U.S. Women’s National Team Over Egypt 3-1

April 10, 2009, 5:34 p.m. (ET)

Bill Kauffman
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800
E-Mail: bill.kauffman@usav.org

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 10, 2009) – The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team defeated Egypt 25-14, 25-27, 25-18, 28-26 on April 10 at Cairo to open its 2009 season. The two teams will play again on April 12 at Cairo.

The match represented the first contest for Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) serving as the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team. He accepted the position in December of 2008 after leading the U.S. Men’s National Team to a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games.

“Overall, I was very satisfied with our performance,” McCutcheon said. “I thought we were particularly strong from the service line and in the middle. Most importantly, we were able to manage some pressure and find ways to win crucial points. It was a good start to the quad.”

Middle blockers Christa Harmotto (Aliquippa, Pa.) and Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.) led the Americans with a combined 33 points. Harmotto scored a team-high 18 points with 16 kills on 25 attacks for a 64 kill percent and .560 attack efficiency, one block and one ace. Paolini chipped in 13 kills on 23 swings, one block and one ace in the victory.

Outside hitters Therese Crawford (Kalamazoo, Mich.) contributed 13 kills on 28 attacks, while outside hitter Brittany Moore (Orange, Calif.) recorded 10 kills on 23 attempts with only one error to go with a block and ace.

Outside hitter Julie Rubenstein (Camarillo, Calif.) added six kills, one block and one ace for eight points and eight digs in the victory, while opposite Morgan Beck (Coto De Caza, Calif.) tallied three kills and five digs. Setter Nellie Spicer (Barrington, Ill.) provided six kills and a block in leading Team USA to a 42.8 kill percent and .314 attack efficiency against the Egyptian defense.

Libero Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) handled 19 digs in the match, along with a 62 positive percent on 32 service receptions. Stacy Sykora (Burleson, Texas) was a reserve off the bench adding five digs and 10 service receptions in the back row. Davis and Sykora are the only two players from the 2008 Olympic Games also part of the 12-player roster competing in Egypt.

Middle blocker Emillie Toone (American Fork, Utah) added a block and setter Nicole Vargas (Seal Beach, Calif.) entered the match but did not score.

“Tonight was a great night for this new team,” Davis said. “We played a strong Egyptian team that put us in some challenging situations that allowed us to grow and improve in a short amount of time. It was a collaborative effort, and the next match should provide another opportunity for us to get better as well.”

McCutcheon started Spicer at setter, Harmotto and Paolini at middle blocker, Crawford and Rubenstein at outside hitter and Beck at opposite. Davis was the libero for the match, while Sykora came off the bench as a defensive replacement in all four sets. Crawford shifted over to opposite to start the third and fourth sets in place of Beck, while Moore went into Crawford’s outside spot in the final two sets. Toone subbed into the match in the second set, while Vargas entered late in the fourth set.

Team USA won the defensive battle over the host nation as it held a 6-2 block advantage and a 56-44 dig margin. The American defense limited Egypt to a 34.4 kill percent and .198 attack efficiency. The U.S. had 18 service errors in the match compared to Egypt’s 10.

Egypt, ranked No. 22 in the current FIVB World Ranking, will compete later this summer in the FIVB World Championship Third Round as part of the African Confederation qualification process into the World Championship final round held in November 2010. Egypt competed in the 2006 FIVB World Championship and placed in a tie for 21st after qualifying for the final round.

As well as the two volleyball matches, the trip involves a cultural component arranged through the United States Olympic Committee and the Egyptian National Olympic Committee. The American squad will take a cruise down the Nile on April 11 and tour the Egyptian Pyramids on April 13 before departing for the United States on April 14. The program is part of an ongoing effort to build good relations between the USOC and African National Olympic Committees and to promote sport in Africa.

In the opening set, Team USA jumped to a 3-0 lead as Harmotto scored two early kills. After trailing 4-1, Egypt bounced back to score four unanswered points to assume a 5-4 lead and traded points through to 7-6. However, the Americans regrouped with an 8-0 spurt that included three kills and a block by Paolini and a Spicer block to lift the visitors in front 14-7. Team USA increased its advantage to eight points at 18-10 on a Beck kill. Trailing 22-13, Egypt cut into its deficit with three consecutive points before the Americans closed the set with three unanswered points of their own capped by a Rubenstein ace on set point 25-14.

Egypt led most of the second set after building an early 5-1 advantage and stretching the margin to 9-3. With the score at 11-5, Spicer and Beck provided kills to start an American 8-2 run that was capped by three Crawford kills to tie the set at 13-all. Egypt went on a 6-1 run to stake itself to a 21-16 advantage. The U.S. promptly rattled off five unanswered points to tie the set at 21-all capped by a block from Toone, who entered as a front-row substitution for Spicer. Team USA took its first and only lead of the second set at 24-23 as Harmotto scored consecutive kills. However, Egypt saved set point and went on a 4-1 run to win 27-25.

The third set remained close in the early stages as the U.S. held to a slim 11-10 advantage before Paolini scored consecutive points as part of a 3-0 run to push the margin to 14-10. After Crawford and Moore connected for consecutive kills to give the U.S. a 16-11 lead at the second technical timeout, Egypt rushed back into the set with a 5-1 run to close to within 17-16. At 18-17, the Americans scored six straight points as Moore tallied a kill and ace on her service run that included two Harmotto points at 24-17. Egypt saved one set point only to have Rubenstein end the third on a kill at 25-18.

Egypt led most of the fourth set, but could not gain more than a two-point cushion. Moore scored consecutive kills at the second technical timeout to give the Americans their first two-point lead of the fourth set at 16-14. Egypt came back with two points out of the break, only to have the U.S. run off three straight points on kills from Moore and Crawford and capped with a Rubenstein block. Trailing 23-20, Egypt came back with a 4-0 run to take a set point at 24-23. After a service error and Crawford kill, the U.S. led 25-24 with its first match points in pocket. Egypt saved two match points before Crawford ended the contest at 28-26 with a kill.

U.S. Women’s Team Traveling to Egypt
Name (Pos, Ht, Hometown, College)
1 - Nellie Spicer (S, 5-10, Barrington, Ill., UCLA)
2 - Morgan Beck (Opp, 6-3, Coto De Caza, Calif., California)
3 - Christa Harmotto (MB, 6-2, Aliquippa, Pa., Penn State)
4 - Lauren Paolini (MB, 6-4, Ann Arbor, Mich., Texas)
5 - Stacy Sykora (L, 5-10, Burleson, Texas, Texas A&M)
6 - Nicole Davis (L, 5-4, Stockton, Calif., Southern California)
7 - Mekana Barnes (MB, 6-0, Highlands Ranch, Colo., Colorado State)
9 - Nicole Vargas (S, 5-8, Seal Beach, Calif., Long Beach State)
10 - Therese Crawford (OH, 5-11, Kalamazoo, Mich., Hawaii)
11 - Brittany Moore (OH, 5-11, Orange, Calif., Cal State Fullerton)
14 - Julie Rubenstein (OH, 6-3, Camarillo, Calif., Pepperdine)
15 - Emillie Toone (MB, 6-7, American Fork, Utah, Utah)

Head Coach: Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand)
Assistant Coach/Technical Coordinator: Jamie Morrison (Dana Point, Calif.)
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock (Storm Lake, Iowa)