BANGKOK, Thailand (July 9, 2016) – Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) sparked the top-ranked U.S. Women’s National Team to a 25-20, 25-23, 25-14 victory over fourth-ranked Russia on Saturday to advance to the FIVB World Grand Prix title match in Bangkok where it will have a chance to defend its title from last year.
Hill scored a match-high 17 points with 11 kills on 23 attacks, five of the team’s nine aces and a block. Middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) contributed 13 points with seven kills on 12 errorless attacks, a team-best four blocks and two aces. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) tacked on 12 kills on 36 attacks with two errors in the victory.
“Russia is always a big strong team, with a big strong block and big attackers,” Hill said. “We had to make some adjustments. We served really tough and that worked well for us today.”
The U.S. will meet Brazil in the title match on Sunday at 7 a.m. ET. Brazil has won 10 of the previous 23 editions, while defending champion Team USA is going for its seventh World Grand Prix title including fifth in seven years. The championship match can be viewed live online on NBC Sports Live Extra (www.nbcsports.com/live) or tape delayed on cable channel Universal HD on Sunday at 10 p.m. ET.
The FIVB World Grand Prix is the premier annual international women’s volleyball tournament now in its 24th edition. The USA-Russia match can be seen on cable channel Universal HD at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday immediately after today’s first semifinal match of Brazil-Netherlands.
Russia used four consecutive blocks to take an early 7-4 advantage in the opening set, but the U.S. responded with a 5-0 run of its own to establish a 9-7 lead and only let Russia score on its serve once the rest of the set for a 25-20 victory. Hill scored seven points in the opening set, including two aces. Russia led 14-10 in the second set, but Hill established dominance at the serving line with three aces as part of a 6-0 run to give the Americans a 16-14 lead that it would not relinquish in a 25-23 victory. Hill had eight points in the second set. Team USA controlled the entire third set by building a 13-4 lead thanks to a 6-0 run with two aces by Akinradewo and two points from Adams. The Americans closed out the set at 25-14.
“Russia is one of the great programs in the world of volleyball, they always have really strong women’s national teams and men’s national teams,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “Volleyball is a popular sport there, so it is always great to face off across the net. They are a little type of team – taller, very good block. We have different styles and those are nice contrasts. So it was nice to face a very good team like that as it makes us better.”
Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida) charted eight points with six kills on 10 errorless attacks and two aces. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) pocketed five kills on 17 swings and two blocks for seven points. Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California), who was the double-sub opposite in all three sets), turned in four kills on six attacks for Team USA. Setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan) rounded out the scoring with one kill.
“Russia is a very physical team,” Akinradewo said. “They have great, strong attackers and blockers especially. I think our pin hitters did a really good job adjusting throughout the match after Russia got a few good blocks in. They were making smart decisions, hitting high off the block. As a whole, our team had a really good service run from out of system and we gave ourselves chances to work on our blocking defense that we have been working on all summer.”
Hill also contributed six digs and 10 excellent receptions on 19 errorless chances, while libero Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) tallied six excellent receptions on 13 attempts and a team-best nine digs. Larson was credited with six digs and six excellent receptions.
Team USA converted 42.6 percent of its attacks in points with a .333 hitting efficiency (46-10-108). Glass turned in 29 excellent running sets on 68 set attempts and double-sub setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) added seven running sets on 17 chances off the bench. The American defense limited the Russians to a .205 hitting efficiency (25-7-88) and 28.4 kill percent.
The U.S. held a 9-1 advantage in aces to offset Russia’s 14-7 block margin. Team USA held a sizeable 46-25 advantage in kills and out-dug Russia 32-22. The Americans committed 16 errors in the match compared to the Russians’ 13.
“Serving is something we have been working on, that just for this team, but all season long,” Hill said. “I am glad it worked well for us today. We just focused on keeping it strong and hard every time, and it helped us a lot.”
In the most recent meeting between the USA and Russia, the Americans were swept by their European counterparts at the 2015 FIVB World Cup on the third to last day and effectively ending their chances of earning a first-ever gold in the event. The World Cup is the only tournament the U.S. has not won since capturing the 2014 FIVB World Championship – a span of seven events.
Earlier in 2015 the U.S. had defeated Russia during the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals in Omaha, Nebraska. Team USA went on to win the gold and Russia finished with the silver at the World Grand Prix.
Kiraly said that the gold-medal match against Brazil will be good for both teams in preparing for the ultimate test in August, the Olympic Games.
“There a quite a number of very good teams in the Rio Olympic Games – Brazil, Russia, China, Serbia, Italy, Netherlands and USA,” Kiraly said. “It will be a great tournament, and we are excited to play Brazil. Last year they had some players rest, so we really have seen the true Brazil since 2014. So this will be great for both teams in our last tournament before the Rio Olympics that start in a few weeks.”
The U.S. has now won 24 of its last 26 World Grand Prix matches with both losses at the hands of China in pool play in 2015 and 2016. Overall, the Americans have won their last nine World Grand Prix matches. Team USA has won the last four World Grand Prix matches with Russia and went up 13-12 in the tournament series.
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. took a 3-1 lead in the opening set with blocks from Murphy and Hill after a Russia service error. However, Russia scored five straight blocks to take the lead back at 5-3. Russia increased its lead to 7-4, but Murphy and Akinradewo slammed kills around a Hill ace to level the score back at 7-all. Akinradewo hit a slide for Team USA’s fourth unanswered point to put the Americans in front 8-7 at the first technical timeout. Out of the break, Hill served a second ace to lift the U.S. in front 9-7 before Russia ended the 5-0 scoring spurt. Russia squared the set at 11-all with two straight points. Hill connected for consecutive kills to create a two-point cushion at 14-12, which prompted a Russia timeout. Adams served an ace out of the timeout extend the Team USA lead to 15-12. Team USA inched its lead to 19-15 with an Akinradewo kill and Adams block. Akinradewo and Larson scored the final two points of the set to put U.S. at 25-20.
The Americans grabbed a 4-2 lead in the second set with a Hill kill after a Russia service error. However, Russia tied the set up quickly at 4-all and went in front 6-5 on a 4-1 scoring run. Russia took an 8-6 lead into the first technical timeout on an ace that trickled off the net, then held a three-point margin at 11-8. Team USA called timeout trailing 14-10. The Americans cut the deficit in half at 14-12 with a Lowe kill and Russia error. Out of a Russia timeout, Hill served her third and fourth ace to level the score back at 14-all. Out of Russia’s second timeout, Lowe hit a winner and Hill served her third ace of a 6-0 run to give the Americans a 16-14 lead at the second technical timeout. Russia tied the score at 18-all with a block. The U.S. gained a two-point edge at 22-20 with a Hill kill after an amazing dig save by Banwarth. The teams traded side outs until Glass dumped a second contact for a kill at 25-23.
Team USA earned a 4-1 lead in the third set with kills from Adams and Hill, followed by a Russia error and an Adams ace leading to a Russia timeout. The U.S. reached the first technical timeout leading 8-4 with a Larson kill and Russia error. Team USA stretched its advantage to 11-4 with two Akinradewo aces and Russia error. Adams added a sixth and seventh straight points on Akinradewo’s serve with a block and kill at 13-4. Team USA went into the second technical timeout with a 16-5 advantage with consecutive kills from Adams, Murphy and Larson. Adams downed a kill followed by a Russia error to stretch the American lead to 18-6. Team USA held strong the rest of the way for 25-14 victory.