COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Oct. 3, 2018) – In an epic battle of offensive firepower versus a stifling defense, U.S. Women’s National Team edged Thailand 25-17, 25-16, 23-25, 21-25, 15-11 on Wednesday to remain undefeated in the FIVB World Championship Pool C first round taking place in Kobe, Japan.
- Key Stat: The U.S. out-blocked Thailand 17-4 in the match, including four blocks in the pivotal fifth set. Foluke Akinradewo (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) totaled seven blocks from her middle position.
- Key Note: Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) came off the bench to score four key points in the fifth set.
- Records: USA (4-0, 11 points), Thailand (2-2, 7 points)
- World Rankings: No. 2 USA, No. 16 Thailand
- 2018 Season Record: 30-4
- Up Next: USA vs. No. 5 Russia (4-0, 11 points) on Thursday, Oct. 4, at 6:10 a.m. ET
- Watch: FloVolleyball.tv has exclusive rights in USA. Order subscription by clicking here.
Team USA concludes its first-round schedule on Thursday against undefeated Russia (4-0, 11 points). Both teams have already qualified for the second round, which takes place Oct. 7-11 in Osaka.
In the tiebreaking set, the Americans broke the fifth tie of the set at 6-6 with three unanswered points to stake a 9-6 advantage, then outscored Thailand 4-1 to cap the set at 15-11.
Akinradewo said the team refocused in the fifth set and do what it does best. The message U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly gave in the huddle before the start of the tiebreaker was just be ‘USA good.’
“Just to do us, USA good,” Akinradewo said of Kiraly’s strategy. “I think when we can go back to focusing on our side and what we can do, just staying calm and patient through it all we are successful. We were able to do that in the last set.”
Team USA controlled the opening two sets. The U.S. rushed to a 12-4 lead in the opening set against Thailand that included three blocks, then withstood a Thailand 5-0 run to close to 19-14 before winning 25-17. Bartsch-Hackley scored 10 points in the opening set for Team USA. The Americans used a 10-1 lead in the second set to take a 14-6 advantage and cruised to a 25-16 victory.
However, the Thailand defense stiffened in sets three and four and its own offense came to life. Thailand rallied from a 15-12 deficit, thanks to a 5-0 run to take a 22-18 lead and held off the Americans at 25-23. The fourth set had 13 ties, and with the U.S. leading 18-16, Thailand scored nine of the final 12 points to win 25-21.
“We knew from the start that Thailand is a great team with an incredible defense,” Akinradewo said. “We knew it could be a potentially long night. I think we came out strong from the start, and they increased their service pressure, they were passing better and doing a lot of combos.”
Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois) collected 23 points for the Americans with 17 kills on 46 swings, five blocks and an ace. Middle Foluke Akinradewo (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) notched eight kills on 16 attacks, a match-high seven blocks and two aces. Middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) totaled 14 points with eight kills on 16 swings, three blocks and three aces.
Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) charted 14 points with 13 kills on 32 swings and an ace. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) pocketed nine kills on 32 attacks and a block. Hill, who played in just the fifth set in place of Bartsch-Hackley, provided three kills on eight attacks and a key ace. Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California) turned in two kills on five swings as the double-sub opposite in the first three sets. Setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) rounded out the scoring with a block.
Libero Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) was unofficially credited with 17 digs and turned in a 58 positive reception percent on 24 chances. Larson added 15 digs and a 46 positive reception percent on 26 chances. Bartsch-Hackley contributed 12 digs and 30 receptions as part of a 43 reception percent. Lloyd added 11 digs from her setter position.
Team USA attacked at a 37 percent with a .292 hitting efficiency (59-84-161) on the unofficial stats. Thailand was slightly better on converting attacks into points at 38 percent, but its hitting efficiency was .237 (66-25-173) in part due to 25 attack errors.
“I thought we came out really strong to start the match,” Larson said. “Obviously Thailand is a very strong team so we were expecting them to come at us hard and they did in the third and fourth sets and definitely in the fifth. I am really proud of our team for coming out with a win. There is still lots of chances to get better.”
The U.S. held an 8-2 margin in aces along with its 17-4 advantage in blocks. Thailand managed a 65-60 kill advantage and 59-43 dig margin.
Ajcharaporn Kongyot led Thailand with 23 points but went down with an injury late in the fourth set. Pleumjit Thinkanow and Malika Kanthong each added 14 points.
The U.S. started Bartsch-Hackley and Larson at outside hitter, Adams and Akinradewo at middle, Murphy at opposite and Lloyd at setter, Robinson at libero. Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma) was the setter in the double-sub in the first three sets. Sarah Wilhite Parsons (Eden Prairie, Minnesota) was a serving sub in all but the second set.
The U.S. is now 21-1 against Thailand in major world-level matches. Earlier this year Thailand finished 15th in the 16-team FIVB Volleyball Nations League in which Team USA captured gold. The Americans defeated host Thailand 25-10, 25-22, 25-16 during the VNL preliminary round.
After a long battle with Thailand, the U.S. will now face an undefeated Russia in the final match of the first round in Kobe.
“We know a battle with Russia is always going to be a tough one,” Akinradewo said. “They have really strong, aggressive attackers and blockers. Just like tonight, it is potentially going to be a long one. But as long as we focus on our side, I think we can do a good job.”
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The U.S. opened the first set with a 2-0 advantage on a Murphy kill and Thailand error. Bartsch-Hackley scored two blocks and Akinradewo added another block after a Murphy ace to put the Americans in front 8-2 at the first technical timeout. Bartsch-Hackley hammered a kill for her fifth point of the set and Thailand followed with an error to put the U.S. in front 10-3. Akinradewo and Adams slammed consecutive kills to prompt Thailand to call timeout trailing 12-4. Thailand chipped three points off the deficit with a 3-0 run at 12-7. Team USA went into the second technical timeout leading 16-8 after a 3-0 run that included kills from Murphy and Bartsch-Hackley. The U.S. extended the lead to 19-9 with two Bartsch-Hackley kills around a Thailand attack error. Thailand used a 5-0 run to close to 19-14 prompting a USA timeout. Bartsch-Hackley stopped the run with a kill and Akinradewo followed with a block to lift the Americans to a 21-14 advantage. The Americans reach a 23-15 lead with a Bartsch-Hackley ace. The U.S. won the set 25-17 on a Thailand service error.
Thailand scored the first two points of the second set. The U.S. tied the set at 3-all with kills from Bartsch-Hackley and Akinradewo. Team USA used a 3-0 run to take a 7-5 advantage with an Akinradewo block followed by two Thailand errors. The Americans built its lead to 10-6 with Larson and Adams pounding kills followed by an Akinradewo ace leading into a Thailand timeout. Out of the break, Larson downed a kill, Akinradewo served her second ace and Adams put up two blocks to cap a 7-0 run placing the U.S. in front 14-6. The Americans reached the second technical timeout leading 16-7 after a Larson kill. Thailand cut the deficit to 17-10 with back-to-back points. Team USA answered with three straight with Murphy and Akinradewo scoring kills before Adams served an ace at 20-10. Thailand narrowed the gap to 22-15 on a 4-1 run. The U.S. reached set points at 24-15 with kills from Bartsch-Hackley and Lowe. Team USA won the set 25-16 on a Lowe kill.
Thailand grabbed a 3-1 lead to start the third set. Adams answered with a kill and two aces to yield a 4-3 American lead. The U.S. reached the first technical timeout leading 8-5 on a 3-0 run including a Bartsch-Hackley block and Larson kill. Out of the break, Akinradewo hit a slide to stretch the lead to 9-5. Thailand cut the deficit to 9-7 on consecutive points. After 12 consecutive side outs, Thailand scored consecutive points to close to within one at 15-14. Out of the second technical timeout, Thailand scored three consecutive points to take a 17-16 lead. The Americans quickly regained the lead at 18-17 on a Thailand service error and Adams block. Thailand answered with five straight points to gain the lead back at 22-18. The Americans stopped the run with kills from Murphy and Bartsch-Hackley to narrow the gap to 22-20. The U.S. saved set points with a block from Bartsch-Hackley and kill by Akinradewo, but Thailand finished the set at 25-23.
Thailand placed the first two points on the scoreboard in the fourth set, but the Americans tied the set up quickly with a Murphy kill and Thailand error. Team USA went in front 7-5 with a kill and block from Akinradewo after a Bartsch-Hackley kill. Thailand answered with consecutive points to square the set at 7-all. Thailand took the lead back at 12-11 starting a video challenge reversal. The U.S. reversed the lead to its side at 15-14 with an Akinradewo block and Thailand attack error. Murphy crushed consecutive kills to lift the U.S. to a 17-15 advantage at a Thailand timeout. Thailand scored five straight to swing the lead to its side at 21-18. Bartsch-Hackley connected for consecutive kills to close the gap to 22-21. Thailand scored the final three points to win 25-21.
Team USA scored the first two points of the tiebreaker with a Thailand service error and Akinradewo block. Thailand answered with consecutive points to tie the set at 2-2. The teams traded points until Murphy scored a block and kill to put the Americans up 8-6 at the court switch. The Americans added to the lead 9-6 with a Thailand error. Thailand chipped the deficit to 10-9 on consecutive points. Team USA extended its lead to 13-10 with a Hill ace after a Thailand service error. The Americans closed out the set 15-11 with an Akinradewo block and Hill back-row kill.