TUSTIN, California (July 27, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team hosted Japan on Friday evening in a friendly exhibition match, and the visitors came away with a 19-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-15 victory over a young American squad in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 2,000-plus at Tustin High School in Tustin, California.
The U.S. has been hosting Japan this past week in Anaheim – official host city for the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Volleyball Teams – as part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Two-Years-Out Celebration. Both teams are also using the joint training block in preparation for the 2018 FIVB World Championship that begins on Sept. 29 in Japan.
The U.S. overcame a 21-19 deficit in the opening set by scoring the final six points for a 25-19 victory. Japan evened up the match with a 25-23 set victory after trading points with the Americans most of the second part of the set. Japan rallied from a 22-20 deficit in the third set to win 25-23 thanks to a 5-1 run to end the set. The U.S. scored four straight points to close a 10-4 fourth set deficit to two at 11-9, but Japan rebuilt its lead to 17-10 on a 6-1 run to win the set 25-15.
“The value of this match is knowing we have a lot to learn from any opponent across the net,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “Japan is not the tallest team, not the highest jumpers, but they are one of the smartest teams. Nobody plays harder than Japan does, nobody plays smarter than Japan does. They really control the ball well. We didn’t play with enough discipline to beat a very disciplined team. So those are very good lessons for us and all of our players in our program.”
U.S. opposite Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California), who sat out all of 2017, resumed her national team career tonight with a team-leading 18 points with 15 kills on 32 errorless attacks to go with two blocks and an ace. Outside hitter Madi Kingdon (Phoenix, Arizona) charted 16 points with 14 kills on 33 swings and two aces.
“It was really, really fun. It was really special, somewhat emotional to be back,” Lowe said. “I was definitely a little nervous, but when a couple points go by I got into the groove, into a rhythm and it was fun to be back with the team.”
Middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) totaled eight points in starting the first three sets, including seven kills on 16 attacks and a block. Setter Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma) provided four aces, two blocks and a kill for seven points. Outside hitter Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie, Minnesota), who started the final two sets, contributed six kills on 21 attacks and a block for seven points. Middle Chiaka Obgobu (Coppell, Texas) had a matching seven points with four kills and three blocks.
Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio), who shared time at both outside hitter and libero, charted three kills and two blocks before transitioning to the back row in the final set. She was making her first appearance since tearing her ACL last September. Middle Hannah Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota) rounded out the scoring with a block.
Courtney was credited with 13 digs and Hancock added nine. She tallied 55 of the team’s 88 receptions. Wilhite added 15 receptions in the match. Libero Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona) recorded seven receptions and a 57 positive reception percent in her two sets of action. She added three digs.
The U.S. converted 37 percent of its attacks into points with a .261 hitting efficiency behind Hancock’s setting. Japan converted 40 percent of its attacks into points with a .259 hitting efficiency.
The U.S. managed a 12-5 block advantage against the smaller Japanese squad. However, the visitors held a 12-7 ace advantage and 54-50 margin in kills.
Along with Courtney, Tapp was making her first appearance against an international opponent after missing several months due to injury. Further, several younger players saw extensive time against Japan while veterans were given the night off.
“I think this kind of experience is important because we are consistently trying to develop as many players as possible,” Kiraly said. “One of the reasons we were able to have success in something like the World Championships four years ago, the Olympics in 2016 and even this year in the Volleyball Nations League is because of our depth. We can play with lots of different players. The reason we can play with that kind of depth is these kinds of experiences, even if they don’t go our way. They are really valuable learning moments.”
Japan played its entire 16-player roster with everyone but one player getting in at least two sets. The Japanese were led by Miyu Nagaoka’s 16 points, while Ai Kuroga added 12 points and Sarina Koga chipped in 11 points.
“It was obviously not the result we wanted,” Lowe said. “We knew that Japan was a heavy defensive team and scrappy, and they were going to make us work hard in long rallies. I think moving forward, we want to continue that mindset and be scrappy like them and persevere.”
The U.S. started Kingdon and Courtney at outside hitter, Adams and Ogbogu and middle, Lowe at opposite and Hancock at setter. Benson was the starting libero. Courtney shifted to libero in the third set and Wilhite Parsons came in to start at outside. Tapp started the fourth set for Adams.
Team USA will have additional competition opportunities next month prior to playing in the World Championship. The U.S. will travel to Brazil for a four-match exhibition series. The two teams will meet on Aug. 12 in Brasilia, followed with two matches in Uberaba on Aug. 14 and Aug. 16. The exhibition series concludes on Aug. 18 in Rio de Janeiro.
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for Japan Exhibition Match
# – Player (Pos, Ht, College, Hometown)
1 – Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)
5 – Rachael Adams (M, 6-2, Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio)
7 – Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, Wisconsin, Aurora, Illinois)
9 – Madi Kingdon Rishel (OH, 6-1, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona)
10 – Simone Lee (OH, 6-1, Penn State, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin)
11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Purdue, Elkhart, Indiana)
13 – Sarah Wilhite Parsons (OH, 6-2, Minnesota, Eden Prairie, Minnesota)
17 – Megan Courtney (OH, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
18 – Aiyana Whitney, OPP, 6-4, Penn State, Norwood, New Jersey)
19 – Hannah Tapp (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
20 – Amanda Benson (L, 5-7, Oregon, Litchfield Park, Arizona)
24 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, UCLA, Rancho Santa Fe, California)
25 – Chiaka Ogbogu (M, 6-2, Texas, Coppell, Texas)
29 – Carly Wopat (M, 6-2, Stanford, Santa Barbara, California)
Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Luka Slabe, Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
Team Manager/Sport Physiologist: Jimmy Stitz
Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans