COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 5, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked second in the world, broke a 37-year-old record when it defeated fifth-ranked Russia 25-14, 25-18, 25-18 on Tuesday in FIVB Volleyball Nations League action in Jiangmen, China.
The Americans, which sit atop the VNL standings with an 9-1 record and 28 standings points, will face Brazil on June 6 (4 a.m. ET) and host China on June 7 (7:30 a.m. ET) while in China. Brazil is ranked fourth and China is ranked No. 1. Russia, ranked fifth the world, falls to 6-4 overall.
The U.S. opened a 15-9 lead in the first set, but Russia charged back with a 4-0 run. Team USA answered immediately with a 6-0 run and comfortably won the set 25-14 on a 10-1 scoring run. The Americans broke open a close second set with a 7-2 run to take a 21-15 advantage en route to winning 25-18. The U.S. overcame a 13-10 deficit in the third set and scored the final eight points for a 25-18 victory.
“Every win is important in this tournament,” U.S. setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) said. “We are really happy with this 3-0 win. Russia is a great opponent. We had a really strong game plan coming in. We knew we needed to serve tough and just to be aware that they are a big blocking team. I think we did a really good job handling that.”
The U.S. has now won eight consecutive world-level major tournament matches for the first time since a run of nine straight wins in the 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix. Further, Team USA won its eighth straight 3-0 match in world-level competition for the first time. The Americans had won seven straight set victories from 1978 to 1981 that includes contests in the 1978 FIVB World Championship and 1981 FIVB World Cup.
“Throughout the whole tournament we have been really focused on the process of our next opponent, preparing for what is ahead and not looking at any matches forward,” Lloyd said. “We have been really good at dialing in a game plan, and playing one point at a time. I think that is showing every time we show up on the court.”
Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois) led the American offense with 13 kills on 20 attacks to go with two aces and a block. Opposite Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana) charted nine points with five kills on 12 swings and four blocks. Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) pocketed nine points with seven kills on 20 attacks and two aces.
Middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) contributed seven kills on 11 attacks and an ace for Team USA. Middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) charted six points with four kills on five swings, one block and one ace. Lloyd totaled five points with two kills on as many swings, two aces and a block. Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois), who was part of a double-sub with Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma) in all three sets, rounded out the scoring with one kill and one block.
Libero Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) handled six receptions with a 67 positive reception percent and being a digging machine in transition. Bartsch-Hackley had 18 receptions with a 39 positive percent, and Hill was credited with a 71 positive reception percent on 17 chances.
Lloyd set the American offense to a 52.0 kill percent. Team USA limited Russia to a 30.5 kill percent.
Team USA led in all three scoring skills with a 39-32 margin in kills, and 8-4 advantages in both blocks and aces. The Americans held a 43-35 advantage in digs. The U.S. limited its errors to eight for the match and took advantage of 22 errors by Russia.
The U.S. started Lloyd at setter, Drews at opposite, Bartsch-Hackley and Hill at outside, and Adams and Dixon at middle. Robinson served as the libero.
Russia was led in scoring by Kseniia Parubets 12 points and Irina Voronkova added 10 points.
The previous two world-level major tournament matches between Russia and the United States were won 3-2 by USA, both after the Russians had won the opening set. The last time Russia beat the United States in a five-setter in a world level major tournament match was in the 2007 World Grand Prix.
Team USA’s focus now shifts Brazil, which was in second place in the VNL heading into its match today with China.
“We know this week is a really tough week of volleyball,” Lloyd said. “These are some of the best teams in the world. We are going to be really focused on one point at a time, and we are really excited to play both Brazil and China. We know they are going to be tough opponents, but we are ready to battle and have fun doing it.”
The Volleyball Nations League utilizes a five-week preliminary round robin schedule where all 16 teams play each other. The Volleyball Nations League Final Round will have host China joining the top five teams from the preliminary standings.
The U.S. took a 2-0 lead in the opening set with kills from Bartsch-Hackley and Drews, but Russia quickly knotted the set at 2-all. Team USA regained a two-point cushion at 4-2 with an Adams kill and Russia error. Consecutive Russia errors lifted the American lead to 6-3. Team USA stretched the advantage to 9-5 with a Hill kill and Russia error. The U.S. increased its lead to 15-9 with three consecutive Russia errors. Russia cut the gap to 15-13 on a 4-0 run that included consecutive aces. Hill served an ace and Dixon powered down a kill out of the second technical timeout to push the American lead to 18-13. Murphy added a block for a fourth straight point and Russia was called for an illegal attack to yield a 20-13 American lead. Hill served a second ace in the 6-0 run to extend the U.S. advantage to 21-13. Bartsch-Hackley hit cross-court winner after a Russia error to give the U.S. set point, then Dixon promptly served an ace for a 25-14 victory.
The U.S. scored the first consecutive points of the second set at 5-4 following an Adams block and Bartsch-Hackley kill. Adams powered down a kill and block and Bartsch-Hackley followed with a block to extend the American lead to 8-5 at the first technical timeout. Drews connected for a kill after the break to up the lead to 9-5 on a 4-0 American run. Russia sliced the gap in half at 9-7 and then moved to within one at 11-10. Lloyd served an ace after a Murphy kill to put the Americans in front 16-13 at the second technical timeout. Russia hit wide out of the break and Drews followed with a kill to push the U.S. lead to 18-13. Adams served an ace after a Drews kill to prompt Russia to call timeout down 21-15. Bartsch-Hackley won the final two points on kills at 25-18.
Russia took a 3-1 lead in the third set with consecutive blocks, then stretched the advantage to 6-3. Bartsch-Hackley slammed a kill and Lloyd put up a block to close the gap to 7-6. Russia regained its three-point cushion at 9-6. Team USA tied the set at 13-all with kills from Hill, Bartsch-Hackley and Dixon. The U.S. took a 16-15 lead into the second technical timeout with a Bartsch-Hackley kill after a Russia error. Lloyd served an ace out of the break to stake a 17-15 advantage. However, Russia leveled the set at 17-all with an ace off the net, then reversed the lead to its side at 18-17 on a 3-0 run. Team USA regained the lead at 20-18 with blocks from Drews and Adams around a Russia attack error. Adams and Drews combined for a block for a fourth straight point to prompt Russia to call timeout down 21-18. The Americans increased the gap to 23-18 with consecutive aces from Bartsch-Hackley. Adams put up a block and Hill finished the match with a kill to score a 25-18 victory as the U.S. ended the set on an 8-0 run.