COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (July 8, 2017) – The U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked second in the world, used a balanced offense to defeat Italy 25-21, 25-22, 25-19 on Saturday on the second day of FIVB World Grand Prix action in Kunshan, China.

The U.S., now 2-0 in the first World Grand Prix preliminary round weekend, returns to action on Sunday when it faces host China at 7 a.m. ET. The Chinese are ranked No. 1 in the world and are the reigning Olympic Games champion. The World Grand Prix is the premier annual international tournament for women.

Middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota), who tore her ACL in January 2016, made a successful return to FIVB competition by scoring a Team USA-best 10 points with three kills on eight swings, three blocks and a team-leading four aces. Outside Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Maryville, Illinois) contributed seven kills on 14 swings, two blocks and an ace for 10 points. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) charted nine kills on 17 swings.

“I feel really happy,” said U.S. captain Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California), who set Team USA to a 44.9 kill percent and .333 hitting efficiency (31-8-69). “I think we did a really good job tonight. We made some really good changes from yesterday to today. We fought really hard. We knew Italy was a great defensive team, so I am really proud how we defended them and went full throttle.”

Middle Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) turned in five kills on nine swings, two blocks and an ace for eight points. Outside Madison Kingdon (Phoenix, Arizona) pocketed five kills and an ace for six points. Liz McMahon (Liberty Township, Ohio), the opposite in the double sub in the first two sets, scored two kills on six attacks.

Libero Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona) was credited with 26 excellent receptions on 30 changes. Bartsch-Hackley had seven excellent receptions on as many chances, while Kindon had seven excellent receptions on eight chances.

The U.S. limited Italy to a 40.2 kill percent with a .149 hitting efficiency (35-22-87). Team USA held advantages 7-5 advantages in both blocks and aces. Italy managed a 36-31 edge in kills, but committed 30 errors to the Americans’ 16.

“We have a young group – half our team is really young,” Lloyd said of the squad that has only two Olympic veterans including herself and Murphy. “They have embraced this tournament. They have a lot of positive energy and they are fighting really hard and making great changes.”

The U.S. started Lloyd at setter, Murphy at opposite, Kingdon and Bartsch-Hackley at outside, Gibbemeyer and Dixon at middle, and Benson at libero. Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma) was the setter in the double sub in the first two sets and was a serving sub in the third set. Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) was a back-row sub in all three sets. Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie, Minnesota) subbed into the third set to serve.

The U.S. has won the FIVB World Grand Prix six times, with four of the titles coming in the last seven years (2010, 2011, 2012, 2015). In the last two editions, the Americans have won gold in 2015 and reached the gold-medal match in 2016 before losing to 11-time champion Brazil. The U.S. and Brazil have held dominance over the World Grand Prix as either the Americans or Brazilians have won the tournament 17 of the 24 editions and every year since 2008.

The U.S. scored three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the opening set and stretched the margin to 9-4 with a 4-0 run capped by a Dixon block. Italy charged back to take the lead at 16-14 with a 4-0 run. Murphy put up a block to level the score at 18-all, only to have Italy answer with two straight. Team USA responded with kills by Bartsch-Hackley and Murphy around two Italian errors to return the Americans in front 22-20. Consecutive Italian errors presented the U.S. set points at 24-21. Gibbemeyer ended the set with an ace at 25-21 as the U.S. scored seven of the final eight points.

Italy opened up a 5-2 advantage in the second set with three unanswered points. Dixon served three aces as part of a 7-0 run that gave the Americans an 11-7 lead. Team USA extended its lead to 17-10 with a 3-0 run. Italy clawed its way back into the lead at 21-20 with an 11-3 run. McMahon ended the run with a kill and Italy followed with an attack error to give the U.S. the lead 22-21. Bartsch-Hackley scored a kill and ace off the net to push the Americans to set points at 24-22. Kingdon ended the set with a kill off the block for a 25-22 victory.

Team USA grabbed a 10-4 lead in the third set on a 5-0 run that included a Dixon ace and Gibbemeyer block around two Italy errors. Neither team could sustain any momentum by scoring on their serve until Italy closed the gap to 23-18 on three unanswered points. The Americans won the set 25-19 on an Italian service error.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB World Grand Prix Weekend #1
# – Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
1 – Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
4 – Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Nebraska, Cypress, California)
5 – Sarah Wilhite (OH, 6-1, Minnesota, Eden Prairie, Minnesota)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)
9 – Madi Kingdon (OH, 6-1, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona)
12 – Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, Florida, Wilmington, Illinois)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Maryville, Illinois)
17 – Megan Courtney (OH, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
19 – Hannah Tapp (M, 6-2, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
20 – Amanda Benson (L, 5-7, Oregon, Litchfield Park, Arizona)
21 – Paige Tapp (M, 6-1, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
23 – Liz McMahon (OPP, 6-6, Illinois, Liberty Township, Ohio)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Consultant Coach: Jon Newman-Gonchar
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans
Team Manager: Jimmy Stitz

2017 U.S. Women’s Schedule in FIVB World Grand Prix Preliminary Round

At Kunshan, China
July 7: USA def. Russia 22-25, 25-19, 25-27, 25-16, 15-11
July 8: USA def. Italy 25-21, 25-22, 25-19
July 9: USA vs. China, 7 a.m. ET

At Macau, China
July 14: USA vs. Turkey, 4 a.m. ET
July 15: USA vs. Italy, 2:30 a.m. ET
July 16: USA vs. China, 3:30 a.m. ET

At Cuiaba, Brazil
July 21: USA vs. Netherlands, 5:05 p.m. ET
July 22: USA vs. Belgium, 5:05 p.m.
July 23: USA vs Brazil, 9:10 a.m. ET

FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round
At Nanjing, China
Aug. 2-6
China plus top five other finishers from FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round