COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 27, 2018) – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois) scored 21 points off the bench as the U.S. Women’s National Team opened up the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Six with a thrilling 17-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-15, 15-11 come-from-behind victory over Turkey on Wednesday in Nanjing, China.
The U.S. Women, which finished the 15-match round-robin preliminary round in first place with a 13-2 record, will now face Serbia on Friday at 3 a.m. ET to conclude its three-team Pool B Final Six round. Serbia opens its Final Six schedule against Turkey on Thursday at 3 a.m. ET. The opposite pool has host China, Brazil and Netherlands. The top two teams in each pool advance to the semifinals on Saturday with the medal-round matches on Sunday.
From the outset, it appeared the USA-Turkey match was going to be déjà vu from the May 16 preliminary round meeting between the two teams as Turkey won the first two sets before the Americans rallied to force the fifth set. Unlike the first meeting, the Americans won the tiebreaker on Wednesday, avenging one of its two losses in the preliminary round. Following the preliminary round setback to Turkey, Team USA reeled off 10 straight wins until Serbia ended the run on June 12 in Argentina. Turkey and Serbia are the only teams to defeat the Americans in the preliminary round.
Turkey used an 11-3 run after trailing 12-11 in the opening set to take a 21-14 lead and went on to win 25-17. Similar to the opening set, Turkey rallied from a 12-10 deficit in the second set with a 13-3 run to stake a 23-15 advantage and finished the set at 25-21. The U.S. broke a 12-all tie in the third set with a key 4-0 run and carried on for the 25-21 victory. The Americans raced to a 10-4 lead in the fourth set and controlled the final points for a 25-15 victory. Team USA used a 4-0 run to break an 8-all tie in the fifth set to roll to a 15-11 victory in the tiebreaker.
Bartsch-Hackley, who started only the final three sets, tallied 19 kills on 41 swings, one block and one ace for her 21 points. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) crushed 15 kills on 28 attacks, one block and one ace for 17 points. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) charted 14 points with eight kills on 34 attacks and five aces including two in a 4-0 run in the critical tiebreaker that broke an 8-all tie. She added a block in the victory.
“It was a great comeback,” Larson said. “Obviously Turkey is a very strong. I think we were waiting for things to happen instead of taking control of our side and really focusing on that. I think that is what you saw in sets three, four and five.”
The Team USA victory required contributions from other key players coming off the bench. Middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) came off the bench to start the final three sets and pocketed eight kills on 12 swings and four blocks to help spark the comeback. Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) turned in five kills on 17 attacks and a block for six points. Middle Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) scored four kills on eight swings and a block for five points.
Middle Foluke Akinradewo (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) provided five kills on 13 attacks. Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma), who also sparked the rally taking over the setter spot for Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) midway through the third set, added two kills. Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana) rounded out the scoring with a block.
Libero Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) was credited with 40 receptions and a 62 positive reception percent. Bartsch-Hackley held a 54 positive reception percent on 24 chances. Hill added 15 receptions and a stellar 80 positive reception percent.
After the first two sets, Team USA started to win the serve-receive battle and that helped turn the tide.
“I think we upped our serving pressure, so they got into some passing trouble,” Larson said. “We made a few more digs, and that definitely helped us.”
The U.S. converted 41 percent of its attacks into points with a .261 hitting efficiency (64-23-157) behind the setting of Lloyd and Hancock. However, over the course of the final two sets with Hancock setting, the Americans converted 63.6 percent of its attacks with a .545 hitting efficiency (28-4-44). The American defense limited Turkey to a 36 kill percent and .219 hitting efficiency (53-22-147).
The American offense held a 66-54 advantage in kills and a slim 7-6 edge in aces. Turkey tallied a 12-10 block margin.
Larson’s key scoring run in the tiebreaker came after what she felt could have been a better individual performance.
“I definitely could have been better in a lot of aspects,” Larson said. “But I just tried to be consistent and get back to what I am good at. I thought I increased the serving pressure there toward the end, and that definitely helped the team relax a bit.”
Turkey was led by Meliha Ismailoglu’s 18 points and Ed Erdem Dundar’s 14 points.
Larson said there is a lot to learn from the match with Turkey heading into its match with Serbia on Friday.
“Obviously there is a lot reflection of what we can do better,” Larson said. “But I think it is great that we are able to grind it out in the first match and we can only get better from here.”
The U.S. started Lloyd at setter, Murphy at opposite, Hill and Larson at outside, and Akinradewo and Gibbemeyer at middle. Robinson served as the libero. Bartsch-Hackley and Dixon started the final three sets, and Hancock started the final two sets after being a sub in the first three sets. Drews was a double-sub in the first two sets.
The U.S. scored three straight to take a 5-3 lead in the opening set with a Murphy kill and ace followed by a Hill kill. However, Turkey answered with four consecutive points to take the lead back at 7-5. Akinradewo and Larson pounded consecutive kills to square the set at 8-all. Gibbemeyer and Larson tallied kills to push the Americans in front 10-9. Turkey returned to the lead at 14-12 with three straight points. Turkey went into the second technical timeout up 16-13 on an overpass kill, then extended the lead to 17-13 out of the break. Turkey increased its margin to 22-14 with five straight points, then cruised into the win at 25-17.
Turkey scored the first three points of the second set. Team USA quickly tied the set at 3-all with a Hill kill and two Larson aces. Hill followed with a block to put the Americans in front 4-3. The U.S. extended its lead to 6-4 with a kill and block by Murphy. Turkey answered with two quick points to tie the set at 6-all, then went into the technical timeout up 8-7 following a USA error. The Americans reversed the lead with kills by Hill and Larson at 9-8. Team USA raised its lead to 12-10 with a Murphy kill and Turkey error. However, Turkey came back to tie the set at 12-all including a video challenge point. Turkey went back in front 14-13 with two straight points, then built its margin to 19-14 with a 5-0 run. Turkey extended its lead to 23-15 on a 4-0 run. A Bartsch-Hackley kill and Akinradewo block sliced the gap to 23-17. Larson hammered a kill between two Turkey errors to close the gap to 24-20. Team USA saved a fourth straight set point with a Larson block at 24-21 before Turkey won 25-21.
Larson scored an ace, Murphy hammered a kill between two Turkey errors to give the Americans a 4-1 lead in the third set. Turkey answered with consecutive points to trim the gap to 4-3. Team USA rebuilt a three-point cushion at 6-3 with a Murphy kill and Turkey error. The U.S. went into the first technical timeout up 8-4 with kills from Murphy and Bartsch-Hackley. Out of the break, Turkey scored back-to-back points to cut the gap to 8-6. Turkey scored three unanswered points to level the score at 11-all. The Americans picked up a four-point cushion at 16-12 with a Murphy kill, Dixon block and two Turkey errors at the second technical timeout. Dixon picked up consecutive blocks to raise the American lead to 18-13. Turkey cut the deficit to 19-16 with back-to-back points. Turkey moved to within two at 22-20 on a U.S. error. Murphy and Bartsch-Hackley scored kills on the final two points of the set for a 25-21 victory.
Bartsch-Hackley rolled a kill and Dixon slammed an overpass to lift the Americans into a 3-2 lead in the fourth set. The U.S. stretched its lead to 6-3 with kills from Bartsch-Hackley, Dixon and Hancock prompting a Turkey timeout. The U.S. doubled-up Turkey at the first technical timeout at 8-4 with kills from Bartsch-Hackley and Dixon. Out of the break, Dixon put up a block and Bartsch-Hackley served an ace to inch the lead to 10-4. Turkey broke the 4-0 American run with two points of its own to close to 10-6. Bartsch-Hackley slammed consecutive kills, Turkey hit wide and Akinradewo pounded an overpass to raise the American advantage to 16-8 at the second technical timeout. Bartsch-Hackley tallied a kill and block followed by a Dixon block to increase the Team USA lead to 20-10. Out of a Turkey timeout, Turkey hit long and Bartsch-Hackley pounded a kill for a 5-0 run for the Americans at 22-10. Turkey scored four unanswered points to move within 22-14. Hancock scored on a setter dump and Turkey hit long to give the Americans the fourth set 25-15.
Turkey scored the first two points of the fifth set with consecutive USA errors. Team USA quickly tied the set at 2-all with kills from Bartsch-Hackley and Akinradewo. Bartsch-Hackley and Dixon hammered kills to yield a 4-3 American lead. Team USA gained a two-point cushion at 10-8 with a Larson ace after a Turkey service error. Out of Turkey timeout, Larson served another ace and Murphy crammed a cross-court winner through the block to inch the American lead to 12-8. Bartsch-Hackley gave U.S. match points with a kill at 14-10, then finalized the set at 15-11 with a kill.