USA Volleyball Team Still Undefeated

Published: Aug. 14, 2016 at 8:03 PM CDT
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The U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, ranked No. 1 in the world, overcame a slow start with an uncharacteristic number of errors to defeat No. 3 China 22-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-19 Sunday evening in Rio de Janeiro to conclude the Olympic Games Pool B undefeated in five matches and earn the group’s top seed heading into the quarterfinal round.

Team USA will face the winner of tonight’s Japan versus Argentina Pool A match in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at a time to be announced. The Americans, who are in search of their first Olympic Games gold medal in women’s volleyball, finished pool play with a 5-0 record for the second consecutive Olympic Games. The U.S. has finished with the silver in each of the past two Olympics Games.

“Coming into this Olympic Games, our group looked like it would present many, many challenges and that is exactly what it has done,” U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “From our start with Puerto Rico all the way to China today, I think every team in this group is better because we all challenged each other so much. So now four of our teams are excited to move on to see what happens in two days in the quarterfinals.”

Earlier today Netherlands edged Serbia in a five-set thriller, which meant Team USA needed to win just two sets against China to earn Pool B’s top seed based on tiebreakers. At the same time, the Netherlands, Serbia match locked in China as the No. 4 seed and Serbia as the No. 3 seed prior to the USA-China outcome.

The top four teams from the two six-team pools advance to the quarterfinals with the top seeds crossing over to play the opposite pool’s fourth seed. A drawing of lots following pool play will determine crossover matches for the pool’s second- and third seeds.

Team USA had four players score in double figures against China led by outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska), who had 18 points with 15 kills on 34 attacks, two aces and a block. Middle Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida) contributed 15 points with 13 kills on 23 attacks and two blocks. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) pocketed 13 points with 11 kills on 28 swings and two aces.

Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Illinois), who was a sub in the first two sets, provided a huge spark in starting the final two sets with 11 kills on 22 swings and just two errors to go with a block and ace for 13 points.

“We have played China what feels like a thousand times, so you know the opponent, what they are good at, what they are not,” Robinson said. “Our team played really well, especially when they pushed back. Just taking it one point at a time. That is all we had to do.”

China built an early 17-11 lead in the opening set as the Americans were plagued by errors, but Team USA closed the gap to 21-20 before falling 25-22. China took advantage of nine U.S. errors in the set and added five blocks. Team USA, using the late momentum from the first set, settled down in the second set in establishing a 17-10 lead and kept the pressure going for a 25-17 victory. After China closed four-point deficit down to 17-15 in the third, the Americans responded by quickly regaining the four-point cushion and finishing the set with a 25-19 victory.

“I thought we missed quite a few serves in the first set, but we came out stronger in the second – just serving it and keeping the ball in making China play a little bit,” Larson said. “The more we got them out of system, the less we had to worry about their middles. I thought we did a nice job of handling that.”

“I think we got off to a slow start,” U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team captain Christa Dietzen(Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania) said. “But (U.S. head coach) Karch (Kiraly) said it best. He said ‘We have a chance to rewrite the match in the middle of the first set, and our team responded well. I think we have been able to respond well this whole tournament. We are team that handles adversity, and we have certainly faced a lot of adversity in this pool and will continue to heading into the quarterfinal round. We are excited to face our next opponent.”

Even after clinching Pool B’s top spot into the quarterfinals with its second set victory, Team USA didn’t let up in the fourth set in racing to a 13-5 advantage. However, China used an 8-2 rally to close within 15-13, but it wasn’t enough as Team USA scored six of the final eight points for a 25-19 victory.

Dietzen pocketed six points in the victory after not starting the opening set. Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon), who started the first two sets, amassed five points in the victory. Setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan) and middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) totaled two points each, while Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California) rounded out the scoring with a kill.

Team USA converted 46.0 percent of its attacks into points with a .336 hitting efficiency (63-17-137) as Glass was credited with 51 running sets on 102 total set attempts. In contrast, the American defense limited the Chinese to a .244 hitting efficiency (48-18-123).

Larson led the U.S. in digs with 14, along with 10 excellent receptions on 21 errorless chances. Libero Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) was credited with nine digs and five excellent receptions on 17 chances. Robinson contributed eight excellent receptions on 23 chances and six digs.

Although China held an 11-7 block advantage with five coming in the opening set, the Americans were otherwise dominant on the offensive end with a 63-48 kill advantage and 5-3 edge in aces. After the U.S. committed nine errors in the opening set, it limited its total errors to 18 for the match while benefitting from 22 Chinese errors.

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