COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 20, 2019) – Opposite Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California) scored a match-high 20 points as the U.S. Women’s National Team ended the FIVB Volleyball Nations League preliminary round with resounding 25-13, 25-20, 25-17 victory over Thailand on Thursday in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
The Americans, ranked third in the world, head in the VNL Final Six with a 12-3 record and 35 points. The Final Six takes place July 3-7 in Nanjing, China, with two pools of three determining the semifinal participants. All Team USA matches in the VNL will air live on flovolleyball.tv.
The U.S. and China finished the 15-match preliminary phase with identical 12-3 records and 35 points, but China won the tiebreaker with a 3.08 set ratio to Team USA’s 2.29 set ratio. Brazil and Italy, who each had chances to claim the best VNL record heading into the VNL Finals, both lost in five sets on the final day. Third-place Brazil (11-4, 35 points) lost to fifth-place Turkey (11-4, 32) and fourth-place Italy (11-4, 34 points) fell to seventh-place Belgium (8-7, 22 points) in five sets. Poland (9-6, 26 points) will enter the Finals as the sixth and final seed.
The U.S. Women showed balance in offense and diversity on the court all through the 15-match preliminary round, and the prelim finale was no different as five different players reached double-figure scoring. Lowe totaled 16 kills on 33 attacks and four blocks to reach 20 points for Team USA. Middle Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) added eight kills on 12 attacks and four blocks in the victory. Middle Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Colorado) charted 12 points with five kills on nine attacks and a match-high five blocks and two aces.
Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) also had a dozen points with nine kills on 20 attacks, two aces and a block. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) pocketed nine kills on 21 attacks, one block and one ace for 11 points. Setter Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois) rounded out the scoring with an individual kill on two attempts.
“Thailand is always so fun to play against,” Larson said. “I know many of the players, it is always a great time to play them.”
Carlini set Team USA to a 48 kill percent and .424 hitting efficiency (48-6-99). The American defense limited the Thai to a 33 kill percent and .173 hitting efficiency (34-16-104).
For the fourth match in a row, the U.S. used a different libero with Mikaela Foecke (West Point, Iowa) suiting up in the position against Thailand. She handled 25 of the team’s 48 receptions with a 32 positive percent. Robinson added 14 receptions and a 50 positive reception percent. Larson was 67 percent positive on nine receptions.
Team USA height advantage at the net played a major part in the match, including a 15-2 margin in blocks. The Americans also had a 48-35 advantage in kills and a 5-3 edge in aces. The U.S. limited its errors to 10 for the match, while Thailand committed just seven.
“I am really proud of our team for blocking a lot and being consistent for a long time,” Larson said.
Larson said the team will now head home to “mentally prepare and try and to do our best to recover physically and mentally as well” to compete in the Final Six round.
“We are heading back to the States tomorrow morning and then will head to China the following week. We are excited to be participating in the Finals, and hopefully we can win again like last year.”
The U.S. started Larson and Robinson at outside hitter, Washington and Gibbemeyer at middle, Lowe at opposite, Carlini at setter and Foecke at libero.
The U.S. scored the first four points of the first set with kills from Lowe and Washington around a Thailand error and Washington followed with a block at 4-0. Out of a Thailand timeout, Robinson scored a block and kill followed by a Washington overpass kill to push the American lead to 7-0. Thailand scored twice out of the technical timeout to trim the gap to 8-3. Gibbemeyer got on the score sheet with a consecutive kill and block at 10-3. Gibbemeyer, Larson and Carlini hammered consecutive kills prompting Thailand to call timeout trailing 13-4. Robinson and Robinson slammed back-to-back kills to raise the Team USA lead to 15-5. The American margin reached 18-7 with a Larson kill and Washington block. Washington served an ace after a Thailand service error and Robinson followed with a kill and Thailand committed an error to march the American lead to 22-8. Thailand scored three consecutive points to close the gap to 23-12. Gibbemeyer ended the set with a slide kill at 25-13.
Lowe gave Team USA a 2-0 lead at the start of set two with a kill and block. The U.S. raised the advantage to 5-1 with two Lowe kills after a Washington block. Thailand quickly leveled the set at 5-all with four unanswered points. Thailand went into the lead for the first time at 10-9. Gibbemeyer, Lowe and Larson pounded kills to push Team USA in front 16-14 at the second technical timeout. Thailand squared the set at 17-all with back-to-back points. The Americans answered with a Lowe kill and Larson block to give them a lead at 19-17, but Thailand answered in tying the set at 19-all. Team USA broke the 12th tie of the set with a 3-0 run that included kills from Lowe and Robinson around a Larson ace at 22-19. Out of a Thailand timeout, Robinson and Lowe scored back-to-back kills for a 24-19 lead on a 5-0 run. Robinson ended the set with a kill off the block at 25-20.
The U.S. gained its first lead of the third set at 5-4 with a Gibbemeyer kill and Robinson ace. Washington and Lowe downed attacks to present Team USA with a two-point cushion at 8-6. Washington scored a kill and ace followed by a Lowe slam, two blocks from Gibbemeyer and a Robinson block to lift Team USA into a 15-8 advantage. Robinson downed a kill and Gibbemeyer followed with a kill and two blocks to raise the American lead to 19-9. After a Thailand service error, Robinson served an ace and Larson followed with a kill to propel to a 22-10 advantage. Thailand served an ace as part of a 3-0 run to close the gap to 22-13. After Thailand saved three match points, Team USA ended the set at 25-16 with a Larson kill.
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League Week #5 – Ekaterinburg, Russia
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
7 – Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, Wisconsin, Aurora, Illinois)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)
10 – Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Hooper, Nebraska)
11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Purdue, Elkhart, Indiana)
12 – Jordan Thompson (OPP, 6-4, Cincinnati, Edina, Minnesota)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Champaign, Illinois)
17 – Megan Courtney (L, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
18 – Mikaela Foecke (OH, 6-3, Nebraska, West Point, Iowa)
22 – Haleigh Washington (M, 6-3, Penn State, Colorado Springs, Colorado)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Manhattan Beach, California)
24 – Chiaka Ogbogu (M, 6-2, Texas, Coppell, Texas)
25 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, UCLA, Rancho Santa Fe, California)
Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Luka Slabe, Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
FIVB Volleyball Nations League Schedule – U.S. Women’s National Team (All Times ET)
May 21: USA def. Belgium 25-23, 25-8, 25-22
May 22: USA def. Japan 25-21, 24-26, 25-21, 25-20
May 23: USA def. Bulgaria 25-20, 25-16, 25-21
May 28: USA def. Serbia 23-25, 25-16, 25-15, 25-21
May 29: USA def. Italy 25-22, 17-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-11
May 30: USA lost to Dominican Republic 25-10, 16-25, 25-19, 19-25, 15-11
June 4: USA def. Korea 19-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-18
June 5: USA vs. Germany (at Lincoln, Nebraska), 8:30 p.m.
June 6: USA lost to Brazil 25-19, 25-17, 22-25, 25-20
June 11: USA lost to Turkey 25-15, 25-17, 27-25
June 12: USA def. Poland 21-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-11
June 13: USA def. China 25-17, 25-22, 25-21
June 18: USA def. Russia 25-23, 25-17, 25-18
June 19: USA def. Netherlands 25-21, 23-25, 22-25, 28-26, 15-9
June 20: USA def. Thailand 25-13, 25-20, 25-17
FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Round – at Nanjing, China
July 3-7: China plus top five other countries in preliminary round