COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 2, 2017) – The U.S. Women’s National Team battled to a fifth set before losing to Serbia 25-22, 25-17, 23-25, 18-25, 15-11 to start the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals Round on Wednesday afternoon in Nanjing, China.

The Americans, one of six teams playing in the Final Six with two three-team pools, complete their pool on Thursday by facing Italy at 3 a.m. ET. Team USA can directly qualify for the semifinals on Saturday with either a 3-0 or 3-1 win over Italy. The match will air live on the Olympic Channel (formerly Universal HD).

The top two teams in each three-team pool advances to the semifinals on Saturday. The World Grand Prix, in its 25th year, is the premier annual international women’s volleyball tournament. The World Grand Prix Finals awards first place with $600,000, followed by $300,000 for second place, $200,000 for third place, $100,000 for fourth place, and $50,000 for fifth and sixth place.

After losing the first two sets and trailing 14-7 in the third set, Team USA rallied to win the third set 25-23 with an 18-9 run. The Americans then cruised to win the fourth to force the tiebreaker. Serbia used a 5-1 run in the fifth set to take an 11-7 advantage en route to winning 15-11.

The USA-Serbia match was the first meeting between the two teams since the Serbian’s five-set win over the Americans in the 2016 Olympic Games semifinals, though Team USA is vastly different at the World Grand Prix with only two Olympians while Serbia had four Olympic starters back and nine Olympians from its silver-medal team.

Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Maryville, Illinois), who sat out the final two preliminary round matches, led the U.S. in scoring with 17 points as she totaled 14 kills on 34 swings and three blocks. Middle Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) charted 15 points with a team-leading six blocks and four aces to go with five kills. Opposite Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana), who was not on the U.S. roster for any of the preliminary round matches, came off the bench to start the final three sets and scored 10 kills on 26 swings.

Middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) added six kills on 16 attacks, two aces and a block for nine points. Outside hitter Madi Kingdon (Phoenix, Arizona) chipped in six kills in starting the first three sets. Outside hitter Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio), who started the final two sets for Kingdon after being a sub in the first three sets, charted four kills and two blocks. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) rounded out the scoring with four kills.

U.S. libero Justine Wong-Orantes (Cypress, California) tallied 19 digs to lead the Americans. Bartsch-Hackley was credited with 21 excellent receptions on 26 chances, while Courtney had 19 excellent receptions on 32 chances to go with 11 digs off the bench. Setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) added 18 digs. Kingdon was 13-of-16 on passing.

The U.S. converted 34.3 percent of its attacks with a .133 hitting efficiency (49-30-143) with setter Lloyd handling 105 total set attempts. In contrast, Serbia connected for a 42.6 kill percent with a .255 hitting efficiency (60-24-141).

The U.S. held a 6-4 edge in aces, while Serbia out-blocked the Americans 15-12 to offset its 15 service errors. Serbia held a slim 79-75 advantage in digs.

During the nine-match preliminary round, the U.S. finished second with a 6-3 record behind leader Serbia’s 7-2 record.

The U.S. started Lloyd at setter, Dixon and Gibbemeyer at middle, Bartsch-Hackley and Kingdon at outside hitter and Murphy at opposite. Wong-Orantes was the libero. Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie, Minnesota) was a sub in the final three sets, while Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma) was the setter in the double-sub in the first two sets.

Serbia won the first two points of the match, but the U.S. tied the opening set at 2-all with the next two points. Trailing 6-4, the U.S. rolled off four straight with a Bartsch-Hackley block, Kingdon kill and Dixon ace and after a Serbia service error to give the Americans an 8-6 advantage at the technical timeout. Out of the break, the Americans scored a fifth unanswered point to take a 9-6 advantage. Serbia charged back to level the score at 10-all. Kingdon slammed a kill and Serbia hit wide to yield an American 13-11 lead. Serbia squared the set at 15-all before Batsch-Hackley put up a block to put the Americans up 16-15 at the second technical timeout. Serbia tallied three unanswered points with consecutive blocks to assume a 19-17 advantage, then upped its lead to 21-18. Murphy slammed a kill and Bartsch-Hackley downed a back-row attack to slice the deficit to 22-21. Serbia answered with back-to-back points to reach set points at 24-21 and went on to win 25-22.

After trading points to start the second set, Dixon and Gibbemeyer connected for back-to-back kills for the U.S. to take a 6-5 advantage. Serbia scored consecutive points to grab the lead back at 8-7. Gibbemeyer served three aces as part of a 5-0 run to reverse the lead to the Americans at 12-8. Serbia stopped the run with five straight points of its own to take the lead back at 13-12. The U.S. gained the lead back at 15-14 with a Bartsch-Hackley kill after a Serbia service error. Serbia went into the second technical timeout leading 16-15 and increased its advantage to 18-16 on a 4-1 run. Serbia cruised to the 25-17 second set victory with seven straight points.

Serbia jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the third set. Drews had four kills in a 4-1 run to cut the deficit to 7-6. Serbia built the lead back to 14-7 with a 6-0 run. Team USA leveled the score at 15-all on a Drews kill, two aces by Dixon, a Serbia attack error and blocks from Lloyd and Gibbemeyer on a 6-0 run. The U.S. went in front 18-17 with a Bartsch-Hackley kill and Courtney block. Courtney put up a second block to increase Team USA’s lead to 21-19. Serbia knotted the score at 21-all with back-to-back points. However, the U.S. rattled three points with two Serbia errors and a Dixon kill to give the Americans set points at 24-21. Serbia saved two set points before the U.S. won 25-23 on a Bartsch-Hackley kill.

The U.S. gained an 8-3 advantage in the fourth set on a 5-0 run with three Bartsch-Hackley kills and two Serbia errors. Team USA extended its lead to 15-8 with a Bartsch-Hackley kill and two Serbia errors. The Americans increased the margin to 17-9 with points on each side of the second technical timeout. Serbia sliced the gap to 18-13 with three straight points. The Americans answered with four straight points from two Courtney kills, Dixon overpass kill and Serbia error at 22-13. Team USA went on to win 25-18 after Serbia saved three set points.

Serbia grabbed a 2-0 lead to start the tiebreaker, but the Americans answered quickly to level the score at 2-all. Serbia took another two-point cushion at 6-4 on a block. Courtney slammed a kill and Serbia had a miscommunication on the set to level the score at 6-all. However, Serbia reached the side switch with consecutive kills at 8-6. Serbia raised its advantage to 11-7 on a 5-1 run. Team USA cut the deficit in half at 11-9 with a Drews kill and Serbia centerline violation. Serbia did not allow the U.S. any closer in winning 15-11.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB World Grand Prix Finals
# – 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)
11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Elkhart, Indiana, Purdue)
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)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Consultant Coach: Jon Newman-Gonchar
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans
Doctor: Dr. William Briner
Team Manager: Jimmy Stitz

FIVB World Grand Prix Finals Round Schedule
Aug. 2: Serbia def. USA 25-22, 25-17, 23-25, 18-25, 15-11
Aug. 2: China def. Brazil 25-22, 25-17, 29-27
Aug. 3: USA vs. Italy, 3 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel live)
Aug. 3: Brazil vs. Netherlands, 7:30 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel live)
Aug. 4: Serbia vs. Italy, 3 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel live)
Aug. 4: China vs. Netherlands, 7:30 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel live)
Aug. 5: Semifinal 1, 3 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel at 1 p.m. ET)
Aug. 5: Semifinal 2, 8 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel at 3 p.m. ET)
Aug. 6: Bronze-Medal Match, 3 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel at 1 p.m. ET)
Aug. 6: Gold-Medal Match, 8 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel at 3 p.m. ET)