COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (July 21, 2017) – The U.S. Women’s National Team earned a coveted spot into the six-team FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round by defeating Belgium 25-14, 16-25, 25-19, 26-24 in the second to last match of the preliminary round held Friday afternoon in Cuiaba, Brazil.

The U.S., now with a 6-2 record and 19 points, concludes the preliminary round against host Brazil on Sunday at 9:10 a.m. ET. Brazil (5-3), which has won the World Grand Prix a record 11 times, is still in jeopardy of not making the Final Round without a win against the Americans. The match is scheduled to air live on NBC affiliate The Olympic Channel (formerly Universal HD).

The U.S. is currently in first place through in the preliminary standings, though second-place Serbia (6-1, 18 points) has played one fewer matches. The top five teams in the preliminary round plus host China advance to the World Grand Prix Final Round to be held Aug. 2-6 in Nanjing, China.

Outside hitter Madi Kingdon (Phoenix, Arizona) charted a team-best 18 points with 16 kills on 38 swings and two blocks. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) provided 14 kills on 27 swings and a block for 15 points. Middle Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) contributed seven kills on 17 attacks, a team-best four blocks and an ace for 12 points.

“I think the key for us was just staying focused on our side of the net,” Murphy said. “We knew they were going to come out and fight, and they did. As soon as we thought we had a comfortable lead, they came back and started pushing. We just needed to stay on the gas pedal. I think we fought all the way to the end because they pushed us. It was definitely a tough match for us, but a good win.”

Outside hitter Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) pocketed 10 kills on 17 swings in the victory. Setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) charted three blocks and an ace for four points. Middle Hannah Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota) turned in three kills on 10 swings and an ace for four points. Liz McMahon (Liberty Township, Ohio), the opposite in the double sub all four sets, tallied two kills on five attacks and a block. Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma), the setter in the double sub all four sets, rounded out the scoring with an ace.

Notes Outside the Box Score

  • The U.S. has now reached the six-team FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round three consecutive years, having won the event in 2015 and finished second in 2016 to Brazil.
  • Megan Courtney was making her first start in a USA uniform.
  • The U.S. and Belgium have met just once before at the world level, an American sweep in the 2015 World Grand Prix
  • USA’s two losses in this year’s FIVB World Grand Prix are five-set losses to Italy and China last weekend.
  • The Americans have won at least two sets in 18 consecutive FIVB World Grand Prix matches with three five-set losses.

Libero Justine Wong-Orantes (Cypress, California) charted a team-high 17 digs and added five excellent receptions on 15 chances. Courtney was credited with a team-leading 21 excellent receptions on 31 chances to go with 11 digs.

Team USA converted 45.2 percent of its attacks into points with a .330 hitting efficiency (52-14-115) as Lloyd was credited with 26 running sets on 82 total set attempts. In contrast, the American defense limited Belgium to a 40.0 kill percent and .216 hitting efficiency (50-23-125).

The U.S. held slim margins in kills (52-50) and blocks (11-8) while both teams had four aces. Belgium committed five more errors in the match, 25-20.

The U.S. started Hannah Tapp and Gibbemeyer at middle, Kingdon and Courtney at outside hitter, Murphy at opposite and Lloyd at setter. Orantes-Wang was the libero for the match.

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. started the opening set with a 4-0 run that included kills from Murphy and Courtney followed by two Belgium errors. Out of a Belgium timeout, Murphy slammed another kill to extend the scoring run to 5-0. Team USA reached the opening technical timeout with an 8-3 advantage. The Americans held a 16-10 margin at the second technical timeout. Kingdon sliced a kill through the block and McMahon scored a kill and block as part of a 6-0 scoring run on Wilhite’s serve to raise the American advantage to 21-10. Belgium saved two set points before the Americans closed the set at 25-14 on a Kingdon tip.

Belgium scored six straight to take an 11-6 lead in the second set. Gibbemeyer slammed a key and ace to slice the gap to 14-11, but Belgium went back into a five-point cushion 16-11 at the technical timeout. Out of the break, Belgium extended its lead to 17-11 with an ace. Another Belgium ace widened the score to 20-13. Lloyd served an ace to narrow the American deficit to 22-16, but Belgium worked its way to a 25-16 victory with the final three points.

The U.S. built an early 2-0 lead in the third set with a Kingdon kill and Courtney block, but Belgium came back to level the score at 3-all. Courtney laid down three straight kills to lift the Americans in front 7-3. A Gibbemeyer block and Kingdon kill extended the lead to 9-4. Belgium whittled the gap to 10-8, but a Murphy kill and Belgium error moved the USA to a 12-8 margin. Team USA reached the second technical timeout with a 16-12 lead on a Hancock ace. Belgium answered with two straight to cut the lead to 16-14. The U.S. jumped its lead to 21-17 prompting a Belgium timeout. Out of the break, Courtney sliced a kill to increase the lead to 22-17. Murphy slammed a kill down the line and Gibbemeyer put up a block to close the set at 25-19.

The U.S. reeled off five straight capped by a Tapp kill and Murphy block to take 6-3 lead in the fourth set. Tapp served an ace to yield an American 8-4 lead at the first technical timeout. After Belgium trimmed the lead to 8-6, the U.S. answered with seven unanswered including two Lloyd blocks on Murphy’s serve to assume a 15-6 margin. After trailing 16-7 at the second technical timeout, Belgium charged back to within two at 19-17 on a 10-3 run. Kingdon ended the run with a kill at 20-17. Belgium fully came back from its nine-point deficit to tie it at 23-all. Belgium saved one match point, but a video challenge couldn’t save the second one as the U.S. won 26-24.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB World Grand Prix Weekend #3
# – 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 def. China 25-22, 25-22, 25-21

At Macau, China
July 14: USA def. Turkey 25-21, 24-26, 25-19, 25-12
July 15: USA lost to Italy 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 13-25, 15-13
July 16: USA lost to China 25-27, 25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 15-11

At Cuiaba, Brazil
July 20: USA def. Netherlands 25-15, 23-25, 28-26, 25-21
July 21: USA def. Belgium 25-14, 16-25, 25-19, 26-24
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