LINCOLN, Neb. (Jan. 7, 2016) – The host U.S. Women’s National Team defeated its neighbors to the north Canada 25-18, 25-18, 25-15 Thursday evening to start the 2016 Women’s NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament strong in front of a heavily partisan crowd of 6,322 fans at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb, USA.

USA had seven players with at least six points. Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) scored a team match-high 14 points including 13 kills and an ace, while Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) totaled 10 kills as a sub in all three sets. Jordan Larson (Hooper, Neb.) and (Bartlett, Ill.), who both played collegiate volleyball at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, added 10 and nine points respectively.

“We used a little different substitution patterns that many other international teams use,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “We look for little fractions of points of advantage. So we will often use all six of our available subs. Four of those six are used in what we call the double-sub where we bring in Courtney Thompson and Karsta Lowe, and they did a very nice job tonight.”

USA will face Puerto Rico (0-1) on Friday at 7 p.m. CT on the second of three round-robin competition days, while Canada looks to stay alive for the Olympic Games bid on Friday versus Dominican Republic (1-0) at 5 p.m. CT. The second- and third-place teams in the final standings move into the last chance Olympic Games qualification tournaments in May.

Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.) punched in seven points and Megan Easy (Boston, Mass.) scored six points as an offensive specialist off the bench in all three sets. Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.) rounded out the scoring with six points.

“We also brought Megan Easy in as she has had a good training camp, particularly good at the net hitting and blocking,” Kiraly said. “We want to squeeze out a fractional advantage out. Some people talk about using a defensive specialist across the back row, well we offensive specialist, or OSed her across the front row.”

The U.S. offense overwhelmed Canada with a 57-30 kill advantage. Canada held a 7-3 margin in blocks, while the Americans had a 2-0 edge in aces.

“First off, hats off to Canada as they played great defense which is a struggle for a lot of our opponents,” U.S. captain Christa Dietzen (Hopewell Township, Pa.) said. “Their defenders did a phenomenal job and put pressure on us. We talked about throwing ‘a lot of good’ at them. I thought we kept our patience in the match. Was it our best match, no. If we are operating at a C level or B-minus, we have to find ways to win.”

Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa), who also played for the University of Nebraska, added 22 of Team USA’s 81 digs. Larson added 15 digs, while Robinson had a team-best 19 excellent receptions on 42 chances. Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) started at setter with Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.), coming in on the double-switch, set Team USA to a 43.18 kill percent and .341 hitting efficiency. The U.S. defense held Canada to a 30.3 kill percent and .222 hitting efficiency.

“We played good, we had a really good defense,” Canada Head Coach Arnd Ludwig said. “Our serving wasn’t as good as I was hoping for. Our passing was same thing, we can pass a little bit better. For us it was a good start to the tournament and there are some things we can build confidence on for the next two game.”

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament
# – Name (Position, Ht, Hometown, College)
1 – Alisha Glass (S, 6-0, Leland, Mich., Penn State University)
2 – Kayla Banwarth (L, 5-10, Dubuque, Iowa, University of Nebraska)
3 – Courtney Thompson (S, 5-8, Kent, Wash., University of Washington)
6 – Tori Dixon (MB, 6-3, Burnsville, Minn., University of Minnesota)
10 – Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Hooper, Neb., University of Nebraska)
11 – Megan Easy (OH, 6-3, Boston, Mass., Penn State University)
13 – Christa Dietzen (MB, 6-2, Hopewell Township, Pa., Penn State University)
14 – Nicole Fawcett (OPP, 6-4, Zanesfield, Ohio, Penn State University)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Portland, Ore., Pepperdine University)
16 – Foluke Akinradewo (MB, 6-3, Plantation, Fla., Stanford University)
17 – Natalie Hagglund (L, 5-9, Encinitas, Calif., University of Southern California)
22 – Rachael Adams (MB, 6-2, Cincinnati, Ohio, University of Texas)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Bartlett, Ill., University of Nebraska)
25 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., UCLA)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Jamie Morrison and Tom Black
Technical Coordinator: Joe Trinsey
Team Manager: Denise Sheldon
Athletic Trainer: Jill Wosmek
Doctor: Dr. Andrew Gregory
Consultant Coach: David Hunt
Strength Coach: James Stitz

2016 NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament Schedule

Jan. 7
Dominican Republic def. Puerto Rico 17‐25, 25‐13, 25‐23, 25‐23
USA def. Canada 25-18, 25-18, 25-15

Jan. 8
Canada vs. Dominican Republic, 5 p.m. CT
USA vs. Puerto Rico, 7 p.m. CT

Jan. 9
Canada vs. Puerto Rico, 5 p.m. CT
USA vs. Dominican Republic, 8 p.m. CT (live on NBC Sports)