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KAWASAKI, Japan – Despite another dominant blocking effort, the U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team (CNT Japan) took its first loss of their tour, falling to the Japan Under-20 National Team 3-1 (25-18, 21-25, 25-16, 25-18) Thursday at the NEC Red Rockets training facility in Kawasaki. 

“The Japan U20 team did a good job putting serving pressure on us,” said CNT Japan head coach Heather Olmstead. “They served really tough, and they served in a bunch, so we had trouble passing and it got us out of system. I thought our effort was good, our opponent was just better than us today.”

Japan’s U20 side controlled the service game, dialing up 12 aces and just five errors. CNT Japan, meanwhile, scored five points directly off the service while seeing 11 attempts miss their mark. 

“Serve and pass is always a huge thing for our team,” said CNT Japan libero CC McGraw (Minnesota; Prior Lake, Minn.). “They pretty much excelled at that in all areas, and that’s always something we can work on.”

While Japan U20 controlled the service game, the U.S. dominated the net once again. CNT Japan out-blocked their hosts 19-3 with nine different players stuffing at least one U20 attack. Heather Gneiting (BYU; Pleasant Grove, Utah) led the way with five blocks, Kenzie Koerber (Utah; Chino Hills, Calif.) added four, Brooke Botkin (Southern California; Houston, Texas) three, and Mica Allison (Illinois; White Health, Ill.) two. Five others – including Dani Drews (Utah; Sandy, Utah) – added one each. 

“Our blocking has been really good,” Drews said. “We’re a huge block, and that’s been awesome for us. I also think that today, we did a good job at limiting unforced errors and playing a lot cleaner.”

After two matches played, CNT Japan is out-blocking its opponents 41-5. Gneiting has nine of them.

Offensively, Drews led the U.S. Thursday with eight kills on a .389 attack percentage. Botkin added six kills, and three others landed four. 

Japan’s U20 squad took the first set by a 25-18 scoreline by using a late run, but the Americans answered back in the second 21-25. In the next two sets, however, the hosts jumped out to early leads and held on for a match victory. 

These two teams will face each other again May 26 at Japan’s National Training Center in Kita, Tokyo. Before then, CNT Japan strives to improve their serving and communicating. 

“We’ll continue to work on our serve,” said Olmstead of the team’s plans going forward. “We want to serve more consistently in the court, and we want to put pressure on our opponents like our opponents put pressure on us today. We’d love to see a little clearer communication in our passing and see if we can pass a little bit cleaner and run our offense better. If we can continue to work on the serve-pass game of our offense, I think we’ll be in good shape.” 

The U.S. will continue its tour Friday, May 24, with two matches against Japan’s World University Games Team, once again in Kawasaki. The first match is scheduled to last three sets, and the second will last four. Following the nightcap, the teams will enjoy a social dinner with each other.