Gold! U.S. Women Claim VNL Title in Thriller vs Turkey

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | July 01, 2018, 10:40 a.m. (ET)

U.S. Women's National Team wins inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League title
The U.S. Women captured the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League title with a thrilling five-set win over Turkey - the third time the two teams went five sets in the tournament.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 1, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team made history Sunday by capturing the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League title with a thrilling 17-25, 25-22, 26-28, 25-15, 15-7 victory over Turkey in the gold-medal match in Nanjing, China.

Team USA picked up $1 million dollars for winning the VNL title, while Turkey pocketed $500,000 as the second-place team. Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois) earned an extra $40,000 as the tournament’s most valuable player and Best Outside Spiker. Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) added $10,000 as Best Middle Blocker. The Final Six held a $2.1 million purse, which will be identical for the men’s VNL to be held this coming week in France. China earned the bronze medal with a 25-18, 25-22, 25-22 victory over Brazil.

The championship match going five was a fitting way to end the VNL. USA and Turkey had split a pair of five-set matches earlier in the VNL in which Turkey led 2-0 in each contest. In the first meeting on May 16, Turkey won 3-2 on USA soil in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Americans opened the Final Six Pool B trailing Turkey 2-0 before rallying for a 3-2 win this past Wednesday.

Related: U.S. Women's National Team Home Page | U.S. Women's 2018 Schedule/Results/Match Stats

After the opening set was tied at 6-all, Turkey raced to a 16-10 advantage en route to a 25-17 victory. The U.S. used a key 6-1 run to take an 11-8 advantage after trailing 7-5, then pushed its lead to as much as five points in winning 25-22. The U.S. rallied from a 22-16 deficit in the third set and held three set points, but Turkey answered each call and won 28-26 on its first set-point chance.

Team USA’s late momentum in the third set carried on the rest of the match. U.S. The Americans, leading 12-10 in the fourth, outscored Turkey 15-5 down the stretch to win 25-15 to push the match to a tiebreaker. While Turkey scored the first two points of the tiebreaker, the Americans rattled off five unanswered points to win 15-7.

Click here for Match Stats

U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly made several key tactical changes during the match with players moving into different roles, and that created the spark necessary for the win.

Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon), who came off the bench for the second straight match, tallied a team-leading 20 points with 16 kills on 35 swings, three aces and a block.

Bartsch-Hackley, who has been Team USA’s leading scorer throughout the tournament, was replaced late in the first set by Hill only to come back on the court at opposite late in the second set and remained in that position the rest of the way. She tallied 18 points on the day with 15 kills on 42 swings and three blocks. For her efforts, Bartsch-Hackley was named the tournament’s most valuable player and best wing spiker.

Outside hitter and captain Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) picked up 15 points with 12 kills on 30 swings, two aces and a block. Middle Foluke Akinradewo (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) contributed seven kills on 13 swings, three aces and two blocks for 12 points. Dixon pocketed seven kills on 17 attacks and three blocks in the victory.

Setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) charted four kills on five swings, two aces and a block for seven points. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) rounded out the scoring with two kills.

“I just get chills thinking about it,” Larson said of winning the first-ever Volleyball Nations League title. “Really, this has been a long, long tournament. I am so proud our team. It has been a grind, a lot of travel. It hasn’t been easy, but we came away with a win in the end.”

Libero Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) handled 35 of the team’s service receptions with a 60 positive percent. Hill was credited with a 43 positive reception percent on 23 chances, while Larson turned in a 47 positive reception percent on 19 chances.

Lloyd set the U.S. to a 43 kill percent and .253 hitting efficiency (63-26-146). The American defense limited the young Turkish squad to a 36 kill percent and .210 hitting efficiency (52-22-143).

After trailing in the third set by six points, Larson felt the team collectively made the decision they were not going to leave China without the gold medal. Although the rally in the third fell just short, that momentum carried over to the final two sets.

“We just kind of made a decision in the third set that we were not going home without the gold medal,” Larson said. “We just kind of switched it on, we started serving tougher and our system was running smoothly.”

Larson gave a lot of credit to Bartsch-Hackley, who had 78 points total in the Final Six and 270 points overall. Although she was taken of the court at outside, Bartsch-Hackley adjusted to a new role at opposite where she had played only a handful of rotations in the entire VNL.

“She has an arm, you can see it. She has a canon.” Larson said. “She has done a really good job of embracing that. I am glad she is on our side.”

The U.S. out-attacked Turkey 63-54 and held a slim 11-10 margin in blocks. Both teams served 10 aces in the victory. The Americans managed a 39-37 advantage in digs.

The U.S., ranked second in the world, finished the inaugural Volleyball Nations League with a 17-2 record, including 12 victories in straight sets. The Americans reached the title match after winning the Final Six Pool B and defeating China 3-1 in the semifinals. Turkey finished second to the U.S. in Pool B, but upset Pool A top-seed Brazil in straight sets in the semifinals. The Turks came into the tournament ranked 12th in the world, but was the surprise in the tournament field.

Turkey had balanced scoring with Meryem Boz and Eda Erdem both scoring 20 points, while Hande Baladin added 12 points.

The VNL included a 16-team preliminary round with each team playing 15 round-robin matches over the course of five consecutive weeks before heading into the Final Six this week. Team USA will now look forward to competing in the FIVB World Championship starting on Sept. 29 as defending champions.

The U.S. started Lloyd at setter, Murphy at opposite, Bartsch-Hackley and Larson at outside, and Akinradewo and Dixon at middle. Robinson served as the libero.

Turkey raced to a 4-1 start to the opening set. Team USA cut the deficit to 5-4 with a Bartsch-Hackley kill and Turkey attack error. The Americans tied the set at 6-all with consecutive Bartsch-Hackley kills. Turkey scored points on each side of the technical timeout to raise its advantage to 9-7. The Americans answered with a Lloyd kill and Turkey error to square the set at 9-all, but Turkey scored the next three points to grab a 12-9 advantage. The Turks expanded their margin to six at 16-10 with four unanswered points. Out of the second technical timeout, Murphy and Bartsch-Hackley downed kills around an Akinradewo block to trim the gap to 16-13. Turkey raised its advantage to 21-14 with a 4-0 run, then reached set points at 24-15. The Americans saved two set points with an Akinradewo kill and Hill ace before Turkey wins 25-17.

The U.S. took a 3-2 lead with a Hill kill and Akinradewo block, but Turkey answered with a 3-1 run to stake a 5-3 advantage. Akinradewo tipped in a kill and Hill put up a block to level the score at 5-all. Turkey responded with two straight points to take a 7-5 lead. Team USA tied the set at 7-all with kills from Lloyd and Larson, then the Americans went into the first technical timeout up 8-7 on a Hill ace. The U.S. raised its advantage to 11-8 with a Turkey service and attack error followed by an Akinradewo ace. The Americans pushed the gap to 16-11 with two Hill kills around a Turkey attack error. Turkey cut the gap to 18-16 with three consecutive points. The Americans answered with a Hill back-row kill, Lloyd block and Akinradewo ace to return the U.S. to a five-point cushion at 21-16. Turkey rallied to within two at 22-20 on a 4-1 scoring run. After Turkey saved one set point, Hill found open space for a kill at 25-22.

Turkey built a 4-0 lead to start the third set. The U.S. cut the deficit to 4-2 with a Bartsch-Hackley kill and Turkey error. The Americans closed to within one at 6-5 with a Larson kill and Turkey attack error. Turkey went into the first technical timeout with an 8-5 advantage. Team USA knotted the set at 9-9 with a Lloyd kill, Turkey attack error and Hill back-row kill. Turkey stopped the USA 3-0 run with its own 4-0 run to take a 13-9 advantage. The Americans cut the deficit in half at 14-12 with kills from Dixon and Bartsch-Hackley. Out of a Turkey timeout, Hill nailed a kill to move the U.S. within 14-13. Turkey extended its lead to 21-14 on a 6-0 run. The U.S. sliced two points off the deficit with an Akinradewo kill and Turkish error at 21-16. Akinradewo hammered a kill, Turkey hit wide, Lloyd dumped a kill and Larson downed an overpass kill to allow the Americans to move within two at 22-20 on a 4-0 run. Out of the Turkey timeout, Larson put up a block to get the U.S. within one at 22-21. Team USA scored a sixth straight point on a Turkey error to level the score at 22-all. The U.S. reached set point with a Larson kill and Dixon block at 24-23. Turkey saved three set points and took a 27-26 lead on an ace. Turkey won the set 28-26.

Team USA charged to a 2-0 lead in the fourth set with a Larson ace and Turkey error. The Americans extended the lead to 4-1 with a Dixon kill and Akinradewo block. The U.S. inched the lead to 6-2 with kills from Akinradewo and Hill. Turkey cut the gap to 7-6 with three straight points. Team USA gained a five-point cushion at 12-7 as Dixon slammed a slide and put up a block followed by a Lloyd ace and Turkish attack error. Turkey scored three straight points on U.S. errors at 12-10. The U.S. raised the lead to 14-10 with a Bartsch-Hackley kill and Larson ace. Team USA stretched its lead to 21-13 with consecutive Turkish errors, two Akinradewo kills and a Hill ace to cap a 5-0 run. The Americans reached a 23-14 advantage with a Turkish service error and Akinradewo ace. Team USA won the set 25-15 with a Larson kill and Lloyd ace.

Turkey served two aces to start the fifth set. Team USA quickly took a 4-2 advantage with three kills from Hill around a Bartsch-Hackley winner. Out of a Turkish timeout, Bartsch-Hackley hammered a kill capping a 5-0 run at 5-2. Turkey cut the gap in half at 6-4. The Americans reached the court switch up 8-4 with consecutive Turkey errors. The U.S. doubled-up Turkey at 10-5 with kills from Larson and Bartsch-Hackley. Dixon added the advantage with a kill at 11-5. Bartsch-Hackley hammered a kill and Dixon blocked Turkey to put the Americans in front 13-6. Dixon gave Team USA match points at 14-6 with a kill out of the middle. Team USA won the title on a service error at 15-7.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Six
# - Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
1 – Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
4 – Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Nebraska, Cypress, California)
5 – Rachael Adams (M, 6-2, Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)
9 – Madi Kingdon Rishel (OH, 6-1, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona)
10 – Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Hooper, Nebraska)
11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Purdue, Elkhart, Indiana)
12 – Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, Florida, Wilmington, Illinois)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Champaign, Illinois)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Pepperdine, Portland, Oregon)
16 – Foluke Akinradewo (M, 6-3, Stanford, Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (L, 6-2, Nebraska, Manhattan Beach, California)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Luka Slabe, Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans
Team Manager: Jimmy Stitz

Women’s FIVB Volleyball Nations League Preliminary Round Results

U.S. Women’s Schedule for FIVB Volleyball Nations League Preliminary Round
May 15: USA def. Poland 28-26, 25-22, 22-25, 25-15 (at Lincoln, Nebraska)
May 16: USA lost to Turkey 28-26, 25-19, 20-25, 24-26, 16-14 (at Lincoln, Nebraska)
May 17: USA def. Italy 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 (at Lincoln, Nebraska)
May 22: USA def. Japan 25-20, 25-16, 25-23 (at Toyota, Japan)
May 23: USA def. Netherlands 25-19, 25-21, 25-23 (at Toyota, Japan)
May 24: USA def. Belgium 25-11, 25-17, 25-18 (at Toyota, Japan)
May 29: USA def. Germany 25-18, 25-17, 25-17 (at Bangkok, Thailand)
May 30: USA def. Dominican Republic 25-20, 25-23, 25-21 (at Bangkok, Thailand)
May 31: USA def. Thailand 25-10, 25-22, 25-16 (at Bangkok, Thailand)
June 5: USA def. Russia 25-14, 25-18, 25-18 (at Jiangmen, China)
June 6: USA def. Brazil 25-23, 26-28, 25-21, 25-18 (at Jiangmen, China)
June 7: USA def. China 25-20, 25-22, 25-20 (at Jiangmen, China)
June 12: USA lost to Serbia 30-28, 23-25, 25-20, 25-18 (at Santa Fe, Argentina)
June 13: USA def. Korea 25-13, 25-23, 25-19 (at Santa Fe, Argentina)
June 14: USA def. Argentina 25-15, 25-14, 25-15 (at Santa Fe, Argentina)

FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Six at Nanjing, China

Pool A
June 27: China def. Netherlands 20-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-18
June 28: Brazil def. Netherlands 25-16, 25-17, 25-23
June 29: Brazil def. China 25-20, 2-22, 25-22

Pool B
June 27: USA def. Turkey 17-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-15, 15-11
June 28: Turkey def. Serbia 20-25, 25-21, 25-18, 19-25, 16-14
June 29: USA def. Serbia 29-27, 25-22, 25-19

Semifinals
June 30: Turkey (Pool B 2nd Place) def. Brazil (Pool A Winner) 25-23, 25-23, 25-22
June 30: USA (Pool B winner) def. China (Pool A 2nd Place) 25-23, 25-20, 18-25, 25-18

Medal Rounds
July 1: China def. Brazil 25-18, 25-22, 25-22
July 1: USA def. Turkey 17-25, 25-22, 26-28, 25-15, 15-7