LONG BEACH, California (June 18, 2016) – Top-ranked U.S. Women’s National Team, playing in front of a sell-out crowd in Long Beach, California, notched a 25-16, 25-23, 25-21 victory over No. 5 Japan on Saturday evening in Long Beach, California, in a battle of Olympic-qualified teams. The USA trains in nearby Anaheim, located just 30 minutes away from Long Beach.
Team USA, now 4-1 overall with 12 points and in fourth place in the World Grand Prix standings, concludes the Pool E weekend by playing No. 10 Turkey on Sunday at 5 p.m. PT.
“We love playing Japan,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “They are one of the legendary programs in all of international volleyball, especially on the women’s side. They fight with such heart and never give up. We know we have to work really hard to earn every point, and that is good for us to work our tails off in the long rallies.”
The USA had balanced scoring with Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida) soring a team-best 14 points with 12 kills on 17 attacks, one ace and one block. Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) added 13 points on 11 kills via 23 swings and two blocks. Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) tallied 11 points with 10 kills on 21 attacks and a block. Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) contributed 10 points on six kills via 14 swings, two blocks and two aces.
“I think we made conscious decisions tonight to get a couple strong goals, and we did a really job of sticking to those and accomplishing them.” Hill said. “It is always fun to play this Japan team that plays great defense. We are focusing on our side of the net a lot, so that is what we are trying to get better at. Each team has little quirks and different nuances, and that helps us prepare for a little of everything.”
Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California) charted nine points with eight kills on 15 swings and a block. Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) totaled five points as the opposite in the double-sub all three sets. Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan) rounded out the scoring with one block and one ace.
Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) totaled 11 digs and 11 excellent receptions 12 chances. Lowe provide 10 digs, while Hill was credited with 10 excellent receptions on 17 chances to go with seven digs. Larson had a team-high 21 excellent receptions on 26 attempts and five digs.
The Americans converted 51 kill percent of their attacks as part of a .430 hitting efficiency (51-8-100) as Glass had 28 running sets on 67 set attempts. Team USA maintained a 9-2 block advantage. Both teams had four aces. The U.S. defense limited Japan to a 32.4 kill percent and .185 hitting efficiency.
“There were so many times that our pins were one-on-one, our middles were one-on-one,” U.S. captain Christa Dietzen said. “So Alisha Glass did a great job of distributing the ball evenly. I thought our defense gave us a lot of opportunities to score in transition.”
The U.S. drew energy from the 5,000 fans who packed the Walter Pyramid.
“The crowd was phenomenal thanks to a lot of people, especially Matt Garthoff and the VOL-B-QUE crew,” Kiraly said. “Our players got a chance to say hello to them at the huge volleyball tailgate party. I got a chance to say hello to them, and it was such a great day for volleyball.”
The USA has won 21 of its 27 World Grand Prix matches with Japan including the last 11 meetings. The Asian side has not won a World Grand Prix meeting since 2005.
The USA took a 5-2 lead in the opening set following a Lowe attack and that ignited the American offense. Hill gave Team USA an 8-4 lead at the first technical timeout and the lead quickly jumped to 12-4 with Adams scoring two aces and Akinradewo pounding an authoritative attack around a Hill kill. The USA lead reached double digits at 14-4. After trailing 18-9, Sakoda served consecutive aces to help Japan cut the deficit to 18-12. The USA reached set point 24-16 with an Akinradewo overpass kill and Hill won the set with a kill off a successful challenge at 25-16. The middles of Adams and Akinradewo scored six points each in the set as the Americans converted 19 of 32 attacks for points.
Japan gained a 4-1 lead early in the second set capped by a Ishii ace. Glass served an ace between two Larson kills, the first being a successful USA video challenge, to give the Americans a 6-5 lead. Japan went back into the lead with an Ishii kill at 8-7. Hill answered with a kill and block to reverse the lead to the USA at 9-8. Japan reached the second technical timeout with a 16-15 lead following a USA error. Trailing 19-17, the USA came back to tie the set 19-all on a Larson kill. The teams traded points until Lowe and Hill were able to put away consecutive winners to give the Americans set point at 24-23. Akinradewo ended the set with a power slam on the slide that hit within the three-meter zone that ignited a thunderous applause from the crowd.
Ishii scored a kill to put Japan in a third set tie at 5-all after trailing 5-3. Akinradewo and Larson scored back-to-back kills to give the Americans a two-point cushion at 11-9. Team USA upped the lead to 17-12 with a Hill block as part of a 5-2 American run. Nabeya served an ace and the USA hit wide twice to cut the American lead to 17-16. Akinradewo took a quick set for a kill providing the Americans a two-point edge at 19-17. Japan answered with consecutive points to tie the set at 19-all, but Hill and Murphy responded with back-to-back kills to give the Americans a 21-19 lead. Japan leveled the score again at 21-all. Adams ended a long rally at 23-21 with an Adams block. Larson slammed a kill off the block to give the Americans match point at 24-21 and Murphy ended the set promptly with a cross-court winner at 25-21.