BANGKOK, Thailand (July 8, 2016) – The U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked No. 1 in the world, received balanced scoring using multiple lineups in defeating second-ranked China 25-21, 26-24, 25-22 Friday evening in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals Round being held in Bangkok and moves into the semifinals on an eight-match win streak.
Opposite Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California) led a quartet of Americans in double-figure scoring as she totaled 12 points with 12 kills on 28 attacks and just four errors. Middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) chipped in six blocks, four kills on 10 swings and an ace for 11 points.
“Karch had told Carli and I to stay ready, be ready for anything,” Lowe said of coming off the bench along with three other players to start the second set. “I just tried to come in prepared and bring a lot of energy. Kind of over energy and over communicate, which is key when you throw a bunch of new players on the floor. I think that was a huge for us.”
Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch (Maryville, Illinois), playing in her first career FIVB World Grand Prix match, contributed 11 points with nine kills on 20 swings and just two errors, one block and one ace in starting the final two sets. She echoed Lowe’s sentiment on being ready for whenever her number is called to enter the match.
“Karch had talked to us a little bit before just to be ready for anything, and that is part of the rule on this team – to be ready for the unexpected and to go in at any time,” Bartsch said of playing and contributing in her first FIVB match. “I think the team that came in did a really good job. We practice with so many girls and our roster is so deep, and it is good to a part of it.”
After the match, Bartsch couldn’t hide her excitement to compete in the World Grand Prix.
“It is an awesome tournament to be here in Thailand,” Bartsch said of playing and contributing to the victory over China. “They have amazing fans and the crowd is loud. Even if Thailand isn’t here, they love volleyball. It is pretty cool. I am just happy to be here and be a part of it.”
Middle Christa Dietzen (Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania) pocketed 10 points with seven kills on 15 swings against one error and three blocks. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska), who started and played in just the first set, charted six kills on 11 errorless attacks and an ace for seven points. Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) added six points on four kills via 10 errorless attacks and two blocks in starting and playing just the first set.
Team USA, the defending World Grand Prix champions, will play Russia on Saturday in its semifinal match at 7 a.m. ET. Russia finished second in the opposite pool as the Americans.
The FIVB World Grand Prix is the premier annual international women’s volleyball tournament now in its 24th edition. All USA matches during the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals can be watched live on nbcsports.com/live. The USA-China match can be seen on Universal HD at 8 p.m. ET on Friday.
China reached a 10-6 lead in the opening set after a 5-0 run, but Team USA responded quickly with a 6-0 run as part of a 13-4 run taking a 19-14 advantage en route to the 25-21 victory. China picked up an early 6-1 lead in the second set, but it was completed gone by 9-all in the set. The rest of the set was a see-saw affair as China went up 17-14, then trailed 23-21 before saving two set points. However, USA’s 10th block produced the set winner at 26-24. Team USA built a 10-3 lead in the third set and held off a late China rally to win the final set 25-22.
“We didn’t always play the best volleyball, or the cleanest volleyball,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “But I really like how our team responded and found some place to bring things back in control. That is a big part of how we play. It is just making good play after good play.”
“I thought our team, which was down by some strings of points specifically in the second responded really well by chipping its way back,” Dietzen said. “We focused a lot of on what we were doing on our side of the net. I like the way that anyone can come in off the bench and perform. I am really excited for Michelle Bartsch and her very first match in World Grand Prix. I love that any number of players can come in and perform for us.”
Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) tallied three kills on six attacks in the victory. Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Illinois) tallied a kill and block for two points, while setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) rounded out the scoring with a block in starting the final two sets.
Libero Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa), playing her first World Grand Prix match since June 19 in Long Beach, California, posted 17 excellent receptions on 29 chances and three digs, while Bartsch added six excellent receptions on 13 chances. Larson was a perfect five-for-five on excellent receptions. Robinson charted a team-high seven digs and libero Natalie Hagglund (Encinitas, California) added six digs. Banwarth served as the libero as Team USA received served, while Hagglund was the libero when Team USA served.
The U.S. offense converted 40.0 percent of its attacks into points with a .287 hitting efficiency. Lloyd turned in 33 running sets on 62 set attempts. Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan), who started just the first set, added 18 running sets on 26 set attempts. The American defense limited the Chinese to a .224 hitting efficiency (41-13-125) and 32.8 kill percent.
Team USA held a 14-9 advantage in blocks to offset China’s 5-3 margin in aces. The Americans held their errors to 12 for the match while China committed 13.
USA and China met twice in this year’s World Grand Prix preliminary round with each winning once. China won the first match in four sets in Ningbo, China. However, Team USA swept China on June 26 in Hong Kong to secure the top seed into the World Grand Prix Finals round. Both teams ended the preliminary phase with 8-1 records, but the Americans won the tiebreaker based on standings points won. Overall, today’s match was the 36th meeting between the two countries in the 24-year history of the World Grand Prix competition.
Team USA will meet China on the final day of pool play in the 2016 Olympic Games, yet they expect that team in Rio to be much different than the one it just played in Bangkok as several top Chinese players did not make the trip.
The U.S. has now won 23 of its last 25 World Grand Prix matches with both losses at the hands of China in pool play in 2014 and 2015. Overall, the Americans have won their last eight World Grand Prix matches.
The World Grand Prix serves as the last major event for teams qualified to the 2016 Olympic Games to fine tune their systems. All but Thailand competing in the World Grand Prix Finals have qualified for the Olympic Games next month.
The U.S. opened the first set with a 3-0 lead as Larson and Hill hammered kills after an opening Chinese service error. China answered with consecutive points including a block to cut the gap to 3-2 and leveled the set at 5-all on a USA error. China continued the pressure as it scored five straight to take a 10-6 advantage with two consecutive blocks after an ace leading to a Team USA timeout. Dietzen picked up a block after a successful USA video challenge to slice the gap to 10-8. Larson, Murphy and Hill slammed kills on three straight plays to tie the score at 12-all. Team USA went in front 13-12 with a China error and Larson followed with an ace before another China error at 15-12. Hill scored a kill and two blocks on three consecutive plays to push the American lead to 19-14. Lowe and Larson scored back-to-back kills for set points at 24-18. China saved three set points before the Americans capped the set at 25-21 with a Dietzen kill.
Kiraly subbed in Lloyd, Lowe, Bartsch and Robinson to start the second set and China used the opportunity to grab a 6-1 lead before Team USA got settled with the new lineup. China was called for a service foot fault to end the run, then Adams, Bartsch and Lloyd followed with blocks to close the gap to 6-5. Lloyd scored her second consecutive block and team USA’s fourth straight to tie the set at 6-all. China regained a three-point cushion at 12-9 with three unanswered points and built the advantage to 15-10 on a 6-1 run. Lowe ended the run with a kill capping a long rally, then China mishandled the Thompson’s serve and followed with an attack error to close the gap to 15-13. China committed consecutive errors to have its lead cut to 17-16. Team USA tied the set at 19-all with an Adams kill and ace that was reversed on video challenge, but China answered with its own kill and ace to take a 20-18 lead. Team USA knotted the score again with kills from Lowe and Bartsch at 21-all, then Lowe slammed a go-ahead kill that landed inside the three-meter line at 22-21. Lowe followed with another kill out of a China timeout to give the USA a two-point edge at 23-21. China saved two set points to level the score at 24-all, but Lowe cranked a kill and Adams put up a block to end the set at 26-24 on Team USA’s third set point chance.
The U.S. took a 2-0 lead in the third set with kills from Bartsch and Lowe. Bartsch slammed her third kill of the third set and Adams followed with a kill and block to extend the American lead to 6-2 at a China timeout. Out of the break, Lowe scored on a kill, Bartsch served an ace and Robinson picked up a block capping a 6-0 run that put the U.S. in front 9-2. The U.S. put its lead at 15-6 following a Bartsch kill. China closed the gap to 21-19, but the U.S. back up 23-19 with a Dietzen block. Bartsch gave Team USA set and match points at 24-20 with a kill. Team USA won the final point on a video challenge reversal at 25-22 after China saved two match points.