ORLANDO, Florida (May 28, 2016) — A consistent, strong first touch helped the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team sweep Russia 25-23, 25-17, 25-17 in the second match of a Saturday doubleheader. The U.S. victory followed a 25-22, 25-20, 16-25, 25-21 Russian win Saturday morning.

“Our passing was really on point in the second match,” Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Washington) said. “We were also executing our third contact over the net. The first match of the day, the pass wasn’t there or the third-ball execution wasn’t there, so it was good to see us break out of that. We tuned in quite a bit on first and third contacts.” 

Holloway led the U.S. in each match with 22 points in the morning followed by 14 points in the second. Her 16 kills in the first match led all attackers for the day, complemented by six blocks in each match.

Russia raced out to a 2-0 lead Saturday morning, before the Americans rallied to dominate the third set with a more aggressive offense and consistent play at the net. Lexi Shifflett(Waseca, Minnesota) served up a four-point run early in the set, putting the U.S. in the driver’s seat.

However, after trailing much of the fourth set – sometimes by as many as six points – Russia rallied behind an aggressive serve to take the match.

“We out-served them again, but they out-blocked us. We out-hit them, but of course it was a whole different offensive system for us,” Head coach Bill Hamiter said. “The fourth set was one of those neck and neck ones there. We really just had a few errors late that hurt us.”

In the second match, Hamiter moved Shifflett from setter to outside hitter following a strong defensive performance in the morning. Shifflett recorded just two kills and no blocks in the new position, but Hamiter said her defensive contributions were key to the win.

“I thought Lexi played well this morning, and she was passing lights out for us this afternoon. The whole team really was,” he added.

In addition to a stronger pass – partially evidenced by just three Russian aces — the Americans increased their aggressiveness behind the service line, totaling six aces against three errors. Overall, the team committed 16 unforced errors to Russia’s 26.

“I remember a few serves this morning aced me, and I thought, ‘If I just focus a little bit more, I actually will know she’s coming and I know exactly what to do,’ and it was perfect platform passing,” Holloway said. “There was a lot more tuning in, and everyone had each other’s back. When one person is on, everyone is on.”

Eleven of team captain Heather Erickson’s team-leading 12 points came from kills Saturday afternoon. Holloway and Nicky Nieves (Kissimmee, Florida) added six kills each, while Shifflett and Holloway totaled two aces apiece.

The U.S. closes out the five-match series, currently tied at two wins apiece, Sunday morning at 8 a.m. ET.  

Other notes from the Opens

  • Championship rounds begin Sunday with 11 divisions scheduled to play for gold, silver and bronze medals. A full list can be found here. For results and seeding information, click here.
  • The Premier Volleyball League (PVL) began Saturday with 15 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams. Saturday highlights included a five-set victory by defending Men’s PVL champions Team Pineapple against Team IE, 19-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-22, 17-15. North Texas began its defense of the Women’s PVL title with two victories against NorCal Wildfire (25-16, 25-21, 25-21) and Lakeshore Surge (25-21, 15-25, 18-25, 25-19, 15-13).

U.S. Starters on Saturday, Match 1:
Middle Blockers: Lora Webster, Nicky Nieves
Outside Hitters: Heather Erickson, Katie Holloway
Setter: Kaleo Kanahele
Opposite: Nichole Millage
Libero: Bethany Zummo

U.S. Statistics on Saturday, Match 1:
Kills: Holloway 16, Erickson 10, Nieves 4, Michelle Schiffler 3, Millage 2, Webster 1, Kanahele 1
Blocks: Webster 7, Holloway 6, Nieves 2, Kanahele 1, Nieves 1
Aces: Webster 4, Millage 2, Kanahele 2, Nieves 2

U.S. Starters on Saturday, Match 2:
Outside hitters: Lexi Shifflett, Katie Holloway
Middle Blockers: Lora Webster, Nicky Nieves
Opposite: Heather Erickson
Setter: Kaleo Kanahele
Libero: Bethany Zummo

U.S. Statistics on Saturday, Match 2:
Kills: Erickson 11, Holloway 6, Nieves 6, Webster 4, Shifflett 2, Kanahele 2
Blocks: Holloway 6, Webster 3, Erickson 1, Kanahele 1, Nieves 1
Aces: Shifflett 2, Holloway 2, Kanahele 1, Nieves 1