Lowe on Fire as Team USA Defeats Turkey

By Bill Kauffman | July 04, 2015, 2:43 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 4, 2015) – Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) created her own fireworks on the United States’ Independence Day with 23 points in leading the U.S. Women’s National Team to a 25-20, 17-25, 25-16, 25-21 victory over host Turkey in the second match of the FIVB World Grand Prix in Ankara, Turkey.

Team USA (2-0, 6 points), ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB, concludes the first preliminary round weekend against No. 13 Belgium (1-1, 3 points) on July 5 at 6 a.m. PT. The match can be viewed online on Universal Sports.

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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Lowe, getting her second straight start at opposite to begin the World Grand Prix, led the Americans with 22 kills on 34 attacks and an ace for 23 points. Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.) tallied 12 kills on 27 swings and a block for 13 points. Megan Easy (Durham, N.C.), seeing her first action in FIVB competition since 2012 after getting married in 2013 and having her first child in 2014, contributed 11 points via 10 kills and a block.

“We came together as a team,” Lowe said. “I think we just played point for point. They got a couple runs and had a game where they really beat us down. We were able to bounce back. Turkey is a good team. They were able to respond. They brought some fire using the crowd’s energy. We couldn’t just cruise on by – they gave us a good fight.”

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In the opening set the U.S. broke open a 5-all tie with five consecutive points to take a 10-5 advantage and extended the gap to 23-17. Although Turkey scored three straight, it could not recover fully in a 25-20 first set. Turkey bolted to a 7-1 advantage in the second set and reached the second technical timeout leading 16-8 with a service game that rattled the Americans. Turkey closed out the set with a 25-17 victory.

The U.S. reversed the momentum in the third set. The Americans used a 4-0 run to build a 13-8 advantage and dominated the late stages of the set for a 25-16 win. In the fourth set, Team USA inched its way to a 16-12 advantage at the second technical timeout only to have Turkey close to one with three straight points out of the break. However, the Americans answered with an ace after a Turkish error to go up 18-15 and went on to win 25-21.

The U.S. middle blockers, both from Minnesota who played collegiately at the University of Minnesota, combined for a 60 kill percent in the match. Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) chalked up seven kills on 13 attempts and three blocks for 10 points, while Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.) scored on eight of 12 attacks to go with a block for nine points.

“We came out in front of an enthusiastic home crowd and got the win,” Gibbemeyer said. “Even after a rough second set we came back well and were able to play our game. We came in against a good Italian team (on Friday) and didn't communicate as well as we should have. We learned from that and did a much better job communicating tonight.”

Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) was credited with 16 running sets on 76 total set attempts in leading the Americans to a 52.5 kill percent and .393 hitting efficiency. Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) turned in 11 digs and seven excellent receptions on 11 chances from her libero position.

Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio), who was a double-sub along with Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) in all three sets, charted six points with five kills on nine attacks and a block in her reserve role. Thompson rounded out the scoring with an ace on nine serves in four back-row rotations. She added five running sets on 19 chances.

“It's been a nice July 4 first of all,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “Our team has a wonderful spirit about it. Everybody dressed up for practice in the loudest, boldest, proudest red white and blue that we could put together which was really fun, and then finished it out with a good match. I love it that Turkey came back and took us apart in the second set. They really served us well and put us in some serious reception stress and so we had to work through that and I think our passers did a nice job, especially Kayla Banwarth, to get us back on track and playing well.”

The U.S. held a 64-52 margin in kills to offset Turkey’s advantages in blocks (10-7) and aces (5-2). Team USA limited Turkey to a 46.9 kill percent and .333 hitting efficiency.

Turkey’s Neriman Ozsoy led her team with a match-high 25 points and Polen Uslupehlivan added 14 points in the loss.

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 def. Turkey 25-20, 17-25, 25-16, 25-21
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