Bronze Bombers: U.S. Women Finish 3rd in Rio

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | Aug. 20, 2016, 3:54 p.m. (ET)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Aug. 20, 2016) – The U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team defeated Netherlands 25-23, 25-27, 25-22, 25-19 to capture the bronze medal Saturday in Rio de Janeiro and ended the Olympics with a victory following a bitter semifinal loss two days earlier.

Team USA, who were among the favorites to rise to the top podium spot in 2016, had been on the doorstep of gold with silver-medal finishes in the last two Olympic Games and in 1984. While the goal for the 2016 Olympic Games was to make history and earn the country’s first women’s indoor volleyball gold medal, Team USA refocused within 48 hours of its heartbreaking loss to Serbia in the semifinal to claim its second Olympic bronze medal and fifth total Olympic medal (silver in 1984, 2008, 2012 and bronze in 1992).

Related: USA Volleyball Olympics Microsite | Watch Replay Online | Press Kit

"Our team dealt with some real pain and heartache, heartbreak, a couple of days ago," U.S. Olympic Women’s Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. "I'm incredibly proud of how within hours they were preparing, carrying that heartbreak, but preparing to be good and to finish strong. I also never had any understanding of how good a bronze medal could feel, and it feels incredible right now. We're so happy to finish this tournament on this note."

Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) led a quartet of Americans in double-figure scoring with 19 points via 13 kills on 34 attacks, four aces and two blocks.

Stats: Unofficial DataVolley Stats | Official statistics

“We started (the match) trying to be ourselves and be ‘our good,’” Hill said. “More fire comes throughout the match when it becomes more of a battle. I think we were OK. We were down a lot. The second set was a little bit of a heartbreaker to lose that. We were down a bit in the third, obviously. We have this fighter attitude that no one can get us down. I was so proud of how we battled back. Just one point at a time; that’s what we kept saying, ‘just one point at a time.’”

Middle Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida), who was hurt early in the semifinal match and did not return, was back on the court against Netherlands where she provided 16 points with 13 kills on 17 errorless swings, two blocks and an ace.

“I think it was just regrouping and getting some good therapy,” Akinradewo said on her return to the court after the injury against Serbia in the semifinals. “I was able to get into practice yesterday and felt pretty good. I knew that I really, really wanted to be able to battle with this group one last time. It is such a special group of women. I knew I wanted to do everything in my power to come back and fight with them and fight for them.”

Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) chipped in 15 points with 13 kills on 29 swings and two blocks. Middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) contributed 15 points through eight kills, a team-best five blocks and two aces.

“It was hard, but I am so proud of this group for regrouping and fighting together,” Larson said. “We had and emotional start in the locker room as it is our last match together. We all went around in a circle and said what we are fighting for. A lot of people gave their heart and soul, not just the 12 players here – but 30-plus who train with us. That is who we were fighting for – for all those who have given their time and effort. I am just real proud to be a part of this program,” Larson said between sobs. “It has been a long ways. I am just real happy because there a lot of good people who deserve it.”

Team USA ended the 2016 Olympics with a 7-1 record. The Americans are now 19-3 in their last 22 Olympic Games matches dating back to Aug. 13, 2008.

“I never had any understanding of how a bronze medal could feel and it feels incredible right now. We are so happy to finish this tournament on this note. Now sending out good thoughts to our men’s team who will be battling for a bronze tomorrow.”

Team USA overcame a slow start in the opening set as Netherlands took a 5-2 lead, but the Americans surged to a 15-10 advantage on a 13-5 run. However, Netherlands charged back to level the score at 18-all and regained the lead at 21-20. Team USA answered with a 3-0 run to take a 23-20 lead and went on to win 25-23. In the second set, Team USA trailed 8-7 before using a 10-5 run to establish a 17-13 advantage. Netherlands came back to tie the set at 22-all, then saved two set points to win 27-25 on an ace.

The Americans, using a stellar defense and several pancake digs, came back from a 19-16 deficit in the third set to tie it at 19-all and grabbed a two-point cushion at 23-21 on an ace. Hill finished the set with an ace at 25-22. Team USA charged out to a 14-8 lead in the fourth set and never allowed Netherlands back into the set winning 25-19, capped with Hill’s fourth ace on match point.

“I think we knew that no matter what medal we come home with, or if there’s no medal, it doesn’t define who we are as individuals, who we are as women and what we bring to the program,” Akinradewo said. “We wanted to fight, regardless. I think we have always been able to respond well when we have defeats and when things don’t necessarily go our way. I think we knew it was in our hands to turn things around and fight the way we’ve been fighting the whole tournament.”

Hill said the team was able to overcome the disappointment from the semifinal loss and regroup for one final time in 2016.

“There have been a lot of tears the past couple days and not just tears of sadness,” Hill said. “(There were) tears of gratitude and joy at this experience this past for years and in this tournament and being with this group of people, this special group. It’s been such an amazing ride and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

USA was 3-0 against Netherlands in 2016 heading into the bronze-medal match, including a five-set comeback during pool play on Aug. 8.

Kiraly gave a shout-out to USA beach legend Kerri Walsh Jennings, who finished the tournament with a bronze medal with partner April Ross after winning gold in the previous three Olympic Games. “Part of her message was just how that fight that she went through, the challenge of having your heart ripped out in the semifinal and coming back to fight the way she did,” Kiraly said. “There is nothing she is more proud of than the medal won a few days ago, and it was real inspiration. So our team dealt some real pain and heartbreak a couple days ago. I am so incredibly proud how they, within hours were preparing, carrying that heartache to be good and finish strong. Whatever the result today, we just needed to battle hard and battle together and we did both of those things.”

Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) pocketed seven points in starting the first three sets, while Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California) started the final set in her place to record four kills and an ace. Setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan) rounded out the scoring with two points – a block and ace.

“We talked a lot about that it is okay to be hurt, we are disappointed by not getting exactly what we set out for,” Glass said. “But we are flexible and we can make a new plan and make a new goal. It was to come out here to fight until the end and get ourselves a medal, and we absolutely did that.”

Team USA converted 46.7 percent of its attacks into points with a .367 hitting efficiency (56-12-120) as Glass was credited with 45 running sets on 92 total set attempts. The American defense held Netherlands to a .304 hitting efficiency (57-19-125).

Glass said it was great to see Akinradewo back on the court and firing on all cylinders following her injury on Thursday. “I am really proud of the fight (Foluke) showed out there tonight,” Glass said. “It wasn’t easy to not be a part of the losing and not being a part of that journey. It was important for her to come back, and she came back strong like nothing ever happen. I am so glad she was able to be back out there for this last match.”

Libero Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) tallied five digs and a team-best nine excellent receptions on 27 chances. Hill added seven excellent receptions on 28 chances and four digs. Larson contributed nine excellent receptions on 14 errorless chances and four digs.

“Rebounding from the semifinal loss has been one of the hardest things we have had to do as a group. So this bronze is incredibly important to us as we came together, picked each other and were able to fight and battle tonight and come out on top to get the bronze is special.”

The Americans led the Dutch in blocks (13-6) and aces (10-6) to offset Netherlands slim 57-56 edge in kills. Both teams kept errors to a minimum with the U.S. having 22 and Netherlands 21.

Team USA advanced to the quarterfinals as Pool B’s top seed after finishing the preliminary round with a 5-0 record for the second consecutive Olympic Games. The Americans defeated Japan 25-16, 25-23, 25-22 in the quarterfinal before dropping a heartbreaking 20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 16-25, 15-13 match to Serbia in the semifinals.

Team USA has never won Olympic gold in women’s indoor volleyball despite being on the cusp on several occasions. The U.S. finished with the silver in each of the last two Olympics in 2008 and 2012, falling to Brazil both times in the gold-medal match. The Americans also earned silver at the 1984 Olympic Games, followed by bronze in 1992. In fact, Team USA has garnered only one gold medal in any of the three major volleyball tournaments (Olympics, FIVB World Championship and FIVB World Cup), and that was only two years ago when the Americans broke through and earned the 2014 FIVB World Championship title in Italy.

Netherlands took a 5-2 lead early in the opening set with two aces. Team USA chipped two points off the gap with a Hill block and Adams kill at 5-4. Hill knotted the set at 6-all with a kill and ace on back-to-back plays, then Netherlands hit wide yielding an American 7-6 advantage and the third lead change of the set. Adams served an ace that trickled off the net and Larson followed with a cross-court winner at 10-7. Larson connected for back-to-back kills to raise Team USA’s margin to 12-8. Team USA upped the lead to 15-10 with a Hill kill and Adams block. Netherlands recovered with two straight points to close to 15-12. Netherlands continued to claw back with a 5-1 run to tie the set at 18-all. Netherlands went in front 21-20 taking an overpass for a kill, prompting a USA timeout. Team USA went back in front 22-21 with kills from Murphy and Hill. Out of a Netherlands timeout, Hill slammed a kill at 23-21 as Akinradewo’s serve took the Dutch out of system. Hill ended the set with a kill at 25-23.

Team USA grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second set with a Murphy kill after a Netherlands attack error. Netherlands leveled the score at 5-all with consecutive points. Akinradewo answered with a kill on a slide and went back to serve an ace to put the USA up 7-5, but Netherlands answered with their own ace between two kills to give the Dutch an 8-7 advantage. Larson hammered a kill, Adams put down an overpass and Glass served an ace to switch the lead back to the U.S. at 10-8. Team USA increased its lead to 13-10 with an Akinradewo block after a Netherlands error. But Netherlands closed back to within one at 13-12 on an ace. The Americans quickly responded with kills from Murphy and Akinradewo to establish a 15-12 edge. Hill served an ace after an Akinradewo kill to force Netherlands into a timeout trailing 17-13. Netherlands trimmed the gap to one at 19-18 with a 3-0 scoring run. Netherlands squared the set at 22-all leading to a second USA timeout. Larson gave the U.S. the first set point of the second set with a kill at 24-23. Netherlands saved two set points and went in front 26-25 and won on an ace at 27-25.

With Netherlands leading 3-2 in the third set, the U.S. went in front 4-3 with an ace by Murphy after a Netherlands error. The advantage increased to 5-3 with a Glass block and Hill kill. Netherlands came back to level the score at 6-all and went back in front at 9-8. Larson answered with consecutive kills to switch the lead back to the USA at 10-9. However, Netherlands served an ace to reverse the score to Netherlands side at 11-10. Netherlands extended its lead to 15-12 following USA attack error with a 3-0 run. Team USA stopped the run with a Netherlands error and Larson block to cut the gap to 15-14. However, Netherlands answered with consecutive points to regain the three-point cushion at 17-14. The Americans crept to one at 19-18 with a Larson kill and Hill block leading into a Netherlands timeout. Out of the timeout, Lowe ended a long rally with several American pancakes with a kill to tie the score at 19-all. Team USA took the lead back at 21-20 with consecutive Netherlands errors. Lowe served an ace lifting the Americans to a 23-21 advantage. Hill served an ace on the set winner at 25-22.

The U.S. earned the first two-point cushion of the fourth set with an Akinradewo kill and Netherlands error at 5-3. Team USA increased its margin to 8-4 with an Akinradewo kill and two Adams blocks. Netherlands chipped two points off the gap at 8-6. However, Team USA responded with a Larson kill and Adams block to return to a four-point edge at 10-6. Adams served an ace between two Lowe kills to push Team USA’s lead to 14-8. Netherlands sliced three points off the deficit to 15-12 on a 4-1 scoring run. The U.S. went back up by five at 17-12 with consecutive Akinradewo kills. Netherlands whittled the American lead to 20-17 with a block. Team USA reached match points at 24-19 on a block by Akinradewo and the Americans finished the set 25-19 on a Hill ace.

U.S. Starters vs Netherlands
Outside hitters: Jordan Larson and Kim Hill
Middles: Foluke Akinradewo and Rachael Adams
Opposite: Kelly Murphy
Setter: Alisha Glass
Libero: Kayla Banwarth

U.S. Statistics vs Netherlands
Kills: Foluke Akinradewo 13, Kim Hill 13, Joran Larson 13, Rachael Adams 8, Kelly Murphy 5, Karsta Lowe 4
Blocks: Adams 5, Akinradewo 2, Larson 2, Hill 2, Murphy 1, Alisha Glass 1
Aces: Hill 4, Adams 2, Akinradewo 1, Glass 1, Murphy 1, Karsta Lowe 1
Digs: Kayla Banwarth 5, Larson 4, Hill 4, Glass 3, Murphy 1, Kelsey Robinson 1, Lowe 1, Carli Lloyd 1

2016 U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team
# - Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1 – Alisha Glass (S, 6-0, Leland, Michigan, Penn State University)
2 – Kayla Banwarth (L, 5-10, Dubuque, Iowa, University of Nebraska)
3 – Courtney Thompson (S, 5-8, Kent, Washington, University of Washington)
5 – Rachael Adams (M, 6-2, Cincinnati, Ohio, University of Texas)
6 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, Bonsall, California, University of California-Berkeley)
10 – Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Hooper, Nebraska, University of Nebraska)
12 – Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, Wilmington, Illinois, University of Florida)
13 – Christa Dietzen (M, 6-2, Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania, Penn State University)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Portland, Oregon, Pepperdine University)
16 – Foluke Akinradewo (M, 6-3, Plantation, Florida, Stanford University)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Bartlett, Illinois, University of Nebraska
25 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, Rancho Santa Fe, California, UCLA)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Jamie Morrison, Tom Black, David Hunt
Technical Coordinator: Joe Trinsey
Scout Coaches: Marv Dunphy, JJ Van Niel
Therapist/Trainer: Jill Wosmek
Elite Performance Psychologist: Dr. Michael Gervais
Doctor: Dr. Andrew Gregory
Strength Coach: James Stitz
Team Manager: Denise Sheldon
Team Journalist: Bill Kauffman

2016 Olympic Games Women’s Indoor Volleyball Pools
Pool A: Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, Japan, Korea, Russia
Pool B: China, Italy, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Serbia, USA

2016 Olympic Games Women’s Indoor Volleyball Pool Schedule (Times Listed as ET)

Aug. 6
Korea def. Japan 19-25, 25-15, 25-17, 25-21
Netherlands def. China 25-23, 21-25, 18-25, 25-22, 15-13
Brazil def. Cameroon 25-14, 25-21, 25-13
USA def. Puerto Rico 25-17, 25-22, 25-17
Russia def. Argentina 25-13, 25-10, 25-16
Serbia def. Italy 27-25, 25-20, 25-23

Aug. 8
China def. Italy 25-21, 25-21, 25-16
Japan def. Cameroon 25-20, 25-15, 25-17
USA def. Netherlands 18-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 15-8
Serbia def. Puerto Rico 29-27, 25-18, 25-20
Russia def. Korea 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 25-14
Brazil def. Argentina 25-16, 25-19, 25-11

Aug. 10
China def. Puerto Rico 25-20, 25-17, 25-18
Netherlands def. Italy 25-21, 25-20, 25-20
USA def. Serbia 25-17, 21-25, 25-18, 25-19
Russia def. Cameroon 25-19, 25-22, 25-23
Korea def. Argentina 25-18, 25-20, 25-23
Brazil def. Japan 25-18, 25-18, 25-22

Aug. 12
Serbia def. China 25-19, 25-19, 25-22
Argentina def. Cameroon 19-25, 25-19, 26-28, 25-21, 15-13
USA def. Italy 25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20
Netherlands def. Puerto Rico 25-14, 25-22, 25-16
Russia def. Japan 25-14, 30-28, 25-18
Brazil def. Korea 25-17, 25-13, 25-23

Aug. 14
Netherlands def. Serbia 25-22, 25-20, 22-25, 18-25, 15-8
Korea def. Cameroon 25-16, 25-22, 25-20
Italy def. Puerto Rico 25-14, 25-13, 25-22
USA def. China 22-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-19
Japan def. Argentina 25-23, 25-16, 26-24
Brazil def. Russia 25-23, 25-21, 25-21

Aug. 16
Netherlands (Pool B2) def. Korea (Pool A3) 25-19, 25-14, 23-25, 25-20
USA (Pool B1) def. Japan (Pool A4) 25-16, 25-23, 25-22
Serbia (Pool B3) def. Russia (Pool A2) 25-9, 25-22, 25-21
China (B4) def Brazil (Pool A1), 15-25, 25-23, 25-22, 22-25, 15-13

Aug. 18
Serbia def. USA 20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 16-25, 15-13
China def. Netherlands, 27-25, 23-25, 29-27, 25-23

Aug. 20
Bronze Medal: USA def. Netherlands, 25-23, 25-27, 25-22, 25-19 
Gold Medal: China def. Serbia 19-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23