EBOLI, Italy (July 5, 2019) – The U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team – World University Games squad (WCNT – WUG) faced an immediate test during the first day of volleyball competition at the 2019 Summer Universiade Friday, falling to host nation Italy 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-23) at PalaSele Eboli.

“Congratulations first to Italy on a well-earned result,” said WCNT – WUG head coach Keegan Cook. “I thought it was a very high-level match, and their execution late in each of those sets was a bit better than ours. Overall, I’m really impressed by our group’s ability to get organized on short notice and compete hard against a great opponent in Italy. We had strong presence in all facets of the game as well as contributions from the entire roster. Ten players made their international debuts, and they all represented themselves extremely well.”

Italy won all three sets, but the U.S. stayed close throughout the match. The Americans led 15-16 in the first and 12-16 in the third, but the hosts were able to rally for set wins each time. 

The statistics were just as close. Italy landed two more points on the attack than the U.S., but the Americans were more efficient, scoring on 36 percent of their swings as opposed to 32 for Italy. At the net, Italy out-blocked the U.S. 7-5 and served up three more aces, but WCNT – WUG tallied 64 receptions compared to Italy’s 59. 

“There’s a lot of things we can take away, being that we’ve only played together for four days,” said Kara Bajema, an outside hitter from Washington. “I thought it was a really fun, competitive match with lots of long rallies. Going forward, I think we can just keep working on our communication as a team. I have high hopes for where this team can take us, and I’m excited for the rest of this tournament.”

Bajema landed 14 attacks, more than any other player in the match. She added two block points as well. Opposite Stephanie Samedy added nine kills, and five other players saw at least two. 

Outside hitter Adanna Rollins posted 22 serve receptions to lead USA Team, and fellow OH Meghan McClure added 14. Libero Lauren Barnes received 13 serves, 54 percent positive, and Bajema tallied 12, 58 percent positive. 

With the loss, WCNT – WUG falls to 0-1 in Pool D. They’re tied for third with Switzerland while Italy and Japan lead the group at 1-0. The U.S. next faces Switzerland Saturday, July 6, with a 2:30 p.m. local/8:30 a.m. Eastern contest, at PalaSele Eboli. 

“[I’m] looking forward to seeing this group go again,” Cook said after the match. “They certainly have a chance to go late in the tournament, but we have to take care of business in this tough pool.”