COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 22, 2018) – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois) scored 21 points as the U.S. Women’s National Team opened a 12-match road swing in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League preliminary phase with a convincing 25-20, 25-16, 25-23 win over host Japan on Tuesday in Toyota, Japan.
Team USA, ranked No. 2 in the world by the FIVB, improves to 3-1 overall with 10 points in the 16-team round-robin Volleyball Nations League. The Americans face undefeated Netherlands (4-0, 11 points) on May 23 at 2:30 a.m. ET and Belgium on May 24 at 2:30 a.m. ET in Toyota, Japan, before playing three matches each in Thailand, China and Argentina.
The U.S. pushed out to a 16-8 lead in the opening set and cruised to a 25-20 victory in the opener. After Japan closed to 9-8 in the second set, Team USA used a pivotal 8-1 run to establish a 17-9 lead en route to a commanding 25-16 victory. The Americans overcame a 19-16 deficit in the third set by leveling the set at 19-all, then scored the final three points of the match for a 25-23 victory.
Bartsch-Hackley collected her 21 points with 18 kills on 33 swings and three aces from her outside hitter position. Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) added 15 kills on 26 swings and two blocks for 17 points. The two outside hitters combined for 33 kills on 59 swings for a 55.9 kill percent. Middle Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) pocketed 11 points with a match-high seven blocks to go with three kills and an ace.
Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) charted six kills and a block for seven points. Middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) produced three kills and a block for four points. Setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) rounded out the scoring with a block.
Hill handled 29 of the USA’s 53 service receptions with a 41 positive reception percent. Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) provided an 80 positive reception percent on 10 chances, while Bartsch-Hackley handled 14 receptions with a 43 positive reception percent.
Lloyd set the American offense to a 45.9 kill percent (45-98). Team USA used its sizeable height advantage to secure a 12-3 block advantage. The U.S. also held a 4-1 margin in aces. Both teams had 45 kills in the match. The Americans took advantage of 14 Japanese errors and held their miscues to 10 for the match. Japan, known for its defense, out-dug the U.S. 41-39.
The U.S. started Lloyd at setter, Murphy at opposite, Bartsch-Hackley and Hill at outside, and Adams and Gibbemeyer at middle. Robinson served as the libero for the second time in her career.
Yuki Ishii led Japan with 13 points, all on kills. No other Japanese player scored more than six points in the match.
The U.S. hold a 36-21 record against Japan in major world-level competition, including victories in the last 11 meetings.
The Volleyball Nations League utilizes a five-week preliminary round robin schedule where all 16 teams play each other. The Volleyball Nations League Final Round will have host China joining the top five teams from the preliminary standings.
The U.S. used a 3-0 run to grab an early 6-3 advantage in the opening set, then took an 8-4 advantage into the first technical timeout. Team USA built its lead to eight at 16-8 on a 6-1 run heading into the second technical timeout. Japan clawed its way back to within four at 23-19, but the Americans finished out the set at 25-20. Bartsch-Hackley led the USA with nine points in the opening set, including 8-of-11 hitting. Gibbemeyer added seven points, including four blocks.
Team USA started the second set with a 3-0 lead and reached the first technical timeout up 8-4. Out of the break, Japan sliced its deficit to 9-8 with a 4-1 scoring run. The Americans surged to a 17-9 advantage via an 8-1 run. Japan moved to within five at 19-14 on a 5-2 scoring run. The U.S. responded with four unanswered points to lift its margin to nine at 23-14. Team USA closed out the set at 25-16. Both Bartsch-Hackley and Hill scored six points apiece for the Americans. Hill converted 5-of-6 attacks into points during the set.
The U.S. broke a 5-all tie in the third set with consecutive points only to have Japan come back score three unanswered points to stake an 8-7 advantage that first technical timeout – its first lead in the match. Japan gained a two-point cushion at 13-11 with back-to-back points. Japan reached the second technical timeout leading 16-13. The U.S. squared the set at 19-all with three unanswered points. The Americans reversed the lead at 24-23 and earned their first match point of the match. Team USA promptly closed the set at 25-23.