OKAYAMA, Japan (Sept. 1, 2015) – The top-ranked U.S. Women’s National Team won its sixth straight match of the FIVB World Cup by defeating NORCECA rival Cuba 25-15, 25-11, 25-15 Tuesday evening in Okayama, Japan, before moving on to Nagoya for three important final matches to decide the top two teams who earn 2016 Olympic Games berths.
Team USA, in first place of the FIVB World Cup leading a pack of one-loss teams, improved to 7-1 with 22 points in the round-robin tournament. After two off days, Team USA concludes the World Cup in Nagoya with pivotal matches against second-place Russia on Sept. 4, fifth-place Japan on Sept. 5 and sixth-place Dominican Republic on Sept. 6. The top two teams in the 12-team, round-robin World Cup earn berths into the 2016 Olympic Games.
“For the eight matches so far, I think our team – all 14 of our players and all our staff – have been doing nice work,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “We know what we need to do and we’re executing our job, so that is good. We have some very difficult matches coming up. Our focus going forward is how to score the next point a lot against Russia. We know it will be a challenging weekend of opponents. There are lots of teams that are close (in the standings), but we can’t worry about them. The only thing we can think about is how to play as hard as we can and how to play smart volleyball for one point and then another point against Russia.”
All but two of the 14 players on the U.S. roster played parts of at least two sets in the victory. Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.), selected the most impressive player of the match, charted a team-high 13 points with six kills on 11 attacks, a match-high five blocks and two aces. Kim Hill (Portland, Ore.) scored a nine points via six kills on 10 attacks, two aces and a block in starting the first two sets. Jordan Larson-Burbach (Hooper, Neb.) tallied eight points on seven kills via 14 swings and a block in the first two sets.
“I think we played really well together,” Dixon said. “Cuba’s a really good team, so it’s hard to play against them. We had to adjust a lot of things along the way, but I think we played really well together. I think our coaches do a really good job of scouting teams ahead of time and we did a good job in practice of tidying up the block and I think our hard work showed today.”
Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) turned in seven points with six kills on nine errorless swings and a block in starting just the last set and subbing the first two sets. Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) totaled five kills on eight swings and a block. Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.) collected five points coming on kills on six errorless attacks in the first two sets.
Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) tacked on four points with two kills on three swings and two blocks. Megan Easy (Boston, Mass.) pocketed three kills on four errorless attacks with one set start. Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.) rounded out the scoring with two kills.
Team USA converted 58.3 percent of its attacks into points with a .500 hitting efficiency as Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) delivered 14 running sets on 35 chances and Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) added seven running sets on 26 chances.
Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) was credited with six excellent receptions on 10 chances to go with a team-high eight digs. Hill added eight digs and four excellent receptions on errorless chances. Larson-Burbach produced five excellent receptions on six chances and four digs.
The U.S. held a 42-27 advantage in kills and 11-4 margin in blocks. Both teams served four aces. Team USA held its miscues to six for the match while Cuba committed 18 errors.
“We had some goals today that were important for us in terms of our work at the service line and our block and defense coordination,” Kiraly said. “After a bit of a slow start, I liked how aggressive we were able to play against a team, Cuba, that we have great respect for and a program with a long history of success and a team that we know could be stronger, but they have a very important player injured. She might play later this tournament, but that made things a little easier for us today.”
Glass said Team USA is excited to face their final three opponents.
“Every one of those matches is going to be one that we will have to bring our A-game,” Glass said. “I think we are excited for them. That is what World Cup is all about – play good teams and good competition and hopefully we will come out with some wins.”
The final round begins with a familiar foe from July as Team USA defeated Russia during the FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round in Russia and in the Final Round in Omaha. The Americans won the World Grand Prix title and Russia finished second.
“(Russia) wants to win this tournament,” Glass said. “They are a good team and they brought one player that they did not have at World Grand Prix.”
With that familiarity, Glass sees a USA-Russia being a battle from the start.
“Absolutely, it gives you more information,” Glass said. “But they have seen us and they have the same advantage in knowing what we will do. I think it will be a close match, and it will go back-and-forth. I am excited for it.”
In the USA-Cuba match, the first set lead changed hands four times by the first technical timeout as Cuba held an 8-7 lead. Cuba picked up the first two-point cushion at 9-7. Team USA stopped Cuba’s 3-0 run by leveling the score at 9-all, then scored its fourth straight point with a Lowe slam to produce a 10-9 American lead. The U.S. went up by three at 12-9 following a Cuba attack error and a Dixon block for five unanswered American points. Out of a Cuba timeout, Dixon blocked another attack and Cuba hit wide for a 7-0 American run at 14-9. Dixon turned in her third block of the set and Hill served an ace to extend the American lead to 18-11. Akinradewo pounded consecutive quick attacks late and Cuba hit long to give Team USA a 25-16 victory.
Hill served an ace and Larson-Burbach followed with an attack winner to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead early in the second set. Dixon slammed a kill and went back for an ace to lift the Americans in front 4-1. Lowe scored back-to-back kills to extend the American lead to 6-2. Larson-Burbach and Hill connected for consecutive kills to yield an 8-3 American lead at the first technical timeout. Out of the break Akinradewo saved a busted play with a quick snap that Cuba was not expecting to push the U.S. in front 9-3. Akinradewo and Hill fired back-to-back kills to inch the advantage to 11-4. Team USA continued the pressure reaching a double-digit lead at 17-7 with a Lowe block. Team USA rolled through to the end for a 25-11 victory.
After Cuba led 3-2 in the third set, Team USA pushed out in front 6-3 with four unanswered points. Cuba came back to within one at 7-6, but Fawcett scored consecutive kills to give the Americans a 9-6 lead. Team USA went in front 14-10 on a Cuba attack error. Cuba called timeout trailing 20-15. A Robinson kill and three consecutive Cuba errors push the U.S. lead to 24-15. Gibbemeyer ended the set with a block at 25-15.
All Team USA contests at the World Cup, can be watched live online at universalsports.com/Olympics as well as on a tape-delay basis on its Universal Sports television.
FIVB World Cup Standings and Remaining Matches - Detailed Standings
1 - USA (7-1, 22 points) – 9/4 vs. Russia; 9/5 vs. Japan; 9/6 vs. Dominican Republic
2 - Russia (7-1, 21 points) – 9/4 vs. USA; 9/5 vs. China; 9/6 vs. Algeria
3 - China (7-1, 21 points) – 9/4 vs. Dominican Republic; 9/5 vs. Russia; 9/6 vs. Japan
4 - Serbia (7-1, 18 points) – 9/4 vs. Cuba; 9/5 vs. Kenya; 9/6 vs. Argentina
5 - Japan (6-2, 19 points) – 9/4 vs. Algeria; 9/5 vs. USA; 9/6 vs. China
6 - Dominican Republic (4-4, 13 points) – 9/4 vs. China; 9/5 vs. Algeria; 9/6 vs. USA
7 - Argentina (3-5, 9 points) – 9/4 vs. Peru; 9/5 vs. Korea; 9/6 vs. Serbia
8 - Korea (3-5, 9 points) – 9/4 vs. Kenya; 9/5 vs. Argentina; 9/6 vs. Cuba
9 - Cuba (2-6, 6 points) – 9/4 vs. Serbia; 9/5 vs. Peru; 9/6 vs. Korea
10 - Kenya (1-7, 3 points) – 9/4 vs. Korea; 9/5 vs. Serbia; 9/6 vs. Peru
11 - Peru (1-7, 3 points) – 9/4 vs. Argentina; 9/5 vs. Cuba; 9/6 vs. Kenya
12 - Algeria (0-8, 0 points) – 9/4 vs. Japan; 9/5 vs. Dominican Republic; 9/6 vs. Russia
U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team Roster for FIVB World Cup
# - Name (Position, Ht, Hometown, College)
1 – Alisha Glass (S, 6-0, Leland, Mich., Penn State University)
2 – Kayla Banwarth (L, 5-10, Dubuque, Iowa, University of Nebraska)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (MB, 6-2, St. Paul, Minn., University of Minnesota)
10 – Jordan Larson-Burbach (OH, 6-2, Hooper, Neb., University of Nebraska)
11 – Megan Easy (OH, 6-3, Boston, Mass., Penn State University)
13 – Christa Dietzen (MB, 6-2, Hopewell Township, Pa., Penn State University)
14 – Nicole Fawcett (OPP, 6-4, Zanesfield, Ohio, Penn State University)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Portland, Ore., Pepperdine University)
16 – Foluke Akinradewo (MB, 6-3, Plantation, Fla., Stanford University)
17 – Natalie Hagglund (L, 5-9, Encinitas, Calif., University of Southern California)
18 – Molly Kreklow (S, 5-9, Delano, Minn., University of Missouri)
21 – Tori Dixon (MB, 6-3, Burnsville, Minn., University of Minnesota)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Bartlett, Ill., University of Nebraska)
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: Denise Sheldon
Athletic Trainer: Jill Wosmek
Team Doctors: Dr. William Briner, Jr. and Dr. Andrew Gregory
Consultant Coaches: Marv Dunphy and David Hunt
2015 FIVB World Cup Schedule (Local Time/ET Time – Television Time on Universal)
Aug. 22: USA def. Korea 25-15, 25-22, 25-15
Aug. 23: Serbia def. USA 25-20, 22-25, 18-25, 25-19, 15-6
Aug. 24: USA def. China 25-23, 25-17, 25-23
Aug. 26: USA def. Peru 25-17, 25-15, 25-12
Aug. 27: USA def. Algeria 25-7, 25-2, 25-5
Aug. 30: USA def. Kenya 25-15, 25-16, 25-13
Aug. 31: USA def. Argentina 25-16, 25-19, 25-14
Sept. 1: USA def. Cuba 25-15, 25-11, 25-15
Sept. 4: USA vs. Russia (3:10 p.m./2:10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.) (at Nagoya)
Sept. 5: USA vs. Japan (7:20 p.m./6:20 a.m. – 6 p.m.) (at Nagoya)
Sept. 6: USA vs. Dominican Republic (3:10 p.m./2:10 a.m. – 2 p.m.) (at Nagoya)