By Gary R. Blockus | July 23, 2017, 12:44 p.m. (ET)
The U.S. women's volleyball team celebrates after defeating Belgium at the FIVB World Grand Prix on July 21, 2017 in Cuiaba, Brazil.


The defending world champion U.S. women’s volleyball team fell to Brazil 3-1 on Sunday to wrap up the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round in Cuiaba, Brazil.

With a 6-3 record in the first round, Team USA moves on to the six-team FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round for the third consecutive year, having won the event in 2015 while fishing second to Brazil in 2016. The finals are scheduled for Aug. 2-6 in Nanjing, China.

The U.S. women didn’t fare as well in Sunday’s rematch of the 2016 Grand Prix Finals when they took the Brazilians to five sets, but Team USA’s victory in the third set kept live its streak of not having lost in straight sets of a World Grand Prix match dating back to Aug. 10, 2014, when the Brazilians won in straight sets. This time out, the U.S. lost by scores of 25-20, 25-13, 18-25, and 25-18.

Megan Courtney and 6-foot-3 Tori Dixon led the U.S. in scoring against Brazil with 12 points each.

After starting 4-0, Team USA came into the final three preliminary round games in Cuiaba with a 4-2 record.

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In Thursday’s 3-1 upset win over the Netherlands, Michelle Bartsch, an alternate for Team USA’s 2016 Olympic bronze medalist squad, scored 23 points in leading the U.S. by scores of 25-15, 23-25, 28-26, 25-21. Down 5-1 and 9-4 in the decisive fourth set, the U.S. clawed its way back to an 18-17 advantage and held the lead the rest of the way.

In Friday’s 3-1 over Belgium by scores of 25-14, 16-25, 25-19 and 26-24, Madison Kingdon scored 18 points and Kelly Murphy, a member of the 2016 Olympic bronze-medal-winning team, added 15 more to set the pace heading into Sunday’s match against Brazil.

Counting this week, the U.S. is 171-100 in all-time World Grand Prix matches. In the 2017 tournament, only Serbia had a better record at 7-2.

Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.