CNT Europe Wins Opening Matches at Global Challenge

By Diane Nordstrom | July 10, 2018, 4:22 p.m. (ET)

Collegiate National Team Europe

Pula, Croatia – The USA Collegiate National Team-Europe opened the European Global Challenge Tuesday with two consecutive sweeps. All U.S. matches are streamed live on the Global Challenge website.

In the morning match, Team USA collected a 3-0 win over a Hungarian Federation Team, picking up three tournament points with the 25-13, 25-13, 25-13 victory.

Blocking has been a key to the U.S. team as it has outblocked all three opponents on its tour. CNT picked up 12 blocks points this morning behind three stops by Louisville’s Amanda Green, Colorado State’s Kirstie Hillyer and Wisconsin’s Danielle Hart.

The U.S. also scored on eight service aces, including two by Washington State’s Taylor Mims and Oregon’s August Raskie.

Related: CNT-Europe Home Page | Player Bios

CNT used a balanced offensive attack to aid in its win. Mims and Kentucky’s Avery Skinner both recorded six kills while Utah’s Berkeley Oblad added five kills. Ten U.S. players record two-or-more kills in the match.

“After a long travel day yesterday, it was good to come out strong and make adjustments throughout the match and get everyone quality reps before we ramp up,” head coach Dani Busboom Kelly said.

Set Breakdown

Set 1 – The U.S. broke open the first set with three straight blocks and a service ace by Raskie to take a 14-8 lead. Hillyer was a part of all three blocks over the stretch. The CNT slowly extended its lead until a Green kill put the first set away.

Set 2 – Kentucky’s Avery Skinner served five straight points as Hillyer and Kentucky’s Leah Edmonds keyed a 5-0 run to break a 3-3 tie and give the CNT an 8-3 lead. The U.S. continued to pull away to win easily.

Set 3 – The U.S. served four aces and picked up six blocks in the third set to key the sweep. The CNT trailed 2-5 before a kill by Oblad knotted the set at 5-5. Raskie served 10 straight times, including one service ace, to give the team a 21-10 lead. Hart had two blocks and a kill during the stretch as the U.S. put the set out of reach.

Match vs. PVK Olymp Praha

After coming back from a 1-7 deficit in set two, CNT-Europe recorded its second sweep of the day.  Team USA remains undefeated and picked up another three points with a 25-14, 25-21, 25-7 win over PVK Olymp Praha in pool play.

After the U.S. easily won the first set, the team from Prague scored the first six points of the second set. The U.S. slowly cut into the lead but still trailed 13-14. The U.S. scored the next four points, all off PVK Olymp errors, to take a 17-15 lead. CNT never trailed the rest of the set.

“Up until now we’ve had very relaxed practices, but unfortunately in that setting you can’t simulate game-time pressure,” assistant coach Marie Zidek said. “Volleyball is all about confidence and when you’re faced with adversity, you really do have to rely on your confidence and your game and that’s what the players were able to do.

“I thought that was a testament to them, settling in and staying confident in themselves," Zidek continued. "That adversity is going to be great for us moving forward. That was a really good push for this team and where we are at in this tournament.”

The U.S. dominated the third set, jumping out to a 6-0 then 11-1 lead. Kentucky’s Leah Edmonds had five kills and a block in the set to key the win.


“We’ve been playing quite well for having to adjust really quickly to the different teams,” Edmonds said. “We have to keep in mind that these teams are really scrappy, and they are different from what we see in America but we’re adjusting really well. As the tournament goes on, I’m excited to see how we progress and how we keep on changing and adapting to the teams."


Edmond shared the team lead with seven kills and had a team-high three service aces. Washington State’s Taylor Mims also had seven kills. Mims had a team-high three block points while Colorado State’s Kirstie Hillyer added two blocks. 

“(PVK Olymp Praha) ran a little bit faster offense and our block had to adjust to that,” Zidek said. “They also were exceptionally good at covering their hitters. They knew they were a little bit undersized relative to our block, so they had to play extended rallies in order to score and our team wasn’t ready for that. As soon as our players made that mental switch in their heads and understood that it was a team that was going to play on and play us very difficult, it turned that rhythm back in our favor.”

After day one of the tournament, the U.S. leads the Brijuni U23 Division, but the competition continues to get tougher as the tournament continues.

The U.S. takes on the same Croatian U23 Select Team it has played twice this tour on Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. ET. Its second match of the day is against the BFTM-Falconara Juniors from Italy at noon ET.

Set Breakdown

Set 1 – Trailing 4-5, kills from Utah’s Berkeley Oblad and Colorado State’s Katie Oleksak followed by a service ace from Mims put the CNT up 7-5. Oleksak added a service ace later, giving the CNT a 14-8 lead. A late kill and block by Oblad sealed the win.

Set 2 – Trailing 0-6, the U.S. didn’t get on the board until Stanford’s Audriana Fitzmorris put away a kill. The CNT scored three straight to cut the lead to 4-7 off another Fitzmorris kill. The team pulled within one (11-12) but it wasn’t until the U.S. scored four straight that they took a lead. A service ace by Oleksak made it 21-16 in favor of the CNT. The U.S. sealed the come-from-behind win on a block from Hillyer and Mims. 

Set 3 – After the loss, PVK Olymp Praha struggled in the final set, falling behind 0-6. The CNT extended its lead to 14-2 off a block by Edmonds and Wisconsin’s Danielle Hart. The U.S. continued to dominate in the period, recording its most lopsided win in the tournament.