SAN DIEGO (July 10, 2013) – The inaugural USA Volleyball Cup started with a sell-out crowd of 3,500 to watch the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team defeat Japan 23-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-23 at the RIMAC Arena on the campus of UC San Diego on Wednesday night.
Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) led the United States with 19 points via 15 kills on 35 swings, three aces and a block. Kristin Hildebrand (Orem, Utah) chalked up 16 points, all on kills from 31 attacks. Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) contributed 15 points, including nine kills on 23 errorless attacks and a match-high six blocks. Kim Hill (Portland, Ore.) added 12 points off the bench with 11 kills on 20 attacks.
Yikiko Ebata led Japan with a match-high points, while captain Saori Kimura recorded 16 points.
“The sellout crowd tonight is a reflection of a lot of people’s hard work,” said U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly, who won his first match on home soil after going 5-0 in Peru to start his head coaching career. “The crowd was really into it.”
The Americans held a 10-4 advantage in blocks during the night, in addition to a 7-4 margin in aces. Team USA converted 43.4 percent of its attacks for kills with a .338 hitting efficiency (63-14-145). Japan was limited to a 35.3 kill percent with a .221 hitting efficiency (48-18-136).
Hildebrand said it was a special night for the players who get a rare chance to play at home. Her last matches played in front of a home crowd took place in 2009 during the Pan American Cup and FIVB World Championship Qualification Tournament in Miami and Orlando, respectively.
“Tonight was so special for us,” Hildebrand said. “It was an incredible turnout by our fans. We so seldom get to play in front of a home crowd, so it was a special night in feeling all the support for USA Volleyball. I am so proud of our team. Japan was incredible and they showed us they are relentless in coming back in each set. I look forward to another great match against Japan on Friday in Long Beach.”
Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) turned in 49 of the team’s 63 assists while adding an ace. Hildebrand and Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) contributed 14 digs in the victory.
Team USA started Hildebrand and Cassidy Lichtman (Poway, Calif.) at outside hitter, Gibbemeyer and Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) at middle blocker, Glass at setter and Fawcett at opposite. Hill started the final three sets in place of Lichtman, who was a sub in the final three sets. Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.) started the fourth set in place of Adams. Hometown hero Juliann Faucette, who sang the National Anthem, was a sub in the first, third and fourth sets. Jenna Hagglund (West Chester, Ohio) was a sub in the first and third sets.
Adams tallied nine points in the victory, while Faucette chipped in four points. Paolini produced three points off the bench, while Lichtman added a point.
The USA Volleyball Cup is a new initiative that will draw elite teams to the United States to compete in an annual tour series with the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Volleyball Teams. Such events will help foster local community ties to the two National Team programs and the City of Anaheim where the teams train.
Kiraly acknowledged Japan’s support in the USA Volleyball Cup.
“It is wonderful that a premier program in the world with the tradition of Japan came here to play and give us a battle tonight in our inaugural USA Volleyball Cup,” Kiraly said.
The two teams will meet again at 7 p.m. PT on July 12 at the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State University in the middle match of the three-match series.