The U.S. women’s volleyball team is the only one to have medaled in each of the last four FIVB World Cup tournaments, and, if the first five matches of this year’s edition are any indication, then that number could soon grow to five.
In the first five games of the 12-team round-robin competition, which is being held at various locations throughout Japan, the U.S. is undefeated at 5-0. Only China matches the U.S. at 5-0, while Russia is in third place at 4-1.
Team USA is looking for its first gold medal in the tournament after winning silver in 2011 and bronze in 2003, 2007 and 2015. After playing the first five games in Hamamatsu, Japan, the Americans now move to Sapporo, Japan, where they will face Japan, China and the Dominican Republic beginning Sunday.
The defending Volleyball Nations League champions opened the tournament on Saturday against Kenya and raced out to a 25-14 win in the first set and would go on to win the next two 25-20, 25-14 for victory No. 1. Opposite Annie Drews led the team in scoring with 14 points with 12 kills on 22 attacks and two aces, while outside hitter Jordan Larson contributed 12 points with 10 kills on 22 attacks and two aces. Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson also had 12 points.
Next up was Serbia, the defending world champion, on Sunday. After watching a late lead slip away and dropping the first set, the U.S. broke a tie in the second and easily won the third and fourth sets for a 23-25, 25-17, 25-16, 25-15 victory. Opposite Karsta Lowe scored a team-high 18 points off the bench with 14 kills on 22 swings, three blocks and an ace all in the final three sets. Middle Haleigh Washington had 16 points and outside hitter Kelsey Robinson added 15.
Monday’s game saw the U.S. register a 25-21, 25-18, 18-25, 25-11 victory over Argentina to improve to 3-0 in the tournament. With the score tied 4-4 in the fourth set, the U.S. stifled any hopes Argentina may have had of keeping the match going with a 17-5 run that gave them a 21-9 lead. Lowe again set the high mark for the team with 20 kills on 44 attacks, one block and one ace for 22 points while outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley added 19 points and middle Tori Dixon totaled 13. Coach Karch Kiraly used a completely different starting lineup plus libero against Argentina than he did in the first two matches.
After a day off, the U.S. faced the Netherlands, not only another undefeated team but the team that knocked the Americans out of medal contention at last year’s world championships, where the U.S. finished fifth. Wednesday’s result was a 25-23, 25-18, 25-19 victory, powered by several well-timed runs and the performances of Larson and Robinson, who each scored 16 points.
Last up was Brazil, and the U.S. easily kept its unbeaten streak intact with a 25-22, 25-18, 25-19 win. Robinson led all scorers with 15 points and Drews followed with 14.
Through the first four games, Robinson led the U.S. with 53 points, ranking 16th amongst leading scorers in the tournament. Larson was 23rd with 40 points, while Drews and Lowe each had 37. Robinson, Larson and Lowe were each members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team that won a bronze medal.
Following the coming three games in Sapporo, the U.S. moves on to Osaka, Japan, for the final three games against Russia, Cameroon and South Korea.