By Karen Price | Sept. 24, 2019, 11:14 a.m. (ET)

Chiaka Ogbogu competing against the Dominican Republic at the 2019 FIVB World Cup on Sept. 23, 2019 in Sapporo, Japan.

 

Nearing the end of the FIVB World Cup tournament, the U.S. women are closing in on their fifth consecutive medal in the event.

Following a 5-0 start last week in Hamamatsu, Japan, the Americans sandwiched wins over Japan and the Dominican Republic with their only loss of the tournament so far against China during a three-game series this week in Sapporo, Japan. This gives Team USA a 7-1 record and a second-place standing heading into the final three matches. The U.S. women won bronze medals in 2003, 2007 and 2015 and silver in 2011. They have never won the gold medal at the quadrennial tournament, currently using a 12-team, round-robin format.

Kicking off the stretch of three games in Sapporo, the women kept their undefeated streak alive against the host nation, edging Japan after a tight competition 26-24, 22-25, 25-21, 23-25, 15-8 on Sunday. The first set alone saw 16 ties and six lead changes before the U.S. won, setting the tone for the rest of the match. Japan came from behind to win the second set, the U.S. rallied to win the third. and Japan again came from behind to win the fourth and force a tiebreaker. Jumping out to a 5-0 lead, the U.S. women rode the momentum to the victory that pushed their record to 6-0 in the tournament.

Michelle Bartsch-Hackley led the U.S. team with 30 points, including five in the tiebreaker, while Olympian Karsta Lowe added 18 points after coming in as a substitute late in the second set. Middle Chiaka Ogbogu had 15 points.

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That set up a Monday showdown against No. 2 China, the only team left undefeated besides the U.S. and also the defending World Cup champions. It wasn’t nearly as close a result, with China winning in straight sets, 25-16, 25-17, 25-22. The Chinese opened up sizable leads in all three sets, and, although the Americans closed to within a point in the third, they weren’t able to get over the hump. China took sole possession of first place with the win. Lowe and fellow 2016 U.S. Olympian Jordan Larson reach had nine points for Team USA.

The U.S. capped off the three games with a 25-22, 25-23, 25-9 win over the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The first set was back and forth, with the U.S. taking, then losing, the lead only to rally and come out with the win. Again, the Americans took the lead in the second set only to watch the Dominicans close in on them late, but the U.S. held on, and with the chance to sweep in the third set they raced ahead and slammed the door shut.

Annie Drews led the team for this match, with 23 points on 18 of 29 attacks, three blocks and two aces. Ogbogu added 11 points with eight kills and three blocks, and Bartsch-Hackley added nine points.

The U.S. now will have two days off before wrapping things up against Russia on Friday, Cameroon on Saturday and South Korea on Sunday in Osaka, Japan.

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.