RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Aug. 10, 2016) – In a battle of the two remaining undefeated teams in Olympic Games Pool B, the top-ranked U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team defeated No. 6 Serbia 25-17, 21-25, 25-18, 25-19 as the American middles dominated on Wednesday at Maracanazinho Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
The Americans now take sole leadership of Pool B with a 3-0 record and eight standings points. Serbia falls to 2-1 overall and with six standings points. Team USA continues Pool B with Italy (0-3) on Aug. 12 all at 2 p.m. ET before concluding the group phase on Aug. 14 against No. 3 China at 4:05 p.m. ET.
With the victory, Team USA became the first team to earn a ticket to the knockout quarterfinal round set for Aug. 16. The top four teams from the two six-team pools advance to the quarterfinals with the top seeds crossing over to play the opposite pool’s fourth seed. A drawing of lots following pool play will determine crossover matches for the pool’s second- and third seeds.
Team USA’s middles Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida) combined for 34 points in the victory. Adams scored 13 kills on 19 errorless attacks, four aces and a block. Akinradewo added 16 points with 12 kills on 19 attacks and just one error to go with four blocks. The middles converted 25 of 38 of their attacks with just one error for a .632 hitting efficiency.
“Going in we knew Serbia was a very strong team and we had to take smarter swings. Alisha did a great job of moving the offense around to create a lot of awesome opportunities for our hitters. The passers were on and made Serbia’s job difficult.”
The U.S. overcame an early 4-1 deficit in the opening set with a 12-4 scoring run to establish a 13-8 advantage and cruised to a 25-17 victory. Serbia built a 14-9 lead in the second set and withstood a USA charge back to within one at 16-15 to win 25-21. Leading 17-15 in the third set, the U.S. used an 8-3 run to close out the set 25-18 to go up 2-1. Team USA rolled to a 21-14 lead in the fourth set, but withstood a late challenge from Serbia before winning 25-19, scoring the final three points.
“We knew, after we won the first set, that Serbia would push us back in the second and they did,” Kiraly said. “Serbia put together a really nice match against us a year ago. Really pushed us around. I think they blocked us 22 times in five sets. We had won the first match of that long tournament and lost the second one. We bounced back really strong and played China the next night. We played a great match. We were excited to get another chance (against Serbia). It’s been a year since we got to play Serbia since that loss. We were not backing down from that. We were excited. Not necessarily saying that we knew what was going to happen or that we were convinced we were going to win. It’s always great to play against a good team.”
Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) contributed 13 points in the victory with 11 kills on 30 attacks and two blocks. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) tacked on 11 points with nine kills, one block and one ace. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) scored six kills. Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California), a sub in all four sets as part of the double-sub, rounded out the scoring with four kills on eight attacks.
Team USA converted 47.0 percent of its attacks with a .325 hitting efficiency (55-17-117) as setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan) was credited with 39 running sets on 79 total set attempts. Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California, playing in all four sets as the setter in the double-sub with Lowe, added eight running sets.
“We’ve worked on a lot of things both offensively and defensively,” Glass said. “I thought our passers did a great job. Our hitters did an even better job picking the right shots in the right moments. We covered each other, we played together and we were patient. (Serbia) is a good team and we have to be patient against teams like that.”
When told the team had qualified for the quarterfinals, Glass was unaware of the accomplishment. She said the team is more invested in the process, not just on advancing.
“For us, it’s really about the process,” Glass said. “It’s about us getting better throughout this whole tournament. We look at the next match as an opportunity to get better; and then the next match after that and the next match after that. We’re excited to get better and improve, wherever that takes us.”
Libero Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) had nine digs and seven excellent receptions in the victory. Larson added seven digs and eight excellent receptions. Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Illinois), back-row sub in all four sets, had four excellent receptions in the victory.
“When we fed our middles the ball, they put it away every time,” Banwarth said. “The passers did a really nice job of scouting this team and where they’re going to serve. So we really front-loaded that really well.”
Team USA held a 5-3 margin in aces to offset Serbia’s 11-8 advantage in blocks. The Americans held a slim 55-51 lead in kills. The U.S. defense held Serbia to a 42.5 kill percent and .258 hitting efficiency (51-20-120).
“Our servers did a really nice job making things easy for us,” Kiraly said. “Serbia passed much better a year ago than they did tonight.”
The previous two meetings between USA and Serbia had gone five sets. The Americans defeated the Serbs 25-18, 24-26, 30-28, 19-25, 15-9 on July 12 last year as the American roster included just five of the current Olympians. Karsta Lowe scored a match-high 21 points. In the second meeting of 2015, Serbia shocked the U.S. with a 25-20, 22-25, 18-25, 25-19, 15-6 comeback in the second match of the FIVB World Cup. Serbia out-blocked the Americans 22-10 in the match. In the deciding fifth set, Serbia started with a 6-1 lead with three aces.
“Serbia is a team we lost to in World Cup,” Banwarth said. “We were hungry to get some revenge on them. I think it was a ‘go get it’ kind of mentality.”
USA is 15-2 in its last 16 Olympic Games matches dating back to Aug. 13, 2008. The only two losses have been to Brazil in the gold-medal match of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
Team USA has never won Olympic gold in women’s indoor volleyball despite being on the cusp on several occasions. The U.S. finished with the silver in each of the last two Olympics in 2008 and 2012, falling to Brazil both times in the gold-medal match. The Americans also earned silver at the 1984 Olympic Games, followed by bronze in 1992. In fact, Team USA has garnered only one gold medal in any of the three major volleyball tournaments (Olympics, FIVB World Championship and FIVB World Cup), and that was only two years ago when the Americans broke through and earned the 2014 FIVB World Championship title in Italy.
Serbia scored three unanswered points to take a 4-1 advantage in the opening set, but Larson slammed a winner and Serbia hit wide to cut the gap to 4-3. Larson connected for a kill and promptly followed with an ace, then Serbia hit wide giving the Americans their first lead at 7-6. Murphy added a fourth unanswered point with a cross-court winner at 8-6 prompting a Serbia timeout. After Serbia ended the run, Murphy hit a winner and Serbia hit into the net to expand the Team USA lead to 10-7. Akinradewo roofed Serbia on consecutive plays after a Serbia service error to stretch the American lead to 13-8. Serbia came back to win the next two points to trim its deficit to 13-10, then closed to two at 14-12. Adams and Larson pounded back-to-back kills to raise the U.S. lead to 17-13 at a Serbian timeout. Adams downed a kill and Serbia hit long to push the U.S. advantage to 19-14. Adams served an ace to and Akinradewo blocked a Serbia attack to extend the lead to 22-15. Team USA ended the set with a 25-17 victory.
Serbia scored the first two points of the second set, but USA quickly went up 3-2 with an Adams kill around two Serbian errors. Yet, Serbia scored the next three points to bounce the lead to its side at 5-3. Serbia increased its advantage to 9-5 with three straight points heading into a Team USA timeout. Adams and Murphy stopped the run with consecutive kills and Serbia hit into the net to cut the gap to 9-8. Serbia answered with three straight points out of a timeout to go up 12-8 and inched the margin to 14-9. Team USA trimmed the deficit to 16-14 with an Adams kill and consecutive Serbia errors. Out of a Serbia timeout, the U.S. added a fourth straight point with a Larson kill to close to 16-15. Serbia went back up by three at 20-17 with an ace off the net and pushed the gap to 22-18 after an American attack error. Serbia finished the set at 25-21.
The U.S. went up 4-2 early in the third set as Serbia committed back-to-back errors. Serbia went up 6-4 with four straight points. Murphy and Adams each scored kills to bring USA into a tie at 7-all, then Adams hammered a second straight kill to give Team USA an 8-7 lead. Murphy slammed a kill to extend the American lead to 10-8 prompting Serbia to call timeout. Out of the break, Serbia committed an error to extend the Team USA lead to 11-8. Serbia came back to within one at 14-13 with an ace. However, Adams and Larson slammed kills to give the Americans a three-point cushion at 16-13. Out of a Serbia timeout, Adams put up a monster block at 17-13. Serbia answered with back-to-back points to cut its deficit in half at 17-15. Adams and Hill answered with winners to push the U.S. lead back to four at 19-15. Akinradewo scored two kills around a block on three straight plays to put the Americans in front 23-17. Hill gave the U.S. set points at 24-17 with a kill, the fourth straight Team USA point. Akinradewo ended the set with a overpass kill at 25-18.
After Serbia scored the first two points of the fourth set, Adams answered with a kill and ace and Akinradewo added a kill to present the USA with a 3-2 lead. Team USA went up 5-3 with consecutive Akinradewo kills. The Americans went up 8-5 as Serbia hit wide. Serbia scored three unanswered points to level the score at 9-all. Team USA responded with kills from Larson and Adams to go back up by two at 11-9. Serbia committed consecutive errors and Adams served an ace off the net to extend the USA to a 14-10 advantage. Out of a Serbia timeout, Hill put up a block and Adams served another ace for a fifth straight point at 16-10. Serbia stopped the run with back-to-back points to close to 16-12. Akinradewo and Lowe turned in consecutive kills to put the Americans up 19-13 at Serbia’s second timeout. Lowe hammered consecutive kills to push the American lead to 21-14, but Serbia stopped the run with four straight point to close the gap to 21-18. Hill capped the set with a kill and block for the 25-19 victory.