By Karen Price | June 30, 2018, 12:31 p.m. (ET)
The U.S. women's volleyball team celebrates its win over China at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League on June 30, 2018 in Nanjing, China.

 

The U.S. women’s volleyball team will play for gold in the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League after defeating China, the defending Olympic champion, in four sets on Saturday.

The Americans will face Turkey, which upset Brazil to reach the championship game, beginning at 7 a.m. ET on Sunday. Turkey is one of just two teams that beat the U.S. during the 15-match preliminary round, but the U.S. defeated Turkey on Wednesday in five sets to open the final group stage.

Team USA knew it would be a difficult match against China in Nanjing and that they’d need contributions from everyone in order to win. None contributed more than Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, who continued her stellar tournament with a match-leading 24 points. She’s led the team in scoring in all three games of the final round. Middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo added 14 points and opposite Kelly Murphy had 13.

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The U.S. started off strong with two hard-fought set victories. Trailing 15-9 in the first set, Bartsch-Hackley contributed eight points and Akinradewo five throughout the set as Team USA forced its way back on top to win 25-23. A 25-20 victory in the second set gave them a 2-0 advantage heading into the third with the chance to sweep and seal their appearance in the championship game.

It wasn’t going to be quite that easy.

The defending Olympic champion wasn’t going away so quickly and took control of the third set to win 18-25 and head to set No. 4.

However, the U.S. once again was victorious and prevailed with a 25-18 victory to land in the gold-medal game.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.