U.S. Women Sweep Russia to Stay Undefeated

By Bill Kauffman | July 10, 2015, 4 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 10, 2015) – Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.) and Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) each scored a team-high 12 points in leading the U.S. Women’s National Team to a 25-22, 25-20, 25-19 victory over Russia in FIVB World Grand Prix action Friday evening in Kalingrad, Russia.

Team USA (4-0, 12 points), ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB, returns to the court on Saturday for a rematch with No. 11 Turkey. The U.S. defeated Turkey 3-1 on July 4 in Ankara, Turkey. Team USA, one of three undefeated teams along with China and Brazil, concludes the weekend in Russia with a July 12 contest against No. 8 Serbia. Russia, ranked No. 7 in the world, falls to 2-2 overall.

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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Dixon, who becomes the fourth different leading scorer for the U.S. in four World Grand Prix matches in 2015, scored her dozen points with nine kills on 16 attempts and three blocks. Lowe, starting at opposite, matched her total with nine kills on 19 swings, two blocks and an ace. Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) charted nine points with six kills on eight swings and three blocks. Team USA’s starting middle blockers of Dixon and Gibbemeyer, both of whom played at the University of Minnesota, combined for 21 points hitting 15 of 24 for the match.

"I have been a serving sub before against Russia, but I had never been front court against them,” Dixon said of her past experience playing versus Russia. “This was my first time really going up against them. They are a pretty big team, so it was pretty cool actually to play against them and battle."

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Outside hitter Krista Vansant (Redlands, Calilf.) tallied eight points with seven kills on 21 swings and a block in her second FIVB start. Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.) contributed six points with four kills and two blocks. Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio), who came in as the opposite in the double switch along with setter Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.), produced six kills on 10 swings while being a sub in all three sets.

“I thought our young team did a really good job handling that and battling hard,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said of his squad playing in front of 5,720 fans against the host country. “We were so young that our floor captain was in only her second year – Kelsey Robinson. We just have a lot of young people out there tonight and they held up really well. It was fun watching them generally work the plan that we had, and adjust to people we had not seen much. We made some nice adjustments. We got ourselves into good spots on the block and on defense. We sure were driving our serves hard.”

The U.S. trailed 13-10 in the opening set, but came back to tie the score at 13-all and took the lead back on a Robinson block at 16-15. Team USA broke an 18-all tie with a 6-1 scoring run and went on to win 25-22. Russia opened the second set with a 4-0 lead, only to have the USA take the lead at 10-7 with five quick Gibbemeyer points. The Americans expanded their lead to 18-12 on a 4-0 run and went on to win set two 25-20. Team USA middle blockers Dixon and Gibbemeyer score combined 13 points in the set. After falling behind 6-3 in the third set, the U.S. promptly came back with four unanswered points to take a 7-6 advantage. The Americans opened up a four-point cushion at 17-13 and cruised into a 25-20 victory.

“We are really excited as we played consistent,” Robinson said after the victory. “We followed the game plan. That is a huge deal coming into a home crowd with tons of noise and lots of people into the game. Russia is a big power. I think we did a great job following the game plan and being really consistent on our side, not getting really too high or too low and being really steady. It is always fun coming into a home court and take it away.

Setter Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.), who had one ace in the victory, set Team USA to a 40.6 kill percent and .267 hitting efficiency (41-14-101). She is now 4-0 as the starting setter in her first-ever FIVB World Grand Prix. Libero Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) and Robinson were each credited with two digs in the official FIVB statistics.

“It was really loud, especially because they can use the noise makers,” Banwarth said. “It kind of got pretty crazy. It was hard to even talk to the person next to you. I love that kind of crowd, especially coming into somebody else’s country and sweeping them. It is huge. Just awesome.”

Kiraly started five players who are in their first or second years with the U.S. Women's National Team. Vansant and Lowe are in their first years, while Robinson, Kreklow and Dixon are in their second years. Gibbemeyer and Banwarth joined the team in 2011.

The Americans held advantages in kills (41-28) and blocks (11-3), while both teams were credited with two aces. Team USA limited Russia to a 28.0 kill percent and .060 hitting efficiency (28-22-100). The Americans gave Russia 28 points via errors.

Russia was led by Nataliya Goncharova’s match-high 14 points, all on kills. Kseniia Ilchenko followed with seven points.

After its three weekend matches in Russia, 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 and 2
# - 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
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 def. Belgium 25-19, 25-20, 25-18

Pool F – Kalingrad, Russia
July 10: USA def. Russia 25-22, 25-20, 25-19
July 11: USA vs. Turkey, 7:40 a.m. PT
July 12: USA vs. Serbia, 7:40 a.m. PT

Pool H – 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

July 22: USA vs. TBA, 6 p.m. PT
July 23: USA vs. TBA, 6 p.m. PT
July 24: USA vs. TBA, 6 p.m. PT
July 25: USA vs. TBA, 6 p.m. PT
July 26: USA vs. TBA, 10 a.m. PT

FIVB World Grand Prix Group 1 Standings Through Weekend 1
1 - China (4-0, 12 points) – remaining matches: ITA, JPN, THA, JPN, USA
2 - Brazil (4-0, 12 points) – remaining matches: THA, GER, RUS, BEL, ITA
3 - USA (4-0, 12 points) – remaining matches: TUR, SRB, JPN, THA, CHN
4 - Italy (3-1, 8 points) – remaining matches: CHN, DOM, BEL, RUS, BRA
5 - Japan (2-2, 7 points) – remaining matches: DOM, CHN, USA, CHN, THA
6 - Russia (2-2, 6 points) – remaining matches: SRB, TUR, BRA, ITA, BEL
7 - Thailand (2-2, 5 points) – remaining matches: BRA, BEL, CHN, USA, JPN
8 - Serbia (1-3, 4 point) – remaining matches: RUS, USA, TUR, DOM, GER
9 - Germany (1-2, 3 points) – remaining matches: BEL, BRA, DOM, TUR, SRB
10 - Belgium (1-3, 3 points) – remaining matches: GER, THA, ITA, BRA, RUS
11 - Turkey (0-4, 0 points) – remaining matches: USA, RUS, SRB, GER, DOM
12 - Dominican Republic (0-4, 0 points) – remaining matches: JPN, ITA, GER, SRB, TUR