RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Aug. 8, 2016) – The U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, ranked No. 1 in the world, absorbed all it could take from No. 11 Netherlands on the second day of Olympic Games competition, but found a way to rally for an 18-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 15-8 victory on Monday on the second day of the women’s volleyball Olympic Games schedule in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Americans improve to 2-0 in the six-team Pool B and will face Serbia on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. Netherlands, after defeating China 3-2 on the opening day, is now 1-1 overall with two five-set matches.
“We expected a test today and we expect every match beyond today to be a test,” U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “That’s what the Olympics are. It’s the best. When you look at this very good young team with a great coach and how they’re improving rapidly – they just beat China two days ago, the reigning World Cup champion – of course it’s going to be a battle and we’re going to have to fight for everything we get. I love how our team responded down 1-0 and down 2-1.”
The U.S. had balanced scoring with four players scoring at least 14 points. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) charted a team-high 18 points with 15 kills on 31 attacks and three blocks. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) added 12 kills on 47 attacks, two aces and a block for 15 points. Middle Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida) contributed 15 points with 12 kills on 18 swings, two blocks and an ace for 15 points. Outside Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) tacked on 14 kills on 36 swings in the victory.
“Our pool is not an easy one,” Akinradewo said. “It’s not an easy road. We expect to be pushed like this every single night. It’s nice that we were able to come out strong in the end. It gives us a sense, not of relief, but of knowing that we can do it. We get pushed again by the next team, because we know it’s going to happen, we’ll have that to fall back on. That’s why we came here, to work hard and play good teams.”
After the U.S. rallied from a 7-3 deficit in the opening set to come within one at 11-10, Netherlands went on a roll the rest of the set to claim a 25-18 victory. The U.S. recovered from a 12-9 deficit in the second set with a 7-1 scoring run to take a 16-13 lead en route to winning 25-18. Netherlands broke an 8-all tie in the third set and inched its lead to 24-17 before the Americans saved four set points, but Netherlands closed it out at 25-21.
The fourth set was back-and-forth with both teams trading the lead and Netherlands holding its last advantage at 17-16 before the Americans scored nine of the final 12 points for a 25-20 win. Team USA jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the tiebreaker and never looked back in closing out the comeback 15-8.
“I think we got our serving going much better,” Kiraly said about the turnaround in the fourth and fifth sets. “We created ourselves more chances when they were on offense in the second, the fourth and especially the fifth set. Our servers really took over and made our work a lot easier. When we’re not serving that well or missing too many – and we missed a little too much at times – we still want to stay really aggressive at the line. When we’re not serving that well, it becomes tough because they are very good offensive team.”
Akinradewo felt the tide switch in that fourth set as well, and it started at the service line.
“I think the fourth set set the tone for the fifth set,” Akinradewo said. “Our servers went back and did an amazing job keeping the pressure on their passers. We were getting them out of system a lot and we carried that into the fifth set. We had that energy. We played with that edge that we always try to play with. It was a great group effort.”
Setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan) was an offensive force as well as the tallied three kills, three blocks and two aces for eight points. Middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio), who started the first three sets, pocketed eight points with six kills on 11 swings and two blocks. Middle Christa Dietzen (Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania), who started the final two sets, added one kill in the victory.
“I think you don’t want to go into match and be down 1-0 or 2-1,” Glass said. “I think that was a challenge in itself. We knew this was a really good team. They went five with China, which is also a really good team. We know that every match can be that dangerous. I’m really proud of the way the team fought and we didn’t panic and we didn’t stress. We were able to be us and found a way to win. I think that’s what you need every night no matter who you are playing.”
Glass felt her squad was able to calm itself down in the fourth set and made possible the comeback.
“I think we steadied out. I think we served more balls in the court, which took them out,” Glass said. “Unfortunately with that injury – Number 6 (Maret Balkestein-Grothues) is a really good passer for them she kind of steadies them – I think it threw them a little bit off balance. And then I think we got more in. Before, maybe we weren’t attacking their weaker passers because they were sending it out. But I think we got control of our serve a little bit more, got them out of system and were able to control that a lot better.”
The U.S. converted 40.8 percent of its attacks as part of a .299 hitting efficiency (64-17-157) as Glass was credited with 53 running sets on 120 total set attempts.
“This is the Olympics, it’s amazing,” Glass said. “I’m having a lot of fun. I’m enjoying battling with this group of girls. I’m so proud of the way we are competing. It’s really incredible.”
Libero Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) turned in 13 excellent receptions on 30 chances and five digs, while Larson added 11 excellent receptions on 23 chances and a team-high six digs. Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Illinois), who was a back-row sub all five sets, added five excellent receptions on eight errorless chances.
Both teams scored 11 blocks in the match and the Americans held a slim 5-4 margin in aces. Team USA managed a 64-54 kill advantage in the victory. The U.S. limited Netherlands to a 38.3 kill percent and .213 hitting efficiency (54-24-141).
The U.S. Women had defeated Netherlands twice in 2016 before today’s match. The first match was a four-set victory in the FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round in Hong Kong. Team USA later defeated Netherlands 3-0 to open the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals Round pool play on July 6.
After its Aug. 10 match with Serbia, Team USA continues Pool B with Italy on Aug. 12 all at 2 p.m. ET before concluding the group phase on Aug. 14 against No. 3 China at 4:05 p.m. ET.
Team USA has never won Olympic gold in women’s indoor volleyball despite being on the cusp on several occasions. The U.S. finished with the silver in each of the last two Olympics in 2008 and 2012, falling to Brazil both times in the gold-medal match. The Americans also earned silver at the 1984 Olympic Games, followed by bronze in 1992. In fact, Team USA has garnered only one gold medal in any of the three major volleyball tournaments (Olympics, FIVB World Championship and FIVB World Cup), and that was only two years ago when the Americans broke through and earned the 2014 FIVB World Championship title in Italy.
Netherlands opened the first set on a 4-1 run and increased its advantage to 7-3. Larson and Adams connected for consecutive kills to close the gap to 7-5. Team USA closed to 11-10 on a Netherlands attack error and Hill kill. Netherlands regained a three-point cushion at 13-10 with a block. The Americans called timeout after Netherlands went up 15-11. The Dutch extended their lead to 18-12 as Team USA called its second timeout. Netherlands never let up in winning the opening set 25-18.
Larson put up a block after a Glass setter dump to take a 2-1 lead in the second set, but Netherlands scored the next three points to switch the lead to its side at 4-2 and increased its margin to 6-3. Larson served an ace after a Netherlands attack error to trim the gap to 7-6. Netherlands raised its lead back to three points at 12-9. Akinradewo slammed a kill and Netherlands was called for a net fault to pull the USA to within one at 12-11. Larson scored a third straight point with a kill to level the score at 12-all. Adams followed with a block yielding a 13-12 American lead. Adams slammed a kill and block on consecutive plays and Glass followed with an ace to the deep corner to extend the Team USA lead to 16-13. Hill slammed a kill after a Netherlands error to inch the American lead to 18-14. Out of a Netherlands timeout Hill hammered consecutive kills to raise the U.S. lead to 20-14. Netherlands trimmed the gap to 20-16 with consecutive points. Adams and Hill answered with back-to-back kills to go back up 22-16. Team USA closed out the set at 25-18 with a Murphy kill.
Team USA earned a 3-1 lead in the third set with kills from Akinradewo and Murphy, but Netherlands answered with three consecutive points to take the lead back at 4-3. Netherlands raised its advantage to 8-5 with three unanswered points. A Murphy kill and two straight Netherlands attack errors squared the set at 8-all. Netherlands responded with two straight points for a 10-8 lead. Netherlands inched its lead to 18-14 prompting a USA timeout, then built a six-point cushion at 21-15. After Netherlands reached a 24-17 set point, the U.S. saved four set points with kills from Akinradewo, Adams and Larson and a Netherlands error to trim the gap to 24-21. Netherlands finished the set at 25-21.
The U.S. took a 2-1 lead in the fourth set with a Hill kill and Murphy block. Netherlands came back to grab a 4-3 lead with consecutive points. Glass downed a kill and put up a block to give the Americans a 5-4 advantage. However, Netherlands answered with two points to reverse the lead to its side at 6-5. Murphy slammed back-to-back kills to turn the lead to USA at 8-7. Larson served an ace after hammering a kill and Murphy added a cross-court winner to extend the Team USA lead to 11-8. Netherlands stopped the run with three consecutive points to level the set at 11-all. Netherlands took a 13-12 lead on an ace as part of a 5-1 run. Team USA regained the lead at 16-15 with kills from Akinradewo and Larson, but Netherlands retook the lead with the next two points at 17-16. Glass put down a setter dump and followed with an ace prompting Netherlands to call timeout trailing 18-17. The Americans reached a three-point cushion with a Murphy kill and block around a Netherlands attack error at 21-18. Team USA reached set points 24-20 with a Murphy kill and ace, then won the set with a Netherlands attack error at 25-20.
Team USA went up 2-1 in the tiebreaker with a Murphy block and Larson kill. Akinradewo scored two blocks around a Glass block to yield a 6-3 American lead. Out of a Netherlands timeout, Larson hit a deep winner at 7-3. Team USA raised its lead to 9-4 with an Akinradewo ace. Larson and Murphy downed back-to-back kills to lift the American lead to 12-5. Netherlands kept hopes alive with three straight to cut the deficit to 12-8. However, Dietzen stopped the run with a kill and Larson and Murphy ended the set with consecutive kills at 15-8.