COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 6, 2019) – The U.S. Women’s National Team is one win away from repeating as the FIVB Volleyball Nations League champions after defeating host China 25-11, 15-25, 25-17, 25-20 in the second semifinal on Saturday in Nanjing, China.
USA, now 15-3 overall in this year’s VNL, will face Brazil in the gold-medal match at 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday riding an eight-match win streak. Brazil, which defeated the Americans in the preliminary round on June 6 in Lincoln, Nebraska, defeated Turkey 25-23, 25-15, 25-10 in today’s first semifinal. The VNL gold-medal match will air live on the Olympic Channel.
The U.S. Women, ranked No. 3 in the world, also defeated China in last year’s VNL semifinals. China, which has lost all four of its VNL matches to the USA dating back to the inaugural edition in 2018, is ranked No. 2 in the world.
The Americans started the opening set against China with a 6-1 advantage and built a 13-point advantage at 18-5 before winning 25-11. China flipped the switch in set two by charging to a 10-4 advantage and cruised to a 25-15 win as the Americans had 11 errors including seven service miscues. Team USA used a 3-0 run to take an 8-5 lead in the third set, then pushed the gap to 16-8 at the second technical timeout. The Americans scored seven of the final 10 points to win 25-17 after weathering China closing to within four at 18-14. After China scored four unanswered points to tie the fourth set at 19-all, the Americans answered with three straight point to go up 22-19 and went on to score six of the final seven points for a 25-20 victory.
“China gave us all we could handle after the first set where we came out pretty strong,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “They had a really nice response and challenged us to find some different answers. Tori Dixon came in to give us a lift, as did Jordyn Poulter. It never felt that smooth this evening, but great teams have to figure out a way to make good things happen even if it doesn’t feel comfortable. Our team, all 14 of us, did a really nice job at that.”
Opposite Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana) and outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois) scored 21 points to lead Team USA to victory. Drews had 16 kills on 31 swings, three aces and two blocks. Bartsch-Hackley powered down 14 kills on 28 attacks, four aces and three blocks. Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) charted 14 kills on 24 swings and an ace for 15 points.
Bartsch-Hackley said “I am pumped” for the chance to play Brazil in the finals.
“I think Brazil is a great team, we match up well as we play very styles of volleyball,” Bartsch-Hackley said. “I am excited because I haven’t played Brazil in a long time, maybe last summer. I am pumped.”
Middle Chiaka Ogbogu (Coppell, Texas) scored seven points on five kills and two blocks. Setter Jordyn Poulter (Aurora, Colorado) served two aces and added a block for three points. Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) contributed two blocks and a kill for three points. Both Poulter and Dixon started the final two sets. Middle Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Colorado) provided two blocks and a kill for three points. Setter Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois) rounded out the scoring with a kill.
According to unofficial stats, Team USA converted 46 percent of its attacks into points with a .325 hitting (52-15-114) efficiency behind the setting of Carlini and Poulter. In the final two sets with Poulter running the offense, the Americans had a .379 hitting efficiency (28-6-34). The U.S. limited China to a 34 kill percent and .183 hitting efficiency (39-18-115) for the match.
Bartsch-Hackley handled 35 receptions with a 46 positive reception percent to go with eight digs. Libero Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) was unofficially credited with 14 digs and a 47 positive reception percent on 19 chances. Robinson was 92 percent positive on 12 receptions to go with eights digs. Poulter had seven digs in her two sets of action.
Kiraly said Team USA did not overlook China even the squad was missing some key components such as star Zhu Ting.
“We knew going into the match that China, even though they are missing some of their top players, has been playing some really inspired volleyball – and really good volleyball,” Kiraly said. “They beat Italy yesterday in four sets to move on to the semifinals. We knew we would have our hands full and they also had a very energetic and passionate crowd cheering them on.”
The Americans out-served the Chinese 10-4 and held a 12-7 block advantage. While the U.S. offense clicked with a 52-39 kill margin, the Americans had to overcome 23 errors – 15 of which came in the opening two sets.
The U.S. started Bartsch-Hackley and Robinson at outside hitter, Ogbogu and Washington at middle, Drews at opposite, Carlini at setter and Courtney at libero.
The U.S. scored the first two points of the match with a Bartsch-Hackley block and Drews kill. Team USA upped the lead to 5-1 with Bartsch-Hackley downing a kill and ace around a Drews kill. Out of a China timeout, Robinson added a kill at 6-1. China clipped two points off the deficit at 6-3. The U.S. moved into a 11-4 lead with two Robinson kills, China attack error and Drews ace off the net. Drews connected for consecutive kills and Washington pounded a slide to push the American lead to 14-5. Out of China’s second timeout, Bartsch-Hackley hammered a kill and Robinson served an ace to put Team USA up 16-5 at the second technical timeout. Washington put up a block and China was called for a rotation error to cap a 7-0 American run at 18-5. China scored four consecutive points to cut the gap to 18-9. The Americans answered with a 5-0 run as Bartsch-Hackley collected a kill and block between two kills from Ogbogu and one from Drews to give the USA a 24-10 lead. Drews scored the final point at 25-11 with a kill.
China started the second set with a 4-1 advantage. China jumped its advantage to 10-4 with a 4-0 run. The U.S. crept to within four at 11-7 with a Drews block after a failed China video challenge. China reached a six-point cushion again at 14-8 with a block, then extended the margin to 21-11 with a 5-0 spurt. China inched its lead to 23-12 and won 25-15.
China continued to be fire in the third set taking a 3-1 advantage. The U.S. stopped China’s 3-0 run with a 4-0 run of its own with two kills from Drews after two China errors to give the Americans a 5-3 lead. China quickly tied the set at 5-all. Ogbogu responded with a kill and block followed by a Drews ace to shift the U.S. to a 8-5 advantage at the first technical timeout. Team USA went up 11-6 with an Ogbogu block and two China attack errors. Bartsch-Hackley downed two kills around kills from Robinson and Drews to extend the USA lead to 16-8. China closed to four with four consecutive points at 18-14. The U.S. stopped the China run with kills from Robinson and Bartsch-Hackley at 20-14. China served an ace to creep to four at 21-17. The U.S. reached set points at 24-17 advantage on a China service error and rotation error followed by a Poulter block. Bartsch-Hackley quickly ended the set with a block at 25-17 to end the set at 25-17.
China took the first two-point cushion of set four at 4-2. The U.S. tied the set at 5-all with a Drews kill after a China service error. Team USA gained its first lead of set four at 10-8 with a Dixon block, Poulter ace and China error. Dixon placed another block and Bartsch-Hackley served an ace to extend the American lead to 12-9 at a China timeout. Drews served an ace after a China service error to lift the Americans up 15-11. China cut the deficit to one at 15-14 with three consecutive points. Robinson hammered kills on each side of the technical timeout to put Team USA up 17-14. Ogbogu and Drews inched the American lead to 19-15 with consecutive kills. China responded with four quick points to level the set at 19-all. Poulter served an ace between kills from Drews and Bartsch-Hackley to bring the U.S. to a 22-19 advantage. Barstch-Hackley ended the set and match at 25-20 with a kill and ace after a China service error.