LINCOLN, Neb. (June 4, 2019) – The U.S. Women’s National Team, playing at home for the first time in this year’s FIVB Volleyball Nations League, overcame a slow start to defeat Korea 19-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-18 Tuesday in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Americans, now one of three teams with a 6-1 overall record and 18 points, return to the court on Wednesday against Germany followed by a Thursday match with Brazil. Both matches begin at 7:30 p.m. CT and can be viewed online at www.flovolleyball.tv.
Korea, now 1-6 in the tournament, started the first set on fire with a 7-1 advantage and took advantage of seven American miscues to win 25-19. The momentum shifted to the U.S. in the second set as the Americans raced to a 12-3 lead and won the set 25-15 with five aces. As lopsided as the first two sets were, Team USA prevailed in the third set where 17 ties occurred after the Americans fell behind 6-3 and ultimately winning 25-22. The Americans controlled the fourth set, building their lead up to eight points before settling in for a 25-18 victory.
“I am not quite sure how to explain the slow start – that is now two matches in a row with a slow start,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “This one, part of it can be explained by being super excited – we don’t get to play on home court much. This is really friendly confines, there is lots of family and great fans. It is easy to get a little overly-activated. Eventually we got some of that energy out and settled down.”
U.S. middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu (Coppell, Texas) led the American offense with 16 points where she posted 13 kills on 18 attacks, two aces and a block. Outside Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska), who grew up in nearby Hooper, Nebraska, and played her collegiate volleyball in Lincoln at Nebraska, added 13 points with nine kills, three aces and a block. Middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) contributed six kills on 14 swings, three blocks and an ace for 10 points.
Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana), who started the first three sets at opposite, added eight kills and an ace for nine points. Jordan Thompson (Edina, Minnesota), who subbed in the third set and started the final set, pocketed nine kills on 17 swings. Mikaela Foecke (West Point, Iowa), who just got married on Saturday, returned to her University of Nebraska roots to post eight kills and an ace for nine points. Setter Jordyn Poulter (Aurora, Illinois) rounded out the scoring with three kills, three aces and a block for seven points.
Unofficially, Poulter set Team USA to a 38 kill percent and .298 hitting efficiency (54-12-141). The American defense limited Korea to a 36 kill percent and .262 hitting efficiency (47-13=130).
Foecke was credited with a 55 positive reception percent on 28 chances on the unofficial stats. Libero Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) 18 digs and a 50 positive reception percent on handling 28 attempts. Larson had 11 digs in the win, while Foecke had eight digs.
With its passing going well, the U.S. was able to run the middles that helped account for 26 points in offense.
“It is a focus of ours to get our middles going, and we had tremendous passing between Megan Courtney at the libero spot and Jordan and Mikaela,” Kiraly said. “That was our best passing match in VNL this year. It gives us more of an opportunity to run our middles.”
In contrast, the American consistently put the Koreans out of system after the first set, and that was a major difference in the match.
“The Koreans rely on their passing system and try to run a lot of combos,” Larson said. “The fact we were able to get them out of system with serving pressure I think it took a lot of pressure off us defensively and made our job easier.”
Team USA held an 11-3 ace advantage in putting tremendous pressure on the Korean’s offense. The Americans out-attacked Korea 56-49 in kills as both teams had six blocks. The U.S. had 22 errors in the match compared to Korea’s 21, where all but one came in the final three sets.
Team USA had great support of its home crowd, helping them rally from the opening set loss.
“It is great to be back (in the USA),” Larson said. “We are really honored to be a part of this tournament and be at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln again. The fans came out and showed their support, and that was great for us.”
The U.S. started Larson and Foecke at outside hitter, Dixon and Ogbogu at middle, Drews at opposite, Poulter at setter and Courtney at libero.
Korea earned the first four points of the opening set, then stretched the advantage to 7-1. The Americans called their second timeout of the set trailing 12-5. Out of the break Team USA cut the gap to 12-7 with a Korea error and Poulter ace. Korea reached the second technical timeout leading 16-9 on back-to-back points. Poulter and Foecke connected for consecutive kills to trim the American deficit to 12-17. Korea gained the two points back to lead 20-13. Ogbogu claimed a block and kill to cut the gap to 21-16. Dixon placed back-to-back blocks after an Ogbogu kill to slice the deficit to 23-19. Korea stopped the run with back-to-back points to win 25-19.
Ogbogu started a 6-0 run with consecutive kills followed by three Korean errors and capped by two Larson aces to give the U.S. an 8-2 advantage early in the second set. Team USA raised its advantage to 12-3 with a Foecke kill, Korean error, Ogbogu ace and Drews kill. The Americans extended the lead to 14-4 with a Dixon kill and Drews ace. Korea chipped two points off the deficit at 14-6, then moved to within seven at 16-9. After a Korea service error, Ogbogu tapped over an overpass and Poulter served an ace to give Team USA a 19-9 lead. Korea knocked two points off its deficit at 21-13, but the Americans regained a 10-point lead at 23-13 with back-to-back Korea errors. Larson ended the set with a tip to win 25-15.
Korea grabbed an early 6-3 lead in the third set. Poulter and Drews ended the run with kills to cut the American deficit to 6-5. Team USA leveled the set at 7-all with a Larson kill after a Korea service error. The teams traded the next 19 points until Korea scored consecutive points prompting a USA timeout trailing 18-16. The Americans quickly leveled the set at 19-all with a Poulter kill and Foecke ace prompting a Korean timeout. Dixon hammered a slide out of the break yielding a 20-19 Team USA lead. Korea answered with consecutive points to reverse the lead to its side at 21-20. Ogbogu gave the U.S. a 23-22 lead on an overpass kill after a Korean service error. Out of Korea’s second timeout, Thompson slammed an overpass to present the Americans set points 24-22 and Korea followed with an attack error to give U.S. a 25-22 victory.
The U.S. went on a 6-1 run to stake a 6-2 advantage in the fourth set on two kills each from Thompson and Foecke around an Ogbogu ace. Korea scored back-to-back points to close to 8-6. Dixon answered with a block and ace to extend the American lead to 10-6. Thompson and Larson connected for consecutive kills to inch the margin to 12-7, but Korea chipped away to 13-10 after a block. Team USA reached the second technical timeout holding a 16-11 advantage after a Korea error. The Americans stretched their lead to 19-12 with kills from Dixon and Thompson around a Poulter block. Thompson and Ogbogu downed kills to push the margin to 21-13. Korea notched back-to-back points to cut the gap to 21-15. Poulter served an ace after an Ogbogu kill to push USA to a 23-15 lead. Ogbogu had the winning slam at 25-18.