COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Oct. 7, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team remained undefeated in the FIVB World Championship by defeating Bulgaria 25-16, 25-17, 25-11 to start off the second round Pool F on Sunday afternoon in Osaka.
- Key Stat: The U.S. held a 7-1 ace advantage and limited its total errors to seven for the entire match.
- Key Note: U.S. remains one of two undefeated teams in Pool F, where the top three teams advance to the third round (Final Six).
- Records: USA (6-0, 16 points), Bulgaria (2-4, 6 points)
- World Rankings: No. 2 USA, No. 17 Bulgaria
- 2018 Season Record: 32-4
- Up Next: USA vs. Turkey on Oct. 8 at 12:25 a.m. ET
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The U.S. opened the first set with a 4-0 lead, and after Bulgaria closed to within two at 11-9, the Americans reeled off 11 of the next 13 points to take a 22-10 advantage and went on to win 25-16. Team USA bolted to a 12-4 advantage in the second set and cruised into the 25-17 victory. The U.S. gained a 4-0 advantage early in the third set and carried the momentum to a 25-11 victory.
“It was a really good game, a good team effort,” U.S. setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) said. “We had a lot of urgency, energy and fun.”
U.S. outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) led all scorers with 13 points, including 12 kills 29 attacks and a block. Opposite Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California) charted 11 kills on 16 swings and an ace for 12 points. Outside hitter and captain Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) contributed nine points with seven kills on 24 attacks and two aces.
“Our main focus coming into this game was to have an attack mentality,” Larson said. “We had a great game plan going into this game and we served well, which created a lot of defensive opportunities for us. I am really proud of our team and obviously this is a great win but we have a long ways to go. Definitely it has not been easy. I think six wins is awesome. Those have not been six easy wins. Our focus through this whole tournament is to get better every single match and I think we have done that. We hope we can keep it going all tournament.”
Lloyd chalked up six points including four kills on four attacks, one block and one ace. Middle Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) charted five kills and a block for six points. Middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) pocketed four kills on seven attacks and an ace for five points. Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma), the double-sub setter in all three sets, added two aces on nine serves. Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois), the double-sub opposite in all three sets, rounded out the scoring with a kill.
Libero Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) was unofficially credited with six digs and a 100 positive reception percent on eight chances. Larson totaled a team-best 11 digs and handled 15 receptions with a 47 positive percent. Hill turned in a 33 positive reception percent on 15 chances to go with eight digs. Lloyd had five digs in the victory.
With Lloyd handling the bulk of the setting with 51 of the team’s 92 set attempts, Team USA converted 44 percent of its attacks into points with a .384 hitting efficiency (44-6-99). The American defense limited Bulgaria to a 33 kill percent and .208 hitting efficiency (32-12-96).
“We have great respect for the team from Bulgaria,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “We watched them play in their first group and they played very strong volleyball, so we expected a real battle today. Our team executed a good game plan and we are happy to get another victory. I think a big part of our game plan was attacking very hard with our serving and we caused problems for Bulgaria. We figure the harder we can work now, the more energy we will have for the three other great opponents – Turkey tomorrow, China and Italy.”
The U.S. out-served Bulgaria 7-1 in aces, while Bulgaria had a slim 4-3 block margin. The Americans held a 44-32 advantage in kills, as well as a 38-31 dig margin.
Bulgaria was led by Nasya Dimitrova’s 11 points and Miroslava Paskova added nine points.
The U.S. started Hill and Larson at outside hitter, Dixon and Gibbemeyer at middle, Lowe at opposite, Lloyd at setter, Robinson at libero. In addition to Hancock and Murphy coming off the bench, Sarah Wilhite Parsons (Eden Prairie, Minnesota) was a serving sub in all three sets.
The last time the U.S. face Bulgaria in the World Championship was during the 2014 edition during the second round, which resulted in a 3-0 win for the Americans.
The U.S. will now turn its attention to Turkey, which finished third in its first round Pool B. The Turks lost to Russia earlier on Sunday, but have proven to be a formidable opponent for the Americans this year. After Turkey won a five-set match in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League preliminary round, the U.S. came back to defeat Turkey in the VNL Final Six pool play in five sets and again in the VNL gold-medal match in another five-set thriller.
“Turkey is a great opponent for us,” Lloyd said. “We played them a few times in Volleyball Nations League. They are a scrappy team. They play with a lot of energy. We are excited to play them. It is always fun to play against them. Expect a good match.”
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Team USA opened the first set with a 4-0 lead as Larson slammed a kill before serving an ace, then Hill and Lowe followed with kills prompting a Bulgaria timeout. The Americans extended their lead to 7-2 with a Bulgarian service error and Lowe ace. Bulgaria scored consecutive points at 7-4, then pulled to within two at 9-7. The U.S. extended its lead to 16-9 with a Dixon kill, blocks from Hill and Gibbemeyer and two Bulgaria errors as part of a 5-0 run into the second technical timeout. Hancock served an ace after a Gibbemeyer kill to put the Americans up 18-10 at Bulgaria’s second timeout. Out of the break, Gibbemeyer and Murphy scored kills and Hancock added a second ace at 21-10. Gibbemeyer capped the 6-0 run with a kill at 22-10. Bulgaria ended the run with a 4-0 run of its own to close to 22-14. Hill ended the set with a back-row kill at 25-16.
The U.S. started the second set with a 3-0 advantage as Hill slammed a kill and Bulgaria committed consecutive errors. Bulgaria answered with two quick points to narrow the deficit to 3-2. Team USA responded with a 4-0 run starting with a Bulgaria error, a Dixon ace and kills from Lowe and Hill to give the Americans a 7-2 advantage. The Americans increased their lead to 10-3 with kills from Hill and Lowe followed by a Bulgaria error. Lloyd tallied a kill and block to push the American lead to 12-4. Bulgaria put up three consecutive points to cut the gap to 12-7. Lowe pounded consecutive kills and Hill followed with a kill to extend the American lead to 18-10. Out of the break, Bulgaria hit outside the antenna to lift the American lead to 19-10. Bulgaria took two points off the deficit at 20-13, but Team USA got the two points back on Bulgaria errors at 22-13. Larson and Hill scored kills to give the Americans set points at 24-14. After Bulgaria saved three set points, the U.S. won 25-17 on a Bulgaria service error.
The Americans rushed out to a 4-0 margin in the third set with two kills from Hill and one from Lowe after Bulgaria served out. Bulgaria came back to within two at 6-4. The U.S. stretched its lead to 11-6 with a Lloyd ace and Lowe kill. Bulgaria called timeout trailing 13-7 after its service error and Dixon kill. The U.S. extended the gap to 16-8 with kills from Dixon and Lowe around a Bulgaria error. Out of the second technical timeout, Bulgaria hit wide to cap a 4-0 U.S. run at 17-9. The U.S. advantage reached double-digits with a Lowe kill and Bulgaria error at 19-9. Consecutive Bulgaria errors and a Larson block inched the U.S. to 22-10. Larson scored consecutive kills and Bulgaria committed an error to yield an American 25-11 victory.