U.S. Women Defeat Turkey, Now 5-0 in WGP

By Bill Kauffman | July 11, 2015, 1:17 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 11, 2015) – Kim Hill (Portland, Ore.) notched a team-high 21 points as the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Turkey 25-12, 25-19, 22-25, 25-21 in FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round action Saturday in Kaliningrad, Russia.

Team USA (5-0, 15 points), ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB, concludes its preliminary round weekend in Russia on Sunday against No. 8 Serbia at 7:40 a.m. PT. The Americans are one of three undefeated teams remaining in the tournament, along with China and Brazil. Turkey (0-5, 0 points) remains winless in five World Grand Prix matches.

“Before the game, we talked about this Turkish team,” U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “They don’t have every single one of their top players. But I admire how they play hard. They came at us hard. I am really glad that they did. They made us work for us, as they did with Serbia yesterday. We had to scratch and fight. We were often rough tonight, but good teams have to figure out ways to score more points than the other and win the next point more often even when things are rough and not quite smooth. In that sense, we accomplished something tonight. However, there are a lot of other things that we can and must get better at though.”

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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.

Kiraly used his fifth different starting lineup in as many World Grand Prix matches in 2015, and the final results remained the same. In today’s contest, Team USA started Hill and Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.) at outside hitter, Cursty Jackson (Los Angeles) and Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) at middle blocker, Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) at opposite, Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) at setter and Tama Miyashiro (Kaneohe, Hawaii) at libero. Thompson and Miyashiro were getting their first starts of the 2015 World Grand Prix. Further, Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.) started at middle blocker and Megan Easy (Durham, N.C.) at outside hitter in the third set after being subs in the second set.

Hill, now the fifth different leading scorer for the U.S. in five World Grand Prix matches in 2015, tallied 16 kills on 42 attacks and five of the team’s 10 aces. Fawcett picked up 10 kills on 25 swings and three blocks for 13 points. Easy totaled eight kills on 13 swings, two blocks and an ace coming off the bench in the second set. Jackson scored 10 points with six kills on 18 attacks, three blocks and an ace.

“We these kind of matches, you can’t have any expectations to win or that it is going to be easy,” Hill said. “We faced it like we would any other match where there is new personnel who will do good things. We just have to focus on who is out there and their tendencies and try shut those things down. We did a decent job tonight, but we could have done better. We took care of business, and that is the important thing.”

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Robinson contributed five points with four kills and a block in starting just the first two sets. Paolini collected three kills and a block for four points in the final two sets. Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) added three kills as a sub in the final two sets. Gibbemeyer chipped in two kills and a block for three points in playing just the first two sets. Thompson tallied an ace and kill from her setter spot. Rounding out the scoring was Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) and Krista Vansant (Redlands, Calif.) with an ace each as subs in two sets.

Miyashiro and Thompson were credited with four digs apiece in the victory.

The Americans held advantages in kills (53-41), aces (10-2) and blocks (11-9). Team USA converted 39.8 percent of its attacks into points with a .301 hitting efficiency (53-13-133) as Thompson was credited with 12 running sets on 98 total set attempts. The Americans held Turkey to a 30.8 kill percent and .143 hitting efficiency (41-22-133).

“Turkey has some good hitters off the bench and they did some good things, mixed up some shots and took some good swings," Hill said. "We adjusted fairly well, and I think we will get better at that. Turkey is a good team all the way through, and I am glad we took care of it.”

In the opening set, the U.S. came back from an early 6-4 deficit with a 12-2 run to establish a 16-8 advantage and cruised to the 25-12 victory. The U.S. held advantages of 4-0 in blocks and 3-0 in aces in the first set. After Turkey battled back from an 8-4 deficit in the second set to close to 11-10, Team USA rattled off four straight on Hill’s serve to take a 15-10 lead and closed the set at 25-19.

Turkey rolled out to early leads of 8-2 and 12-5 in the third set. After trailing 15-8, Team USA battled back with five unanswered on Easy’s serve to close to 15-13 but could not overcome the early deficit in falling 25-22. Turkey built an 11-6 lead in the fourth set, but the Americans charged back to knot the score at 12-all. The U.S. took the lead back at 18-17 after a Robinson ace and Paolini block.

“I think we could have responded better,” Jackson said. “They started serving better, mixing up the depth a little. We just could have been a little more aggressive throughout the match. We started very energetic, front-loading every play. Once they starting to push back, I don’t know if it was a surprise or what. I think we could have responded better with that.”

Turkey’s Polen Uslupehlivan scored a match high 24 points as no other teammate reached more than nine points in the loss.

“(Uslupehlivan) was really consistent and was their big point scorer,” Jackson said. “I think it came to a point in the fourth set where we just decided that she could not get any more points. She played a very good game, and she was the rock for her team tonight.”

Turkey’s Polen Uslupehlivan scored a match high 24 points as no other teammate reached more than nine points in the loss.

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 def. Turkey 25-12, 25-19, 22-25, 25-21
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 July 11
1 - China (5-0, 15 points) – remaining matches: JPN, THA, JPN, USA
2 - Brazil (5-0, 15 points) – remaining matches: GER, RUS, BEL, ITA
3 - USA (5-0, 15 points) – remaining matches: SRB, JPN, THA, CHN
4 - Japan (3-2, 10 points) – remaining matches: CHN, USA, CHN, THA
5 - Italy (3-2, 8 points) – remaining matches: DOM, BEL, RUS, BRA
6 - Russia (3-2, 8 points) – remaining matches: TUR, BRA, ITA, BEL
7 - Germany (2-3, 6 points) – remaining matches: BRA, DOM, TUR, SRB
8 - Thailand (2-3, 5 points) – remaining matches: BEL, CHN, USA, JPN
9 - Serbia (1-4, 5 point) – remaining matches: USA, TUR, DOM, GER
10 - Belgium (1-4, 3 points) – remaining matches: THA, ITA, BRA, RUS
11 - Turkey (0-5, 0 points) – remaining matches: RUS, SRB, GER, DOM
12 - Dominican Republic (0-5, 0 points) – remaining matches: ITA, GER, SRB, TUR