COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 5, 2019) – Opposite Jordan Thompson (Edina, Minnesota) was on fire Friday as she scored 33 points in leading the U.S. Women’s National Team to a 25-18, 25-19, 20-25, 25-21 victory over Brazil to win the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals Round Pool B in Nanjing, China.
USA, now 14-3 overall in this year’s VNL, will face Pool A second-place China in Saturday’s semifinal match at 7:30 a.m. ET. Brazil will face Turkey, which won Pool A with a 2-0 record. Both USA and Brazil were assured of advancing to Saturday’s semifinal regardless of the outcome of their head-to-head match based on Poland going 0-2 in the three-team pool. All USA matches in the VNL can be streamed through flovolleyball.tv.
The U.S. Women are the defending VNL champions and ranked No. 3 in the world. Brazil, which had defeated the Americans in four sets during the VNL preliminary round in Lincoln, Nebraska, is ranked No. 4 in the world and finished in fourth place at last year’s VNL.
Leading by a slim 19-18 margin in the opening set, the U.S. scored the final six points of the set to win 25-18. Similar to the first set, the U.S. led by one at 19-18 in the second set before going on a 5-0 run to stake a 24-18 advantage before winning 25-19 on Thompson’s ninth point of the set. Brazil followed suit in the third set by scoring the final four points to take a 25-20 victory and benefited from 10 American errors in the frame. The U.S. rallied from a 13-11 deficit with four unanswered points to take a 15-13 lead in the fourth set and cruised in for the 25-21 victory with Thompson scoring USA final two points.
Thompson, who will be a senior this fall at the University of Cincinnati and one of three players with remaining college eligibility, was near unstoppable the Americans throughout the match. She had 30 kills on 51 attacks, two blocks and one ace. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) contributed 11 kills on 28 attacks and two aces for 13 points. Outside hitter Mikaela Foecke (West Point, Iowa), who just finished her collegiate eligibility with University of Nebraska this past fall, added 10 kills on 26 attacks and two aces for 12 points.
“She is amazing,” Larson said of Thompson. “I think a lot people don’t know she is still in college – she still has one more year left. We have been blessed to have her and to get to know her. She is a great human, and obviously a great volleyball player.”
Middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) racked up six kills on 15 swings and a team-best five blocks for 11 points. Middle Dana Rettke (Riverside, Illinois), who will be a junior this fall at the University of Wisconsin, chipped in five kills on 16 swings, one block and one ace for seven points. Setter Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois) rounded out the scoring with two kills on four attacks, two blocks and an ace for five points.
According to unofficial stats, Team USA connected on 45 percent of its attacks with a .350 hitting efficiency (64-14-143) on Carlini’s setting. The American defense held the Brazilians to a 39 kill percent and .264 hitting efficiency.
Both teams had major changes in their starting lineup compared to their respective pool matches against Poland earlier this week. However, that did not change the fact Brazil is still a challenge on the court.
“Brazil is always fun to play against,” Larson said. “They are a great team regardless (of who is on the court). We have fun tonight and it was a great environment and fun to compete.”
Foecke handled a team-high 34 receptions without an error and a 32 positive reception percent. She chipped in seven digs in the victory. Larson was unofficially credited with a 59 positive reception percent on 22 chances and added 13 digs. Libero Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) had 10 digs and was 62 percent positive on 16 receptions. Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California), who was a back-row sub in all four sets, was perfect on her three receptions and had six digs in her limited court action. Thompson was also stellar in the back row, picking up nine digs in the win. Carlini had eight digs from her setter position.
The Americans out-blocked the Brazilians 10-4 and held a 7-2 margin in aces. Team USA’s offense enjoyed a 64-49 advantage in kills. The U.S. overcame 28 errors in the match, including 17 service errors.
Larson as uncommitted to her preference won who she would like to face in the semifinals – China or Italy.
“It will be tough either way,” Larson said.
The U.S. started Larson and Foecke at outside hitter, Dixon and Rettke at middle, Thompson at opposite, Carlini at setter and Courtney at libero.
Team USA gained a 6-3 advantage with a Larson kill, Thompson ace and Carlini block. Brazil responded with three unanswered points of its own to level the set at 6-all. Rettke and Larson downed kills and Carlini followed with a block to lift the Americans to a 10-7 advantage. Dixon provided a kill and block on consecutive plays to lift the lead to 12-8. Consecutive USA errors cut Brazil’s deficit to 12-10. Larson and Thompson followed with kills to push the U.S. to 14-10. Rettke and Thompson scored kills on each side of the second technical timeout to extend the American lead to 17-12. Brazil answered with three straight points to whittle the gap to 17-15 prompting a USA timeout. Brazil closed to within one at 19-18. The U.S. regained a three-point cushion at 21-18 with a Dixon kill and Thompson block leading into a Brazil timeout. Out of the break Larson downed two kills around a Brazil error to gain set points 24-18 on a 5-0 run. Dixon scored the final point on a block at 25-18.
After losing the first point of the second set, Dixon, Foecke and Thompson scored consecutive kills to give the Americans a 3-1 advantage. Brazil leveled the set at 5-all, then took the lead at 7-6. Brazil upped its advantage to 9-7 on an American attack error. Team USA quickly regained the lead at 10-9 with kills from Dixon and Thompson and a Carlini ace. Brazil reversed the lead to its side with three consecutive points at 15-13. Team USA went into the second technical timeout up 16-15 with a Thompson kill and consecutive Brazil errors. Thompson and Larson slammed kills to inch USA’s lead to 18-16 at a Brazil timeout. The Americans expanded their advantage to 22-18 with a Thompson kill, Dixon block and Larson ace. Out of the break, Foecke downed a kill and Dixon followed with a block to give the Americans set points at 24-18 on a 5-0 run. Thompson scored the final point, her ninth of the set, for a 25-19 USA win.
Team USA took a 2-0 lead in the third set with a Thompson block and Larson ace before Brazil rallied to take the lead at 6-4 on three straight points. The Americans ended the Brazil run by going on a 4-0 spurt of its own with two kills from Thompson, a kill by Larson and ace by Foecke to put the U.S. in front 8-6 at the first technical timeout. Brazil reversed the lead with three consecutive points at 10-9. Thompson and Foecke connected for consecutive kills to shift the lead to USA at 12-11. The lead reversed yet again with Brazil taking it back at 14-12 with three straight points. Thompson pounded consecutive kills to level the set at 14-all. Brazil reached the second technical timeout up 16-14. The U.S. called timeout trailing 19-16 on consecutive Brazil points. Out of the break, Rettke and Thompson hammered kills to close the American deficit to 19-18 at a Brazil timeout. Brazil closed out the set with the final four points at 25-20 with two blocks and an ace.
Brazil started the fourth set with a 3-1 advantage, then upped the lead to 6-3 on consecutive points. Foecke scored a kill and ace to trim the American lead to 6-5. Rettke and Dixon put up back-to-back blocks to even the set at 7-all. Brazil gained a two-point cushion at 11-9. Thompson and Larson each scored two kills in a 4-0 run to give the Americans the lead back at 15-13. Team USA raised its lead to 17-14 with a Rettke ace after a Brazil service error. Brazil closed back to within one at 18-17 with consecutive points. The Americans built the advantage to 23-19 with kills from Foecke and Thompson followed by a Brazil attack error. Thompson finished the match with a thundering kill at 25-21.