U.S. Girls’ Youth Team Concludes Trip with Sweep of Italy

Jan. 04, 2009, 3:51 p.m. (ET)

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

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 4, 2009) - A U.S. Girls' Youth Team, in cooperation with Bring It Promotions, concluded its three-country European tour with a 25-22, 25-17, 25-20 victory over Italy's Girls' Youth National Team on Jan. 4 at Tofla, Italy, a suburb of Rome.

Both the U.S. and Italy are contenders for medals at the 2009 FIVB Girls' Youth World Championship. The U.S. qualified for the World Championship by winning the gold medal at the NORCECA Continental Girls' Youth Championship in July 2008 with eight of the 12 players on this European travel roster. Italy begins its World Championship qualification tournament on Jan. 8 in a competition that includes Poland, Slovenia and Latvia.

Yesterday, the U.S. squad won two of five sets against the same Italian team in an exhibition at Italy's Olympic Training Center in Rome. The Americans, having just arrived via overnight train in the morning, opened with a 28-26 victory before losing the next three sets 25-23, 30-28 and 25-18. The U.S. won the fifth set 15-9 as both teams agreed to continue playing.

In the rematch, Jane Croson (Lakewood, Calif.) scored a match-high 11 points, all on kills via 29 swings and just two errors. Stephanie Holthus (Elgin, Ill.) came off the bench to net 10 points on nine kills and an ace while providing a 54 positive service reception percent. Erica Denney (Centennial, Colo.) reached double-figure scoring with eight kills on 15 swing and just two errors to go with a team-high two blocks.

Jazmine Orozco (Lakewood, Calif.) contributed nine points on six kills, two aces and a block. She added a team-high 19 service reception chances and tallied a 53 positive percent on reception. Carly Thomas (Swansea, Ill.) added four kills and two aces for six points. Tori Dixon (Savage, Minn.) charted five kills and a block for six points. Ashley Wittman (Shakopee, Minn.) rounded out the scoring with a kill in the first set, her only set of competition in the match. Jennifer Bonilla (Reseda, Calif.) held a 56 positive service reception on 18 chances in the back row as the libero.

"When the game started, we were all pumped up to win because they had best us the night before," Thomas wrote in a journal entry. "We didn't play very well the first time we played them so we wanted to show them how we could really play. We started off the match very strong. Passing was on and so was serving."

Denney and Dixon started all three sets at middle blocker, while Orozco and Croson were on the outside in all three sets. Wittman started the match at outside hitter, while Holthus started the final two sets in her place to rest a sore shoulder. Thomas was the setter in all three sets, while Kreklow came off the bench in the third set.

Team USA converted on 39 percent of its 114 attacks and limited Italy to a 23 percent conversion rate on 102 swings. Italy held a 9-4 block advantage, but the U.S. served provided a major advantage. Although it had 11 service errors, the Americans had a 5-3 ace advantage and Italy held just a 38 percent on positive service reception to Team USA's 58 positive reception percent.

In the opening set, Team USA received serve at a 70 percent positive rate leading to 13 kills. The Americans also aced Italy twice in the set to win a close frame. During the second set, the U.S. squad held Italy to only four kills and 12 of the opponent errors came on American errors (hitting and serving). In the final set, Orozco served nine straight points to give the U.S. a commanding 15-8 lead after trailing by as many as four points in the early going.

"We were passing and serving very well, which made it tough for the other team," Thomas said in her journal. "We were also digging very well, which is encouraging because that's all we did at practice (today)."

Additional statistics, photos and journal entries on the match will be posted later on the Bring It Promotions Web site.

Prior to arriving in Italy, the U.S. earned a 25-19, 25-23, 25-23 victory over the Slovenia Girls' Youth National Team on Jan. 2 in an exhibition match in Slovenia. Team USA added a 25-17 victory in a friendly fourth set.

Earlier on the trip, the U.S. squad won the bronze medal at the MEVZA Tournament at Pula, Croatia. The Americans won their pool play matches against Israel and host Croatia. However, it lost a five-set match to Slovenia in the semifinals before defeating Croatia in three sets in the third-place match.

Although not the official U.S. Girls' Youth National Team, the 12-player roster playing in Croatia, Slovenia and Italy includes eight players who competed for the 2008 U.S. Girls' Youth National Team which captured the NORCECA Girls' Youth Championship in Puerto Rico to qualify for the 2009 FIVB Girls' Youth World Championship. All 12 players on the roster were born in either 1992 or 1993.

U.S. Girls' Youth Team Roster for European Training Trip.

# - Name (Hometown, Position, Club, Region)
2 - Stephanie Holthus (Elgin, Ill., Libero/Outside Hitter, Fusion, Great Lakes)
3 - Jennifer Bonilla (Reseda, Calif., Libero, SCVC, SCVA)
4 - Erica Denney (Centennial, Colo., Middle Blocker, Front Range, Rocky Mountain)
5 - Tori Dixon (Savage, Minn., Middle Blocker, Northern Lights, North Country)
6 - Anna Dorn (Munster, Ind., Middle Blocker, Dunes, Hoosier)
7 - Adrienne Gehan (Dallas, Texas, Outside Hitter, Skyline Juniors, North Texas)
13 - Molly Kreklow (Hamlake, Minn., Setter, Mizuno Northern Lights, North Country)
14 - Jane Croson (Lakewood, Calif., Outside Hitter, Cal Juniors, SCVA)
15 - Amy Scullion (Salem, Ohio, Outside Hitter, Tri-County, Ohio Valley)
16 - Carly Thomas (Swansea, Ill., Setter, Southwest Illinois VBC, Gateway)
17 - Jazmine Orozco (Lakewood, Calif., Outside Hitter, SCVC, SCVA)
18 - Ashley Wittman (Shakopee, Minn., Outside Hitter, Mizuno Northern Lights, North Country)

Head Coach: Jim Stone (Columbus, Ohio, retired Ohio State Women's Head Coach)
Assistant Coach: Melissa Wolter (Pensacola, Fla., University of West Florida Head Coach)
Stats: Herb Summers (Burbank, Calif.)