HONG KONG (June 24, 2016) – The U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked number-one in the world, defeated Germany 25-19, 25-22, 30-28 for the third time in 15 days as Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) scored 15 points during FIVB World Grand Prix Pool H action on Friday at Hong Kong.
Team USA, with a 6-1 record and 18 points, clinched a spot into the FIVB World Grand Prix Final 6 with the victory as it moved into second place in the standings. Before Team USA competes in the Final 6 from July 6-10 in Bangkok, Thailand, it will meet No. 14 Netherlands (4-2, 12 points before facing China today) on Saturday at 1:15 a.m. ET and Pool H host China on Sunday at 3:45 a.m. ET. China, one of two undefeated teams through the first six matches of the World Grand Prix, is ranked second in the world. Both matches can be view live online on NBC Sports Live Extra.
In the opening set, the Americans took a 10-4 lead with an 8-1 run, but had to hold back Germany’s charge that knotted the score at 12-all. Team USA answered Germany’s run with an 8-2 run to take a commanding 20-14 margin en route to the 25-19 victory. The U.S. built a 21-15 lead in the second set on a 4-0 run, but then had to weather a Germany rally that cut the gap to 22-21 before winning 25-22. The U.S. led 24-22 in the third set, only to have Germany roar back to take the lead and have two set points before Team USA capped the match with a 30-28 victory on its fifth match point attempt, the longest rally of the match.
“I want to congratulate Germany,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “I really like how hard they fight. The coaches are doing a great job with them teaching them to never stop and give up. We had some plays that we would win for sure, but we did not because of their effort. Germany’s serving pressure got much better as the match went on, and that is important for any good team.”
Fawcett claimed her 15 points all kills via 29 attacks to lead the American offense. Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) charted 14 points with 10 kills on 15 swings and four blocks. Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Illinois) contributed 11 points with eight kills, two aces and one block.
“I think the biggest thing was really just staying true and simple to our game plan,” Fawcett said. “They were definitely making really good plays against us, but it was key for us to not change a lot and stick with what we were doing and trust the system that we had in place. I think we were able to do that. We struggled for that last point there, but I think it is a testament to the style we are playing and that we were going to go for every ball and work to keep it on our side so we could better it every single time.”
Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) scored eight kills on 21 attacks and a block for nine points in the victory. Alexis Crimes (Rancho Cucamonga, California) pocketed a match-high five blocks to go with three kills on eight swings for eight points. Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) rounded out the scoring with two kills on two swings and two blocks for eight points.
“Against these kind of teams, you just have to have a lot of patience,” Hill said about Germany’s defensive tenacity on the court. “When a good swing doesn’t go down, you just keep coming at thing with good swings and more good swings. It is fun to play teams like this with good defense.”
Lloyd was credited with 22 running sets as the U.S. converted 43.8 percent of its attacks with a .362 hitting efficiency (46-8-105). The Team USA defense limited Germany to a .161 hitting efficiency (41-23-112).
“That was a good test for us, and good pressure on us,” Kiraly said. “We learned and will try to get better for tomorrow.”
Natalie Hagglund (Encinitas, California), making her first start of the 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix, was credited with six digs and 11 excellent receptions on 18 chances without an error. Hill added 13 excellent receptions on 27 chances. Robinson produced five digs, while Adams added four digs.
Team USA out-blocked Germany 13-5 in the victory to help offset the European’s 5-2 advantage in aces. The Americans held a slim 19-18 margin in digs and held their errors to 18 for the match.
“I think the middles did a really great job with the deciding the game plan what we were going to do each time,” Fawcett said. “Once again, it was just staying simple with our blocks and letting our defense work behind it. We were able to get some really good touches by doing that.”
The U.S. Women have won at least one set in each of their last 24 World Grand Prix matches and seven of their last eight victories have been in straight sets.
The World Grand Prix is the premier annual international women’s volleyball tournament. The 12-team Group 1 pool concludes in Bangkok as the top five teams in the nine-match preliminary round advance to the Final 6 with host Thailand. This year the World Grand Prix serves as the last major event for teams qualified to the 2016 Olympic Games to fine tune their systems. The USA, along with their final two World Grand Prix preliminary round opponents China and Netherlands, is qualified for the Olympic Games.
Netherlands ranks fifth in the standings with both its losses coming at the hands of undefeated Russia. The Americans last faced the Netherlands during the 2014 FIVB World Championship, which resulted in a 3-0 American victory. China, ranked No. 2 in the world, is one of two undefeated teams in the World Grand Prix and is atop the standings with a one-point edge over Russia.
“We expect Netherlands to be really good. They are vastly improved since the last time we played them in 2014 World Championships. They have a great, young opposite who so happens to play on one of the top club teams in the world, head coached by (Netherlands) Giovanni Guidetti and assisted by USA assistant Jamie Morrison. Jamie knows several of their players well. Kim Hill also played on that club. So the players know each other well, but USA and Netherlands don’t know each other that well. We are impressed with the progress Netherlands has been making.”
After falling to No. 2 China in four sets to conclude the opening weekend in Ningbo, China, the U.S. Women regained momentum last week by winning all three matches while playing at home in Long Beach, California. Team USA defeated Germany in four sets to open Pool E, which marked the Americans’ second win over the Germans in as many weeks. The U.S. also swept Olympic-qualified Japan and No. 10 Turkey while in Long Beach.
The U.S. took a 5-3 lead in the opening set with kills from Robinson and Adams around a German error as part of a 3-0 run. Robinson served consecutive aces after an Adams kill to extend Team USA’s lead to 8-4 at the first technical timeout. Out of the break, Germany hit wide and Hill put up a block to increase the American lead to 10-4 on an 8-1 scoring spurt. Germany charged back with five unanswered points to level the score at 13-13. Fawcett ended the run with a kill and Germany hit long on back-to-back swings to put the Americans in front 15-12. Team USA inched the lead to 18-14 with an Adams kill and Germany’s seventh error of the set prompting a timeout. Lloyd put up a block out of the break and Germany committed another error to put the U.S. up 20-14. The U.S. closed out the set at 25-19 with consecutive kills from Fawcett and Robinson. Fawcett scored five points in the opening set, while Robinson produced four points.
The U.S. broke a string of sideouts with two Hill kills around a Germany attack error to take a 6-4 lead. Crimes added a block for a fourth straight point to go up 7-4. Robinson followed a Germany service error with a kill to extend the U.S. lead to 10-6. Robinson scored on a block after a Fawcett kill to stretch the American lead to 12-7. Germany sliced into its gap to close to 16-14 with consecutive points out of the second technical timeout. Fawcett pounded consecutive kills and three out of four points to place the Americans in front 19-15 at Germany’s second timeout of the set. Out of the break, Adams slammed an overpass and put up a block to increase the U.S. margin to 21-15. Germany responded with four unanswered points to close to 21-19, then pulled to within one at 22-21. Team USA responded with kills from Adams and Lloyd to reach set points, 24-21. Fawcett ended the set at 25-22 with a kill, her seventh point of the set and 12th point of the match.
Germany went up 4-2 early in the third set for its first two-point cushion during the match. Germany expanded its lead to 6-3 as part of a 5-1 scoring run, then increased the advantage to 9-5 on a service ace. Lloyd ended the run with a block and Hill hit off the Germany block to cut the U.S. deficit to 9-6. However, Germany answered with an ace to return to a five-point cushion at 11-6. Three German errors around a Robinson kill sliced the American deficit to a single point at 13-12. Adams and Lloyd scored back-to-back blocks out of the second technical timeout to tie the score at 16-all. However, Germany bounced back with two straight to go up 18-16. Crimes blocked Germany after it served out to square the set at 18-all. Fawcett gave Team USA the lead at 20-19 after a Hill kill. Crimes added a one-handed block to push the American lead to 21-19. Germany knotted the set back at 21-all on an ace, then went back into the lead at 22-21 prompting a USA timeout. Fawcett scored a block and Germany hit wide to shift the advantage back to Team USA at 23-22. Fawcett gave the Americans match points at 24-22. Germany saved two match points to level the score at 24-all, then went into the lead at 25-24. After a successful USA video challenge, Robinson hit a kill off the block to reverse the score to the Americans at 26-25. Germany saved its fourth match point and went up 28-27 on a USA error. Adams and Hill connected for back-to-back kills to yield a fifth USA match point at 29-28. Adams finished the match with a block on a long rally at 30-28.