COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 18, 2017) – The U.S. Women’s Junior National Team, leading China 13-11 in the fifth set, could not finish out the match in falling 23-25, 30-28, 25-16, 10-25, 15-13 to start the top eight gold bracket of the FIVB Women’s U20 World Championship on Tuesday afternoon in Cordoba, Mexico.

The U.S. (2-2 overall, 0-1 in Pool F) will face Japan on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET in its second Pool F gold-bracket round-robin match, followed by Bulgaria at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday. The top two teams from Pool F advance to the semifinals to meet the top two teams from Pool E.

Obviously we are disappointed that things did not go our way in the last few points, but overall, what an incredible match by Team USA,” U.S. Women’s Junior National Team Head Coach Laurie Corbelli said. “Our passing got better and better as the match went on, and offensively we were very hard to stop. The Chinese team has the fastest offense that we have seen so far in this tournament, and I thought our blockers adjusted extremely well to the quick pace. Team USA is improving each match and we are excited to face Japan tomorrow afternoon and hopefully getting one step closer to our goal of competing in the medal round.

Related: Official Match Stats

China had finished first in the first round Pool B with a 2-1 record, while the Americans finished second in Pool C with a 2-1 record. Japan (3-0), winners of Pool D, and Bulgaria (2-1), second-place in Pool A, meet later today.

Opposite Holly Carlton (Sterling, Virginia) led the U.S. with 21 points via 13 kills on 34 swings, five blocks and three aces in a well-rounded performance. Outside Leah Edmond (Lexington, Kentucky) totaled 17 points with 13 kills on 22 swings, three blocks and an ace. Middle Ronika Stone (San Jose, California) chipped in 16 points with 10 kills on 18 swings, five blocks and one ace. Middle Brionne Butler (Kendleton, Texas) contributed 10 kills on 18 swings, two blocks and an ace for 13 points.

Outside hitter Thayer Hall (Moore, South Carolina) tallied five kills and two blocks in starting the first three sets. Outside hitter Paige Hammons (Louisville, Kentucky), who started the final two sets and was a sub in the first three, provided two aces and a block for three points. Setter MacKenzi Welsh (Bolingbrook, Illinois) scored three points with two kills and an ace. Rachael Kramer (Phoenix, Arizona) rounded out the scoring with one block as a sub in the third set.

“It was a disappointing loss,” Welsh said. “I am proud of how we fought until the last point. I think we have proven that we belong in the Top 8. Now we begin preparation for our match tomorrow against Japan.”

Welsh was credited with a team-best 20 digs and 32 running sets on 102 total attempts from her setter position. Gabby Curry (Buford, Georgia) added 17 digs and seven excellent receptions on 21 chances.

While the U.S. held a sizeable advantage at the net with a 19-7 block margin, the Americans’ breakdown in reception allowed China to have a 13-9 advantage in aces and keep the U.S. out of system in key stretches of the match. China held a slim 56-53 edge in kills. The U.S. converted 40.8 percent of its attacks into points with a .200 hitting efficiency. In contrast, China hit .212 with a 35.9 kill percent.

The Americans started Butler and Stone at middle, Hall and Edmond at outside hitter, Carlton at opposite and Welsh at setter. Gabby Curry (Buford, Georgia) started at libero. Norene Iosia (Torrance, California) was a sub in all but the third set.

The U.S. fell behind 11-6 in the opening set, but rushed back to within one at 11-10 with a stifling block causing China problems. The Americans went in front 13-12. At the second technical timeout, the U.S. increased its advantage to three points at 16-13. The U.S. extended its advantage to 20-15, but the Chinese closed the gap to 23-21. China narrowed the gap to 24-23 before the Americans finished the set at 25-23. Team USA finished the set with a 7-0 block advantage.

Team USA reached the first technical timeout of the second set with a two-point, 8-6, cushion. By the second technical timeout, the Americans extended their lead to 16-11. China charged back to take a 20-17 advantage on a 9-1 spurt. Team USA answered with a 5-1 run to regain the lead at 22-21. However, China responded by reaching set point first at 24-23. The U.S. saved set point and earned its first set point opportunity at 25-24. China saved four set points and used a 3-0 run to earn the second set victory at 30-28.

China inched its way to an 8-5 advantage at the first technical timeout of the third set and increased the margin to 14-9. After the U.S. cut the deficit to 16-13, China rolled off three unanswered points to stake a 19-13 advantage and went on to win 25-16.

Team USA jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fourth set, though China rattled off four straight to tie the set at 5-all. The U.S. put together a run of its own to claim a 10-5 lead on five straight points. Team USA continued to put pressure on China to extend the match to five sets by gaining a 16-7 margin at the second technical timeout. The Americans did not let up in closing out the set 25-10.

The fifth set was a battle of momentum in which China held the last swing. The U.S. jumped to a 3-1 advantage in the tiebreaker, but China quickly squared the set at 3-all. Team USA regained a two-point cushion at 7-5. China charged back into the lead with three straight taking an 8-7 lead at the side switch. The Americans scored the first two points after the teams traded sides to regain the lead at 9-8. The pendulum swing back to China as it scored three straight to take an 11-9 advantage. China could not keep the momentum as Team USA scored four straight taking a 13-11 advantage. China stopped the bleeding and scored four straight to win the match 15-13.

U.S. Women’s Junior National Team
# – Name (Position, 2017 Club/College, Height, Hometown, Region)
1 – Brionne Butler (M, University of Texas, 6-4, Kendleton, Texas, Lone Star)
2 – Tiffany Clark (L, University of Wisconsin, 5-11, Naperville, Illinois, Great Lakes)
3 – Thayer Hall (OH, Upward Stars, 6-3, Moore, South Carolina, Palmetto)
4 – Paige Hammons (OH, University of Florida, 6-2, Louisville, Kentucky, Pioneer)
5 – Regan Pittman (M, University of Minnesota, 6-5, Spring Hill, Kansas, Heart of America)
6 – Holly Carlton (OPP, University of North Carolina, 6-7, Sterling, Virginia, Chesapeake)
8 – Ronika Stone (OPP, University of Oregon, 6-2, San Jose, California, Northern California)
11 – Norene Iosia (S, University of Hawaii, 5-11, Torrance, California, Southern California)
12 – MacKenzi Welsh (S, University of Michigan, 6-1, Bolingbrook, Illinois, Great Lakes)
14 – Gabby Curry (L, University of Kentucky, 5-9, Buford, Georgia, Southern)
15 – Rachael Kramer (M, University of Florida, 6-8, Phoenix, Arizona, Arizona)
17 – Leah Edmond (OH, University of Kentucky, 6-2, Lexington, Kentucky, Pioneer)

Head Coach: Laurie Corbelli (head coach at Texas A&M University)
Assistant Coach: Blake Rawlins (head trainer at Top Select Volleyball Academy)
Assistant Coach: Jay Van Vark (assistant coach at Grand Canyon University)
Team Leader: Tom Pingel (USA Volleyball High Performance)
Athletic Trainer: Ronni Beatty-Kollasch (University of Minnesota)

2017 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U20 World Championship

Pool C at Boca del Rio, Mexico
July 14: USA lost to Brazil 25-10, 25-12, 24-26, 25-22
July 15: USA def. Cuba 31-29, 25-19, 25-23
July 16: USA def. Serbia 22-25, 10-25, 26-24, 25-23, 17-15

Pool F (Top 8 Gold Bracket) at Cordoba, Mexico
June 18: USA lost to China 23-25, 30-28, 25-15, 10-25, 15-13
June 19: USA vs. Japan, 2 p.m. ET
June 20: USA vs. Bulgaria, 2 p.m. ET