Pula, Croatia – For the second straight year, it will be an all-United States final at the European Global Challenge. The U.S. Collegiate National Team-Europe advanced to the championship match with a 25-20, 24-26, 25-14, 25-19 win over Northumbria in the semifinals on Thursday afternoon.

Also for the second year, CNT-Europe will play the Mountain West Conference All-Stars in the final. First serve is at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, it’s live on the Global Challenge website.

“A couple things stood out for us tonight,” head coach Dani Busboom Kelly said. “No. 1 was ball control. We really controlled the ball well which allowed our middles to be active. We’ve learned over here that when we run the middle, we’re very successful. Our blocking was the best it’s been the entire trip (in eight matches) so it was good to see us get our hands over and early, and shut down the hitters on the other side of the net.”

The U.S. outblocked Northumbria 16-5 behind five block points from Colorado State’s Kirstie Hillyer. Wisconsin’s Danielle Hart added four blocks.

The CNT also put away 47 kills with two players in double figures for the first time on the tour. Washington State’s Taylor Mims led all hitters with 16 kills while Hillyer added 10 kills.

“The semifinals brought us a lot of energy and we had to step up our game play from the last few days,” said Oregon’s August Raskie, who set the entire match. “I think it helped our team get into a rhythm. Getting our passing going was what really helped us tonight and getting some consistency in our hitters.”

Iowa State’s Jessica Schaben and Louisville’s Amanda Green both recorded three service aces in the match.

In last year’s final, CNT-Europe downed the Mountain West team 3-0.

“The Mountain West Conference has proved themselves to be very good this tournament,” Busboom Kelly said. “I’m sure some of our players know their players, so it’s always going to be a battle in situations like this.”

Raskie added, “Our team will ready for it and it will be a dogfight.”

Set Breakdown
Set 1 – The U.S. led 12-4 before Northumbria cut the lead to three (17-14). Blocks from Hillyer and Green put the CNT up 23-17 while a Hillyer kill made it set point at 24-19. Northumbria held off one set point before a kill from Mims put the set away.

Set 2 – Despite a U.S. lead of seven points (11-4), Northumbria made a late run to knot the score at 20. The score was tied three more times, including at 24-24, when two CNT errors evened the match.

Set 3 – Leading 12-10, the U.S. went on an 8-0 run to lead 20-10 and put the set out of reach. Schaben served eight straight times, including two service aces, while Hart had two kills and a block over the stretch.

Set 4 – Green keyed a run in the middle of the set to put the contest out of reach. The CNT trailed 14-13 before Green had two kills and an ace to put the team up 16-14. Green served six straight times and give the U.S. a 19-14 lead. Northumbria would get no closer than four points the rest of the set.

The U.S. started Green and Kentucky’s Leah Edmond at outside hitter, Hart and Hillyer at middle blocker, Mims at opposite, Raskie at setter and Alexis Dirige (Washington State) at libero.