With qualification for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on the line, all the U.S. women’s volleyball team had to do was stay on course.
With a 3-0 (25-17, 25-10, 25-10) defeat of Kazakhstan under its belt at the Olympic qualification tournament in Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, that’s exactly what it’s done.
The team with the best record at the end of the weekend-long tournament earns itself a spot in Tokyo, while five other Olympic spots are being contested simultaneously in five other pools around the world. Japan has the first spot as the host country. The U.S. will qualify if it wins its pool against No. 23 Kazakhstan, No. 16 Bulgaria and No. 11 Argentina.
Should the U.S. not qualify this weekend, there will be another opportunity to do so in January 2020 through a zonal tournament.
However, ranked No. 3 in the world and fresh off wins at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League and the Pan American Cup, the U.S. is a favorite to win its pool and remained on track to do so with its opening win.
Team USA had not faced Kazakhstan since 2014 but with Friday’s win extended its all-time record against the nation to 7-0.
Olympic bronze medalist Kelsey Robinson led the way for Team USA with 13 points, while Tori Dixon chipped in 10. Annie Drews, the VNL Finals Most Valuable Player, added nine. The U.S. also scored 21 points on Kazakhstani errors while giving up only six points on errors. Kazakhstan was paced by Natalia Sharshakoa’s nine points.
Robinson is one of three Olympians on the U.S. roster, joined by Kim Hill and Jordan Larson. The U.S. women have medaled at the last three Olympic Games, winning silver in 2008 and 2012 and bronze in 2016. In Tokyo, they would be looking to win their first-ever Olympic gold medal.
The U.S. next takes on Bulgaria on Saturday. Bulgaria defeated Argentina 3-1 in its first match. The tournament wraps up with the U.S. facing off against Argentina on Sunday.