Chiaka Ogbogu spikes the ball in a game against the Dominican Republic on May 30, 2019 in Conegliano, Italy.
The U.S. women’s volleyball team suffered its first loss of 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League play but also came away from the second round of the tournament with two wins, including one against top-ranked Serbia.
The defending champs are now 5-1 as they approach the midpoint of round-robin play. The Americans rank second, behind Turkey. Turkey, the U.S. and Poland all have matching records after six games.
The U.S. opened this week’s three-game series in Conegliano, Italy, with a 3-1 (23-25, 25-16, 25-15, 25-21) victory over top-ranked Serbia on Tuesday. Facing the defending world champion, the U.S. got a big performance from opposite Annie Drews. Her match-high 22 points helped the U.S. remain undefeated at 4-0 after dropping the first set to their opponent then rattling off three straight wins.
“I am really happy with how our team responded,” coach Karch Kiraly said afterward. “We weren’t very clean in the first set. Even though we had a chance to maybe tie it up at 24-all, we really didn’t deserve that one. We improved a lot as the match went on, and that is our big goal — learn to improve, not only from match to match but from play to play.”
In the middle game, the U.S. took on host Italy in a matchup between the only two undefeated teams left in the tournament.
The U.S. went on a run to start the first set and cruised to victory, and then Italy did the same in the second. Italy once again took the lead in the third set and prevailed despite a late push by the U.S. to tie it 21-21. Again the U.S. was able to make a run to start the fourth set and that led to a win to force the tiebreaker. It was a big finish for the U.S., which jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the decider and never trailed to come away with the 3-2 (25-22, 17-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-11) victory.
The U.S. tripped up for the first time in the tournament against the Dominican Republic on Thursday. Using a massive 17-3 run and a 7-0 block advantage, the Dominicans took the first set with ease. The U.S. claimed victory in the second set but then dropped the third to head to a must-win fourth set. They indeed won that to force a tiebreaker, but then ultimately fell 3-2 (25-10, 16-25, 25-19, 19-25, 15-11).
Now Team USA gets to return stateside to host South Korea, Germany and Brazil in Lincoln, Nebraska, on June 4-6.
The U.S. women won the inaugural Volleyball Nations League tournament last year. The VNL includes 16 countries in which each nation plays 15 round-robin matches over five weeks at different locations around the world. The top five teams plus host China will then compete in the Final Six beginning July 3. The winner gets $1 million.