USA Volleyball’s response to COVID-19 and guidelines toward Return to Play.

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USA Volleyball’s response to COVID-19 and guidelines toward Return to Play.

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 22, 2019) – Middle Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Colo.), making her FIVB debut, scored a team-leading 20 points in leading the U.S. Women’s National Team past Japan 25-21, 24-26, 25-21, 25-20 on Wednesday, in Ruse, Bulgaria, on the second day of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League.

The U.S., now 2-0 in the 2019 VNL, concludes its opening week round robin on May 23 against host Bulgaria at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Washington hammered 12 kills on 20 attacks and added five blocks and three aces on 22 serves for her 20 points. Opposite Jordan Thompson (Edina, Minnesota), who entered the match late in the third set, contributed a whopping 14 points in short order with 11 kills on 17 attacks and three blocks. Outside hitter Madi Kingdon Rishel (Phoenix, Arizona) totaled 13 points with 12 kills on 27 attacks and an ace. Middle Hannah Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota) added eight kills on 13 attacks and five blocks for 13 points.

“Another great win by USA Volleyball against an always tough to beat Japan,” U.S. Women’s National Team Assistant Coach Luka Slabe said. “They run a fast offense, they grind, they play hard in defense. But USA played really well defense today and found some really good solutions offensively. We had a lot of good help from the bench. Overall, a very good team effort. There are a few things that we need to work on, but we are very happy with where we are right now with two nice wins and another match tomorrow night against host Bulgaria. We played Bulgaria at World Championships and we were successful in that match, but they are playing at home in front of their fans (tomorrow). It is going to be another tough battle for our young group.”

Opposite Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana) record 11 points with 10 kills on 30 attacks and an ace. Outside hitter Mikaela Foecke (West Point, Iowa) pocketed 10 kills on 26 attacks and a block for 11 points for the sixth player reaching double-figure points. Setter Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma) rounded out the scoring with two kills on five swings.

Hancock set Team USA to a 43 kill percent and a .331 hitting efficiency (63-14-148). The U.S. limited Japan to a 31 kill percent and .155 hitting efficiency (52-26-168).

“It feels good to be back and playing some good volleyball,” Hancock said. “I thought our match against Japan tonight went pretty well. We lost our composure a little bit, but then we refocused and gained our play back. I think mixing some new people in, it is really fun and a new challenge in getting to know each and how we are in this competitive atmosphere. Japan is always a good opponent. We had to be patient with the long rallies and make good choices. I am happy to back in VNL and supporting teammates and playing for the USA.”

Foecke handled 58 of the team’s 85 receptions with a 52 positive percent. Kingdon Rishel was credited with a 69 positive reception percent on 16 chances. Libero Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) had a 55 positive reception percent on 11 chances.

The Americans held a 14-6 block advantage as both teams served five aces. The U.S. out-attacked Japan 65-53 in the victory.

The U.S. overcame a 4-1 deficit to start the match, benefiting from a 6-1 run that included monster blocks from Foecke and Drews to take a 13-10 advantage. Japan scored four straight points out of the second technical timeout to level the set at 16-all. Team USA used a 6-0 run, including two kills from Drews and a Washington ace, to stake a 24-18 advantage. Japan saved three set points before the U.S. won the final point 25-21 on a Foecke kill.

Team USA used a 7-0 run, including two Washington aces and a kill, to take a 12-6 advantage in the second set after trailing 5-3. The Americans reached the second technical timeout up 16-9. Japan charged back into contention, closing the gap to 22-21 on a 9-2 run. Japan saved two set points to tie the score at 24-all, then won the set 26-24 with the final four points of the set.

Trailing 12-10 in the third set, Washington put up two blocks on a 3-0 American run to give the U.S. a 13-12 lead. However, Japan answered with a 4-0 run to take a 16-13 advantage at the second technical timeout. Team USA turned the momentum with three straight points to square the set at 16-all. Japan forced the U.S. to call timeout trailing 20-17. Team USA closed out the set on a 7-1 run that included a kill and two blocks from Thompson off the bench, then two Washington blocks to go in the lead.

Team USA continued to steamroll early in the fourth set, going up 8-3 with four kills from Thompson and three kills from Kingdon Rishel. Japan answered with three straight points out of the technical timeout to cut the gap to 8-6. The Americans built their lead to 13-8 with kills from Kingdon Rishel and Thompson around a Tapp block. After trailing 15-9, Japan closed the gap to 17-15 on a 6-2 run. The U.S. went up by five 23-18 after a kill and block by Tapp, followed by a Thompson kill. Washington scored the final point on a kill at 25-20.

The U.S. started Hancock at setter, Kingdon Rishel and Foecke at outside hitter, Drews at opposite, Tapp and Washington at middle. Courtney was the libero. Sarah Wilhite Parsons (Eden Prairie, Minnesota) was a sub in all but the third set.

The VNL, a 16-country league for both genders, includes 15 pool play matches for each country spread over five consecutive weeks with four pods of four teams competing in round-robin action every week. The top five teams from the preliminary round will compete in the VNL Final Six along with host China from July 3-7 with the winner receiving $1 million.

As part of the VNL, Team USA will then host No. 9 Korea on June 4, No. 13 Germany on June 5 and No. 4 Brazil on June 6 in Lincoln, Nebraska. All three matches in Lincoln will be played at Pinnacle Bank Arena.