COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 22, 2019) – Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois) scored 30 points as the U.S. Women’s National Team held off Japan 26-24, 22-25, 25-21, 23-25, 15-8 to improve to 6-0 in the FIVB World Cup in Sapporo, Japan.
Team USA, ranked third in the world, improves to 6-0 with 17 points in the 12-team round robin World Cup. The Americans return to the court on Monday with a mega-battle against the world-number two China at 2 a.m. ET. The U.S. and China (6-0, 17 points) are the only remaining undefeated teams with the winner getting the upper hand on the path to gold with five remaining matches. The FIVB World Cup matches will be streamed live on FloVolleyball.tv.
After Japan saved two set points, the U.S. won the opening set 26-24 after enduring 16 ties and six lead changes with Bartsch-Hackley scoring the final two points. Japan used a decisive 9-1 run in the second set to take a 21-15 advantage to rally from down 14-12 and won 25-22 after the Americans saved four set points. The U.S. used a 5-1 scoring run to overcome a 15-14 third set deficit en route to winning 25-21. The U.S. scored the first four points of the fourth set, but Japan rallied from a 23-20 deficit to win 25-23 and prompting a deciding fifth set. Team USA bolted to a 5-0 lead in the tiebreaker and carried forth to a 15-10 victory.
“I think we feel really good about the win,” Bartsch-Hackley said. “It was a really tough match in a great environment for the home team. Japan is a great team. We scrapped both ways and it was good volleyball.”
Bartsch-Hackley notched 26 kills on 46 swings to go with three blocks and an ace to reach her 30 points, including five in the final set. Opposite Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California), who subbed into the match late in the second set, contributed 18 points with 17 kills on 36 swings and a block. Middle Chiaka Ogbogu (Coppell, Texas) pocketed eight kills on 14 swings and a match-high seven blocks for 15 points.
“I think we were getting really good out-of-system balls,” Bartsch-Hackley said. “They were coming back with everything. Everything we would hit they would dig a lot of balls. That is really frustrating for us, but I think we did a good job at managing those frustrations.”
Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) tacked on 13 kills and a block for 14 points. Middle Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Colorado) scored six kills on 14 swings, three blocks and an ace for 10 points on her birthday. Opposite Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana) tallied four kills and a block for five points in the opening two sets. Setter Jordyn Poulter (Aurora, Colorado) turned in a kill and block for two points and outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) rounded out the scoring with a kill.
Bartsch-Hackley handled 46 receptions with a 59 positive percent to go with nine digs. Robinson passed at a 51 positive percent on 35 chances and had nine digs. Libero Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) amassed 25 digs and was unofficially credited with an 83 positive reception percent on 12 chances. Poulter had 20 digs in the victory.
Team USA converted 42 percent of its attacks with a .312 hitting efficiency (73-19-173) as Poulter handled the setting duties. The Americans held Japan to a 38 kill percent and .238 hitting efficiency (71-26-189).
The Americans held a huge 17-4 block advantage and a narrow 76-71 margin in kills. Japan held a 3-2 edge in aces and benefitted from 25 Team USA errors while committing just 16 errors in the five-set loss.
The U.S. started Bartsch-Hackley and Robinson at outside hitter, Washington and Ogbogu at middle, Drews at opposite, Poulter at setter and Courtney at libero. Hill was a sub in three sets and strong>Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) as a serving sub in the final two sets.
Now the attention turns to a pivotal match with undefeated China on Monday with the winner taking sole possession of first place.
“We are excited for tomorrow,” Bartsch-Hackley said. “Obviously China is an amazing team. I think we are going to have to do a quick recovery tonight and get a good sleep in and be ready for tomorrow.”
Team USA is the only country to have medaled in each of the last four World Cups. The Americans won silver in 2011 and bronze in 2003, 2007 and 2015. The 2015 World Cup podium finishes replicated the 2016 Olympic Games results – China winning the event with Serbia claiming silver and USA bronze.
Japan scored three consecutive points to take a 10-8 advantage in the opening set. The U.S. leveled the set at 11-all with an Ogbogu block and Robinson kill, but Japan answered with consecutive points to go up 13-11. Bartsch-Hackley slammed back-to-back kills and Japan committed an error to present Team USA a 16-15 lead at the second technical timeout. Japan responded with two points out of the break to reverse the lead to its side at 17-16. Team USA returned to the lead at 19-18 with a Bartsch-Hackley kill and Ogbogu block. Japan responded with two points to go up 21-20. Robinson hammered back-to-back kills to break the 14th tie and gave Team USA a 22-21 advantage. Consecutive Japan errors gave Team USA set points at 24-22. Japan saved two set points to tie the set at 24-all. Bartsch-Hackley answered with a kill and block to win 26-24.
Japan gained the first two-point cushion of the second set at 9-7 on an ace. Team USA answered quickly with an Ogbogu kill and block around a Bartsch-Hackley block and Japan error to give the Americans an 11-9 lead. Japan squared the set at 14-all on consecutive points, then went into the lead 21-15 on a 9-1 run. Team USA saved four set points at 24-22 with three Lowe kills and a Washington block before Japan closed out the win at 25-22.
After Japan scored the first two points of the third set, Team USA answered with four straight with two Bartsch-Hackley kills and kills from Robinson and Lowe at 4-2. Japan tied the set at 6-all. Bartsch-Hackley collected consecutive kills to extend Team USA’s lead to 11-9. Japan scored three consecutive points to go up 14-13. The Americans responded to go up 17-15 following kills from Washington, Poulter and Lowe. Team USA raised its margin to 19-16 with kills from Lowe and Bartsch-Hackley. The U.S. opened up a four-point cushion at 21-17 with a Bartsch-Hackley kill and Ogbogu block. Japan knocked two points off the deficit at 21-19. Ogbogu and Robinson answered with consecutive kills and Bartsch-Hackley served an ace at 24-19. Team USA captured the set at 25-21 on an Ogbogu kill after Japan saved two set points.
Ogbogu scored the first two points of the fourth set with a kill and block, then Robinson and Lowe followed with kills to put USA up 4-0. Japan cut its deficit in half at 11-9 on an ace. The Americans answered with a Robinson kill and Japan error to go back up 13-9. Yet again Japan came back within two at 13-11. Team USA raised its advantage to 17-13 with blocks from Washington and Poulter. The Americans built its lead to 20-15 with a Bartsch-Hackley kill and Lowe block. Japan closed the gap to 20-19 with four straight points. Lowe and Hill converted consecutive kills to break the run and give the Americans a 22-19 advantage. Japan charged back to win 25-23 by winning the final five points.
Team USA bolted to a 5-0 lead in the decider with Ogbogu scoring a kill and block between a Lowe kill, Bartsch-Hackley and Japan error. Bartsch-Hackley and Lowe connected for kills to lift the American lead to 7-1. Lowe hammered a kill and Washington served an ace to raise the gap to 11-4. After Japan closed the gap to 11-6, Ogbogu, Bartsch-Hackley and Lowe nailed winners at 14-6. After Japan saved two match points, Robinson put down the final winner at 15-8.