COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 13, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team swept Korea 25-13, 25-23, 25-19 with balanced scoring in the second to last FIVB Volleyball Nations League preliminary round match Wednesday in Santa Fe, Argentina.
The Americans, ranked second in the world, improve to 12-2 overall in the 15-match round-robin preliminary round. Team USA, ranked first in the VNL standings, can clinch the top spot in the Volleyball Nations League preliminary round with a win against last place Argentina (1-12, 3 points) on Thursday at 7:40 p.m. ET, or with a Brazil loss to Italy. Korea falls to 5-9 overall in the tournament and remain in 12th place.
The VNL Finals Round participants are all set as Netherlands and Turkey solidified the remaining two spots today. China (7-7) will be the top seed as the host country for the event taking place June 27 to July 1 in Nanjing. The U.S. was the first country other than the host to qualify, followed by Brazil and Serbia. The final day of pool play tomorrow will determine the final seedings for the VNL Finals Round.
The U.S. used an 8-0 run early in the opening set to create an 11-2 lead en route to winning 25-13. Korea came back from a 14-9 deficit in the second set and took a 20-19 advantage, but Team USA answered by winning the set 25-23. The Americans used a 4-0 lead late in the third set to take a 19-12 advantage and rolled to a 25-19 victory.
Middle Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) led the American offense with 11 points via seven kills on 14 swings, three blocks and an ace. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) added seven kills on 18 attacks, two blocks and an ace for 10 points. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) charted 10 points with five kills on 12 attacks, four aces and a block.
“We knew coming in that Korea has some very unique serving,” Gibbemeyer said. “It was important for us to pass well, which we did a good job. They also run a lot of combo plays, so with block we had to communicate a lot and I also thought we also did a good job with our block.”
Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois), who started just the first two sets, tallied eight kills on 18 attacks and a block. Middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) pocketed six kills on nine swings and two blocks for eight points. Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana), who came in as part of the double-sub with Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma) in all three sets, totaled six kills on 14 swings and a block for seven points in her limited action. Outside Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie, Minnesota) rounded out the scoring with four kills on 14 attacks and an ace for five points.
Libero Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) handled 13 receptions with an impressive 85 positive reception percent (69 excellent percent). Larson was credited with 13 receptions and a 46 positive percent. Both Wilhite and Bartsch-Hackley were 50 positive percent on 12 chances each.
Setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) and Hancock in the double sub set the American offense to a 43.0 kill percent. The American defense held Korea to a 28.1 kill percent.
The Americans dominated all the scoring categories over the Koreans. Team USA had a 10-3 block margin, 7-2 edge in aces and a 43-34 advantage in kills. The U.S. held its errors to 16 for the match while Korea had 15. Korea held a minimal 41-40 advantage in digs.
The U.S. started Lloyd at setter, Murphy at opposite, Bartsch-Hackley and Larson at outside, and Dixon and Gibbmeyer at middle. Robinson served as the libero. Wilhite started the third set in place of Bartsch-Hackley after being a sub in the second set.
Korea’s Jaeyeong Lee totaled a team-best 13 points.
With one more match in the preliminary round and the possibility of taking first place heading into the Finals Round, Gibbemeyer said Team USA is looking forward to playing the host country in front of its rowdy fans.
“I think there will be a lot of fans, and I think it will be a lot of fun and loud,” Gibbemeyer said. “We love to play matches like that. So we are really excited.”
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.
Murphy downed a kill and Gibbemeyer put up a block to end a mega rally to give the Americans an early 3-1 lead in the opening set. Bartsch-Hackley scored a block, Murphy served an ace and Bartsch-Hackley followed with a kill to lift the Americans to a 6-2 lead. Out of a Korea timeout, Gibbemeyer hammered a kill on the slide and Murphy served a second ace to yield an 8-2 Team USA lead. Out of the technical break, Murphy served another ace, Gibbemeyer blocked Korea and Korea hit long to cap an 8-0 run at 11-2. Larson tallied back-to-back kills to give the Americans a 15-5 lead. Out of the second technical timeout, Drews scored a block and kill to place the Americans in front 18-6. Korea cut its deficit to 20-10 with consecutive USA errors. Team USA won the match at 25-13 with a Larson block and Bartsch-Hackley back-row kill. A Wilhite kill gave Team USA set points at 24-17. After Korea saved two match point, the Americans finished the set at 25-19 on a Korea attack error.
Korea scored the first two points of the second set. Team USA took an 8-6 lead into the first technical timeout on a 4-0 run that included an ace by Gibbemeyer and another serve that resulted in a Korea net violation tracking down the serve. Out of the break, Larson added a fifth straight point with a block prompting Korea to call timeout down 9-6. Team USA inched the lead to 11-7 with a Dixon kill and Korea error. Dixon and Bartsch-Hackley powered down consecutive kills to extend the Team USA lead to 14-9. Korea answered with back-to-back points to close to 14-11. Bartsch-Hackley and Gibbemeyer scored kills to put the U.S. in front 16-11 at the second technical timeout. Korea answered with back-to-back points to slice the deficit to 16-13. Korea scored four unanswered points to level the set at 18-all. Korea took the lead again at 20-19 on an ace. Team USA quickly responded with a Murphy kill and Korea net violation to give the USA a 21-20 lead. Larson followed with an ace to provide the Americans a two-point cushion at 22-20. Korea leveled the set at 22-all on an ace off the net after a U.S. net violation. Murphy hit a cross-court winner and Gibbemeyer put up a block to give USA set points at 24-22. Wilhite ended the set with a kill at 25-23.
Dixon slammed a kill, Wilhite put up a block and Korea hit wide to give the Americans a 3-0 lead in the third set. Murphy served an ace after she slammed a kill prompting Korea to call timeout down 6-2. Out of the timeout, Gibbemeyer added a third straight USA point and Korea hit long to put the Americans in front 8-2 at the technical timeout. Korea trimmed its deficit to 10-7 with a 5-2 run. Larson slammed a back-row attack and Gibbemeyer formed a monster block to produce a 15-10 American lead. Korea answered with two straight to close back to three at 15-12. Drews crushed consecutive kills, Wilhite served an ace and Korea hit long to place Team USA up 19-12. Drews found open court for consecutive kills to stretch the lead to 21-13. Korea served an ace to close to 22-15.