LINCOLN, Neb. (Jan. 9, 2016) – The U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked No. 1 in the by the FIVB, seized its 2016 Olympic Games berth after defeating No. 7 Dominican Republic 25-19, 25-19, 25-18 Saturday evening to conclude the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament in front of 10,213 fans at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb.
The U.S., which also clinched an Olympic Games spot on domestic soil back in 2000, finished the tournament 3-0, while Dominican Republic ends the tournament at 2-1. The Dominican Republic will channel its focus on Olympic qualification with a last opportunity in May at the World Olympic Qualifier in Japan.
Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.) ignited the American offense with 12 points via 10 kills on 21 attacks. Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio), the tournament most valuable player, added 10 points on nine kills via 19 errorless attacks. Jordan Larson (Hooper, Neb.), the first best spiker in the tournament, earned nine points, all on kills through 23 attacks.
“It is fantastic,” Akinradewo said on the feeling of winning Olympic qualification on home soil. “The fan support has been amazing from the get-go. Lincoln did a really good job. Usually we are overseas and we don’t have support. I am really happy we are a step closer to winning Olympic gold.”
Larson, who played at University of Nebraska in Lincoln before joining the U.S. Women’s National Team in 2009, echoed Akinradewo’s thoughts.
“There is no words to describe it,” said Larson, who played collegiately at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and had the vocal crowd support behind her. “It is unbelievable. I am happy that all the fans came out to support us. Obviously we have played Dominican Republic a lot. We know a lot of about. We had a good game plan going in and executed well.”
Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.), selected as the tournament’s best setter, and Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) set Team USA to a 44.12 kill percent and .353 hitting efficiency. Glass was credited with 22 running sets, while Thompson had five.
Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.), named the second best middle blocker, contributed nine points with eight kills on 12 swings and a block. Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.), selected as the best receiver, and Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) each pocketed four points and Megan Easy (Boston, Mass.) rounded out the scoring with one point.
Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) totaled 17 digs and 17 excellent reception on a 19 chances each, both team highs. Robinson added nine digs and Larson chipped in 10 excellent receptions.
Brayelin Martinez led Dominican Republic with 15 points, while Prisilla Rivera and Gina Mambru added seven points.
The U.S. held a 45-37 advantage in kills and benefited from 26 Dominican Republic errors.
“What a fabulous atmosphere it was here, a huge crowd that was going crazy for USA,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “Three former Huskers playing big roles for USA. It is so nice to have a crowd. It is a huge advantage and we were fortunate to host this and book our ticket to Rio. We are really excited to do it in a venue like this and in a place that supports volleyball so fiercely.”
The U.S. has now won six of its last seven tournaments including the 2014 FIVB World Championship, 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix, Pan American Games, Pan American Cup and NORCECA Continental Championship. Team USA finished with the bronze at 2015 FIVB World Cup, its only tournament it failed to win. The Americans needed to finish first or second at the World Cup to earn an Olympic bid in the first qualifying tournament.
The U.S. started the opening set with an 8-3 advantage as Dominican Republic committed four early errors. The Americans maintained a comfortable margin the rest of the set to a 25-19 victory. The U.S. broke an 11-11 tie in the second set with a 5-1 spurt taking a 16-12 advantage into second technical timeout. Team USA denied any comeback as it won 25-19. After holding a slim 7-5 lead in the third set, the U.S. erupted for a 6-0 run taking a 13-5 margin and continued the pressure through to the final 25-18.
“Teams in your zone you know best because you play them most,” Kiraly said. “Dominican knows us well, we know them well. Same is true for Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. We did have a good game plan. We are very happy with the players playing a big role in bullding it and executing it and driving the bus.”
Dominican Republic felt it was unable to get the USA out of system starting with its serve.
“It is impossible to play a team like USA without being a good serving team,” Dominican Republic Head Coach Marcos Kwiek said. “We are a good team throughout, but we didn’t play cohesively. In Japan against a team of this caliber, we will have to do a better job at serving.”
All-Tournament for NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament
Best Scorer- Ocasio Karina (OP)- PUR
Best Opposite- Nicole Fawcett (OP)- USA
Best Spiker- Jordan Larson-Burbach (OH)- USA
Best Spiker- Stephanie Enright (OH)- PUR
Best Blocker- Lucille Charuk (MB)- CAN
Best Blocker- Tori Dixon (MB)- USA
Best Server- Gina Mambru Casilla- DOM
Best Digger- Brenda Castillo- DOM
Best Setter- Alisha Glass- USA
Best Receiver- Kelsey Robinson- USA
Best Libero- Janie Guimond- CAN
Most Valuable Player (MVP)- Nicole Fawcett- USA
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament
# – Name (Position, Ht, Hometown, College)
1 – Alisha Glass (S, 6-0, Leland, Mich., Penn State University)
2 – Kayla Banwarth (L, 5-10, Dubuque, Iowa, University of Nebraska)
3 – Courtney Thompson (S, 5-8, Kent, Wash., University of Washington)
6 – Tori Dixon (MB, 6-3, Burnsville, Minn., University of Minnesota)
10 – Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Hooper, Neb., University of Nebraska)
11 – Megan Easy (OH, 6-3, Boston, Mass., Penn State University)
13 – Christa Dietzen (MB, 6-2, Hopewell Township, Pa., Penn State University)
14 – Nicole Fawcett (OPP, 6-4, Zanesfield, Ohio, Penn State University)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Portland, Ore., Pepperdine University)
16 – Foluke Akinradewo (MB, 6-3, Plantation, Fla., Stanford University)
17 – Natalie Hagglund (L, 5-9, Encinitas, Calif., University of Southern California)
22 – Rachael Adams (MB, 6-2, Cincinnati, Ohio, University of Texas)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Bartlett, Ill., University of Nebraska)
25 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., UCLA)
Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Jamie Morrison and Tom Black
Technical Coordinator: Joe Trinsey
Team Manager: Denise Sheldon
Athletic Trainer: Jill Wosmek
Doctor: Dr. Andrew Gregory
Consultant Coach: David Hunt
Strength Coach: James Stitz
2016 NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament Schedule
Dominican Republic def. Puerto Rico 17‐25, 25‐13, 25‐23, 25‐23
USA def. Canada 25-18, 25-18, 25-15
Dominican Republic def. Canada 25-27, 25-16, 26-24, 25-21
USA def. Puerto Rico 25-14, 24-26, 25-12, 25-14
Canada def. Puerto Rico 32-30, 25-17, 25-20
USA def. Dominican Republic 25-19, 25-19, 25-18