Israel took control and went on to an easy victory. Israel was bolstered by the Gluck twins, Keren and Anita, and by the excellent play by Anastasia Shebotarov.
Shebotarov, who stands just 1.66 cm tall, has an incredible vertical leap of 88 cm. She has played so well thus far in the Maccabiah Games for Team Israel that she is being scouted by at least one collegiate coach. Andrew Brown, head women's volleyball coach for Division One St. Peter's University in Jersey City, New Jersey, has expressed interest in recruiting her to receive a scholarship at his school. When asked about what she attributes her success to, Anastasia said "I work hard... [maybe] it's genetics... the power of desire...." Her hopes for this year's team include getting "to the finals and to win, but most importantly to have fun."
This is her second Maccabiah Games, but like many of her teammates, she is on Israel's national squad, too. She said the national team is set on winning the preliminary games of the European Championship. In closing, Anastasia had this to say about the Maccabiah: "Too bad it's just once every four years...it's 'kef!' "
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