USA Defeats Italy to Open World Grand Prix

By Bill Kauffman | July 03, 2015, 2 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 3, 2015) – The U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked No. 1 in the world, opened its 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix schedule by defeating No. 5 Italy 25-27, 25-21, 25-22, 25-23 in Pool C match that forced it come back in each of the final three sets to win on Friday afternoon in Ankara, Turkey.

Team USA, ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB, continues its first preliminary round weekend in Ankara by playing host and No. 11 Turkey on Saturday at 9 a.m. PT, followed by No. 13 Belgium on July 5 at 6 a.m. PT. In its opening match of the World Grand Prix, Belgium defeated Turkey 25-13, 25-17, 25-23. Belgium moved up to the World Grand Prix top tier this year after winning the second tier in 2014 and competing in the World Grand Prix Final Round.

The World Grand Prix is the premier annual international women’s volleyball tournament with the top 12 teams competing in nine preliminary matches to qualify for the six-team, round-robin Finals which will be held July 22-26 in Omaha, Neb.. This year marks the first time that the U.S. will host the Finals in the 23-year history of the event.

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Team USA outside hitters Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.) and Kim Hill (Portland, Ore.) were the team’s leading scorers. Robinson scored a team-leading 16 points with 15 kills on 53 attacks and a block, while Hill contributed 12 kills on 30 swings, one block and one ace for 14 points. Opposite Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio), who started the third and fourth sets after being used as a double sub in the first two sets, made an impact with 11 kills on 27 attacks and two blocks for 13 points.

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Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.), playing in her first FIVB competition, got the start at opposite and scored 10 points via seven kills on 14 swings and three blocks. Middle blocker Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.) chalked up four kills and team-best four blocks for eight points while serving 18 times to give the Americans points on their own serve. Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.), who started opposite of Dixon at middle blocker, tallied three kills and two blocks for five points.

Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.), who started the final two sets after being used in the double sub, the first two sets, sparked Team USA with her serve resulting in three aces. Rounding out the scoring were Cursty Jackson (Los Angeles) with two points and Krista Vansant (Redlands, Calif.) with an ace.

Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) tallied a team-leading nine digs from her libero position. Fawcett was credited with six digs from her opposite position. Hill handled 22 excellent receptions on 45 serve receive chances, while Robinson produced 11 excellent receptions on 25 chances.

Team USA converted 33.8 percent of its attacks with a .159 hitting efficiency (53-28-157) with Thompson and Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) sharing the setting roles. Kreklow collected 15 running sets on 60 set attempts and Thompson provided 14 running sets on 73 chances.

The U.S. had team advantages in kills (53-49) and aces (6-3), while Italy held a 14-13 edge in blocks. The American defense limited the Italians to a 30.8 kill percent and .107 hitting efficiency (49-32-159).

The Americans led the opening set 24-22, only to have Italy save two set points and come back to win 27-25. However, it would be the U.S. who would rally late in the next three sets. The American tailed 17-13 in the second set, but two Italian errors, a Dixon quick attack and Robinson kill helped put Team USA into the lead at 20-19.

Team USA trailed 18-14 in the third set, but Hill scored twice and Lowe added a kill in the double switch to rally the U.S. back to a 20-19 advantage. Fawcett returned to the court late in the third to pick up two key blocks in helping the U.S. finish the set off at 25-22. In the final set, the U.S. trailed 17-13, but went on a 6-2 run with two kills from Lowe off the bench to take a 20-19 advantage and went on to win the set and match.

Following the three matches in Turkey, Team USA travels to Kalingard, Russia, for the second weekend with matches against No. 7 Russia on July 10, No. 11 Turkey on July 11 and No. 8 Serbia on July 12. The U.S. concludes the preliminary round in Hong Kong with matches against No. 4 Japan on July 16, No. 12 Thailand on July 17 and versus No. 3 China on July 18.

Team USA has won the FIVB World Grand Prix five times in the previous 22 editions. However, Brazil has won the last two titles in 2013 and 2014 after the U.S. had won the previous three World Grand Prix titles. Overall, Brazil has won a record 10 World Grand Prix titles.

2015 U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB World Grand Prix Week 1
# - Name (Position, Ht, Hometown, College)
2 – Kayla Banwarth (L, 5-10, Dubuque, Iowa, University of Nebraska)
3 – Courtney Thompson (S, 5-8, Kent, Wash., University of Washington)
4 – Lauren Paolini (MB, 6-4, Ann Arbor, Mich., University of Texas)>
5 – Tama Miyashiro (L, 5-7, Kaneohe, Hawaii, University of Washington)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (MB, 6-2, St. Paul, Minn., University of Minnesota)
11 – Megan Easy (OH, 6-3, Durham, N.C., Penn State University)
14 – Nicole Fawcett (OPP, 6-4, Zanesfield, Ohio, Penn State University)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Portland, Ore., Pepperdine University)
18 – Molly Kreklow (S, 5-9, Delano, Minn., University of Missouri)
20 – Cursty Jackson (MB, 6-2, Los Angeles, Calif., University of Arizona)
21 – Tori Dixon (MB, 6-3, Burnsville, Minn., University of Minnesota)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Bartlett, Ill., University of Nebraska)
24 – Krista Vansant (OH, 6-2, Redlands, Calif., University of Washington)
25 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., UCLA)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Jamie Morrison and Tom Black
Technical Coordinator: Joe Trinsey
Team Manager: Rob Browning
Athletic Trainer: Jill Wosmek
0 Team Doctors: Dr. William Briner, Jr., and Lori Boyajian-O’Neill

2015 FIVB World Grand Prix Preliminary Round Schedule for Team USA

Pool C – Ankara, Turkey
July 3: USA def. Italy 25-27, 25-21, 25-22, 25-23
July 4: USA vs. Turkey, 9 a.m. PT
July 5: USA vs. Belgium, 6 a.m. PT

Pool F – Kalingrad, Russia
July 10: USA vs. Russia, 10:10 a.m. PT
July 11: USA vs. Turkey, 7:40 a.m. PT
July 12: USA vs. Serbia, 7:40 a.m. PT

Pool – Hong Kong
July 16: USA vs. Japan, 3:30 a.m.
July 17: USA vs. Thailand, 3:30 a.m.
July 18: USA vs. China, 4:30 a.m.

FIVB World Grand Prix Finals
July 22-26 at Omaha, Nebraska
Top 5 teams from preliminary round plus host USA