HONG KONG (June 26, 2016) – Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) scored 18 points to lead the U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked No. 1 in the world, to a sweep over second-ranked China 25-19, 25-21, 25-17 on Sunday to conclude the nine-match FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round in Hong Kong.
Team USA finishes the preliminary phase with an 8-1 record and 24 points, avenging an earlier loss to China on June 12 in Ningbo, China. The Chinese entered the match as the only country in the 12-team Group 1 field to remain undefeated. With the victory, the Americans finished the preliminary phase in first place and heads into the World Grand Prix Final 6 as the top seed. The Americans are the reigning champions of the World Grand Prix, the premier annual international women’s volleyball tournament.
The U.S. will have eight days off before resuming competition at the FIVB World Grand Prix Final 6 that takes place July 6-10 in Bangkok, Thailand. Along with Team USA, other qualified teams are China, Brazil, Russia, Brazil and Netherlands who will join host Thailand in the competition.
All World Grand Prix Final 6 teams except host Thailand have qualified for the Olympic Games, which puts even more emphasis on the week in Bangkok to help evaluate tactics and finalize rosters. The U.S. deadline to name its Olympic roster is July 17. U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly and his staff could name the 12-player roster any time before that date, but it will likely not come out on the originally planned date June 27.
Leading 12-11 in the opening set, the U.S. used an 8-2 lead to establish a 20-13 advantage and went on to win 25-19 using five aces in the set. After China scored three unanswered points in the second set to tie the score at 10-all, the Americans ran off seven straight points of their own for a 17-10 advantage and held off a furious Chinese rally to win 25-21. Team USA put the match away quickly in the third with an 8-1 run to start the set and finished out with a 25-17 victory and seven blocks in the set.
Larson amassed her match-high 18 points via 14 kills on 28 attacks, three blocks and an ace. Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) chipped in 15 points with 11 kills on 18 attacks, three aces and a block. The outside hitter combination of Larson and Hill combined for 25-46 hitting and 33 points.
“I thought we had a nice game serving, and I think our blocking defense did a nice job being in the right spots and defending them well,” Larson said.
Middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) was dominant offensively with eight kills on 10 attacks, three blocks and two aces for 13 points. Opposite Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California) contributed eight points with seven kills on 14 swings and a block. Middle Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida) charted seven points with six kills on 12 attacks and a block. Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) and Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio), the double-subs at setter and opposite, rounded out the scoring with one point each.
The U.S. converted 51.1 percent of its attacks with a .391 hitting efficiency (47-11-92) as setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan) was credited with 26 running sets on 55 set attempts and Lloyd added five running sets on 19 chances. The American defense limited China to a .244 hitting efficiency (33-12-86).
USA libero Natalie Hagglund (Encinitas, California) totaled a team-best five digs and had 10 excellent receptions on 24 serve receive chances. Larson was credited with nine excellent receptions on 12 errorless chances. Hill added four digs.
Team USA held a 7-2 advantage in aces to keep China out of system much of the afternoon. The American also managed a 9-7 block margin with seven of the blocks coming in the final set.
Team USA has now won 23 of its last 25 World Grand Prix matches with both losses coming at the hands of China in China. The U.S. defeated China on the final day of the 2015 World Grand Prix Final Round in Omaha, Nebraska. In last year’s World Grand Prix preliminary round finale, China defeated Team USA in five sets, also in Hong Kong, to go undefeated heading into the Final Round.
Team USA and China were meeting for the 35th time in the World Grand Prix with China leading the series 21-14.
The U.S. took an early 4-2 lead in the opening set with an Adams block and Lowe cross-court winner, but China quickly leveled the score at 5-all. Lowe answered with consecutive kills and Adams served an ace to put Team USA up 8-5 at the first technical timeout. China served an ace to break a string of sideouts to slice the American lead to 11-10. Larson hammered a kill and served an ace before Adams tipped a kill down for a 15-11 American advantage. Team USA extended its advantage to 17-12 with a Hill kill and Adams ace, her second of the set. The U.S. forced China to call timeout trailing 19-13 after a Hill kill and Chinese attack error. Out of the break, Lloyd served an ace to stretch the lead to 20-13. China chipped off two points at 20-15. Hill served an ace after a China service error to regain a seven-point lead at 22-15. China saved two sets points before the U.S. finished off the set at 25-19 on a Chinese service error.
Team USA took a 3-0 lead with a Hill ace and Larson block after China was faulted on the first point of the second set using an illegal lineup. China broke a string of sideouts with three straight points to knot the score at 10-all on an ace. Adams, Larson and Lowe stopped the run with three consecutive kills and Adams followed with a block and Larson slammed an overpass to push the Americans in front 15-10. After a Chinese timeout, Adams stuffed an attack to extend the American lead to 16-10 at the second technical timeout. Out of the break, Larson scored a seventh straight point for the U.S. with a kill off the block. China stopped the run with back-to-back points at 17-12, and pulled with four at 20-16 after a block. Akinradewo hammered a quick set and China committed a net violation to put Team USA up by six at 22-16. China answered with four points of its own to close to three at 22-20. Larson ended the set with consecutive kills for a 25-21 victory as she had seven points in the set.
Akinradewo started the third set with a kill and Larson followed with a block and kill for a 3-0 American lead. Hill capped the run at 4-0 with an ace. Akinradewo and Larson put down consecutive kills to extend Team USA’s lead to 6-1. China hit into the net out of its own timeout and Larson put up a block to go into the first technical timeout up 8-1 on a 4-0 run. Adams put up a block and kill to extend the American margin to 17-9. Adams and Lowe stuffed China twice as the American lead reached nine at 19-10. Akinradewo and Hill scored consecutive blocks to put the advantage at double-digits, 22-12. Larson gave USA match points at 24-14, and after China saved three match points, Adams finished it with a kill at 25-17.