By Todd Kortemeier | May 18, 2018, 12:16 a.m. (ET)
Kelly Murphy, Rachael Adams and Jordan Larson celebrate at the match against Poland at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League on May 15, 2018 in Lincoln, Neb.

 

After splitting its first two matches of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League, Team USA ended its opening series with an emphatic 3-0 win Thursday night over Italy in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Americans now find themselves ranked third overall in the round robin. Just in front of them in second is Turkey, who handed the U.S. its only loss thus far, a 3-2 setback on Wednesday. The U.S. opened the round robin with a 3-1 win over Poland.

The home court advantage in Nebraska was a boost to Team USA.

“It was an awesome environment,” said U.S. captain Jordan Larson following the win over Poland. “Obviously we don’t get to play at home very much. We are thankful for the support that came out. It was awesome.”

Larson was huge against Poland, coming up with 20 points, while teammate Michelle Bartsch-Hackley displayed her attacking prowess with 25 kills and 27 points. The young Polish team wasn’t expected to give the U.S. much trouble, but hung around to force a fourth set. But it was in that final set that the U.S. took command, dispatching Poland 25-15.

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Turkey was similarly not expected to trouble the U.S., but instead stunned the hosts 3-2. Team USA fell behind two sets, then rallied to force a fifth. The raucous home crowd did its best to help the U.S. stave off match point and level the set 14-14, but a clutch Turkish block gave them the upset.

Then it was on to Italy, where the U.S. put it all together in a 3-0 triumph that was led by Kim Hill’s 13 points.

“Yesterday (was) difficult for us but we came out strong today,” Larson said. “We have only been together for a couple of days and we have a lot to build on.”

They will build on it in Japan, where the Americans are headed for a three-match series beginning with the hosts on May 22. The following day, the U.S. draws the Netherlands, and the series concludes with Belgium on the 24th. Only the Netherlands is ranked above the U.S. as the No. 1 team. Belgium rank ninth and Japan 12th.

The women’s finals of the Nations League will take place June 27-July 1 in Nanjing, China.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.