Inspired Croatian Team Sweeps CNT-Europe

By Diane Nordstrom | July 11, 2018, 11:44 a.m. (ET)

CNT Europe vs. Croatia

Pula, Croatia – Maybe it's today's World Cup soccer game between England and Croatia, but something inspired the Croatian U23 Select Team today at the European Global Challenge. The Croatians swept the U.S. Collegiate National Team-Europe in pool play 29-27, 27-25, 25-17.

“Croatia came out and played awesome,” head coach Dani Busboom Kelly said. “They had a couple new players that we hadn’t seen before. That caught us off guard and we didn’t make adjustments quickly enough. They’re an aggressive team, they swing hard out of system, they served great and we just couldn’t get into a rhythm. Luckily, it’s a long tournament and we have four more matches to prove ourselves. It’s a team that we’ll hopefully get another chance at later in the tournament.”

Related: CNT-Europe Home Page | Player Bios | Global Challenge Home Page

The Croatians connected well at the service line, scoring on nine aces while the U.S. tallied three, and also outperformed the U.S. in kills, 44-39.

Colorado State’s Kirstie Hillyer led the CNT with 10 kills while Kentucky’s Leah Edmond and Iowa State’s Jess Schaben both added seven kills. The U.S. did out block the Croatians 8-4 behind two blocks from Schaben.

The U.S. takes on BFTM-Falconara Juniors from Italy at noon ET in its second match of the day.

All U.S. matches are streamed live on the Global Challenge website.

Set Breakdown

Set 1 – The U.S. trailed early until a Croatian hitting error tied the score at 16. A CNT service error gave Croatia a 23-22 lead and a U.S. hitting error allowed Croatia to serve for set point at 24-22. Kills by Washington State’s Taylor Mims and Oregon’s August Raskie tied the score at 24. The U.S. held off two more set points before a kill from Kentucky’s Avery Skinner and block from Hillyer and Raskie gave the CNT set point at 26-24. The U.S. served for set point again at 27-26 but Croatia scored three straight to take the first period.

Set 2 – The CNT rallied from a 19-13 deficit in set two to knot the score at 23. The U.S. served for set point at 24-23 and again at 25-24 but three straight kills from the Croatians gave them a 2-0 lead in the match.

Set 3 – After two losses, the U.S. struggled in the third set. Croatia broke a 4-4 tie with two straight points and never looked back.

The U.S. started Schaben and Avery Skinner (Kentucky) at outside hitter, Hillyer and Danielle Hart (Wisconsin) at middle blocker, Taylor Mims (Washington State) at opposite, August Raskie (Oregon) at setter and Alexis Dirige (Washington State) at libero.