U.S. Girls' Youth Team Claims NORCECA Gold

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | Sept. 01, 2018, 11:55 p.m. (ET)

U.S. Girls' Youth National Team posing with its NORCECA Girls' U18 Continental Championship gold-medal trophy
U.S. Girls' Youth National Team posing with its NORCECA Girls' U18 Continental Championship gold-medal trophy

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 1, 2018) – The U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team dominated the 2018 NORCECA Girls’ U18 Continental Championship all the way through to its final victory – a 25-13, 25-12, 25-23 win over Canada in the gold-medal match on Saturday in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The Americans finished the tournament with a 5-0 record.

The U.S. had five players selected to the all-tournament team. Outside hitter Jess Mruzik (Livonia, Michigan) was selected as the most valuable player and best spiker. Libero Hattie Monson (Morris, Illinois) was tabbed best receiver and best digger. Setter Kennedi Orr (Eagan, Minnesota) was chosen best setter. Outside hitter Allison Jacobs (Stevenson Ranch, California) earned second best spiker. Opposite Emily Londot (Utica, Ohio) was chosen best opposite.

Key Notes:

  • Both USA and Canada qualified for the 2019 FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championship as the top two finishers in NORCECA.
  • Canada reached the gold-medal match for the first time in tournament history, and previously reached the podium only in 1998 with a bronze-medal finish. Canada had not participated in the zonal event in the previous 12 years (six editions of the biennial tournament).
  • The U.S. did not lose a set in its five matches in the NORCECA Girls’ U18 Continental Championship, outscoring opponents 375-191 (average of 25.0-12.7 set scores). The Americans yielded more than 17 points in a single set just once in the tournament, which was the final set of the championship match.

Leading by a slim 12-10 margin in the opening set, the U.S. out-scored Canada 13-3 down the stretch to win 25-13, thanks to a 7-1 block advantage. In a near exact repeat of the opening set, the U.S. bolted from a slim 12-10 margin in the second set by scoring 13 of the final 15 points to win 25-12. The Americans rallied from a 7-1 deficit in the third set to win 25-23.

Related: Match Stats | U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team Home Page | Watch Live on FloVolleyball.tv

“We are happy,” U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team Head Coach Jim Stone said. “The thing that I really like about this team is that they improved. They kept improving over the course of the training period. If that meant we qualified, that is great, but we wanted to keep improving and they did that.”

Mruzik led all scorers with 19 points that included 14 kills on 24 swings, three aces and two blocks. Robinson added eight kills on 14 errorless attacks and five blocks for 13 points. Londot  contributed 13 points with 12 kills on 17 swings and an ace.

“A couple weeks ago, we were out in Colorado Springs - nobody really knew each other. We were only training together for two weeks,” Mruzik said. “This team has bonded better than any team I have ever been on. The team chemistry was out of this world – no team drama, we held each other accountable. We each did our job, and I think that is so important. Winning this tournament was a team effort as every single person contributed every single practice, every single game.”

Middle CC Crawford (Kansas City, Missouri) pocketed seven points with three kills on six attacks, three blocks and an ace. Orr totaled three blocks and an ace for four points. Jacobs  tacked on two aces, one block and one ace for four points. Back row specialist Taylor Sydney (Grove City, Ohio) rounded out the scoring with an ace.

Monson was credited with eight digs in the championship match to go with 13 excellent receptions on 20 chances. Jacobs added four digs and five excellent receptions on 12 chances.

Orr picked up 27 running sets on 62 total set attempts in leading Team USA to a 54.9 kill percent and .451 hitting efficiency (39-7-71). The U.S. defense limited Canada to a 26.9 kill percent and a .090 hitting efficiency (21-14-78).

The U.S. net defense dominated the match, providing a 14-3 block margin. The Americans held a 39-21 advantage in kills and a slim 8-6 margin aces.

While the third set became a challenge right off the bat, Stone was not surprised to see Canada’s resiliency in coming back hard.

“The third set didn’t surprise me,” Stone said. “We knew that, based on last night’s performance (comeback win over Cuba), Canada was not going to give up and was going to fight. I was really happy with how my team responded, the fact that they would slowly inch their way back into it. They came off as a veteran group tonight and did a great job.”

Stone said a key serving sub, Ally Batenhorst, in the third set helped turn the tide in the final set.

“(Batenhorst) scored a couple points, and that is what you want from any sub who come in – contribute right away. The serves that she served coming off the bench were great serves. She kind of changed the momentum of the match. It was a job well done.”

The U.S. started Jacobs and Mruzik at outside hitter, Robinson and Crawford at middle, Londot at opposite and Orr at setter. Monson was the designated libero. Taylor was a back-row sub in all three sets, and Ally Batenhorst (Katy, Texas) was a serving sub during a key run in the third set.

2018 NORCECA Girls’ U18 Continental Championship Schedule for USA

The U.S. took a 2-0 lead in the opening set with a Mruzik kill and Crawford block. Mruzik hammered a kill and served an ace to extend the American lead to 4-1. Canada climbed to within one at 6-5 with back-to-back points. Team USA reached the first technical timeout leading 8-5 with a Robinson kill and Orr block. Londot hammered consecutive kills to build the American lead to 11-7. Canada cut the gap in half at 12-10 following an ace. Crawford slammed a kill and followed with an ace, then Robinson put up a block and Londot tipped over the Canada block to extend the American lead to 16-10 at the second technical timeout. Out of the break, Jacobs and Robinson put up consecutive blocks prompting Canada to call timeout trailing 18-10 after giving up six unanswered points on Crawford’s serve. Taylor served an ace after a Londot kill leading to Canada’s second timeout trailing 20-11. Team USA stretched its lead to 23-12 with a Mruzik kill and block around a Robinson block. Jacobs served an ace to give the U.S. set points at 24-12. Mruzik ended the set with a kill at 25-13.

Team USA gained a two-point cushion at 4-2 in the second set after kills from Londot and Mruzik. Canada quickly tied the set at 4-all, but the U.S. regained a two-point edge at 6-4 with a Londot ace after a Canada service error. The Americans went into the first technical timeout leading 8-5 after a Londot kill followed a Canadian error. Out of the break, Jacobs served an ace off the net to up the advantage to 9-5. Canada chipped the deficit to 9-8 with three straight points. Mruzik fired a kill after a Canadian service error to increase the U.S. lead to 12-9. Londot and Mruzik downed kills to prompt Canada to call timeout trailing 14-10. Out of the break, Crawford cracked a kill and Mruzik served an ace to put the Americans in front 16-10 at the second technical timeout. Out of the break, Canada hit into the net and Londot powered down a kill for USA’s sixth straight point at 18-10. Robinson tipped over the Canada block to place the American lead at 20-11. Canada committed consecutive errors and Robinson scored the final three points for a 25-12 victory.

Canada grabbed an early 7-1 advantage in the third set that included four aces. Canada extended its lead to 10-3 with back-to-back points. The U.S. narrowed the deficit to 10-6 with a Mruzik kill, Robinson block and Canada error. Robinson connected for consecutive kills to prompt Canada to call timeout with its lead trimmed to 11-8. Out of the break, Canada hit long to whittle the gap to 11-9. The U.S. closed to within one at 14-13 with a Crawford kill and Mruzik ace. Team USA tied the set at 18-all with kills from Mruzik and Orr. Canada gained a two-point cushion at 21-19 with back-to-back points prompting a USA timeout. The U.S. tied the set again at 21-all with a Crawford block and Londot kill. The Americans took their first lead of the third set with consecutive kills from Londot at 23-22. Out of a Canada timeout, Londot scored her third straight kill to give USA match points at 24-22. Robinson claimed the final point with a block at 25-23.

2018 U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team
# - Name (Position, Height, Hometown, High School Grad Year, Youth Club/Region, College Status)
1 - Allison Jacobs (OH, 5-11, Stevenson Ranch, Calif., 2020, Legacy/Southern California, verballed to UCLA)
2 - Hattie Monson (L, 5-5, Morris, Ill., 2020, Sports Performance/Great Lakes, verballed to Notre Dame)
3 - Sydney Taylor (L/OH, 5-8, Grove City, Ohio, 2021, Mintonette/Ohio Valley, Uncommitted)
4 - Kami Miner (S, 6-0, Redondo Beach, Calif., 2021, Mizuno Long Beach/Southern California, Uncommitted)
5 - Kennedi Orr (S, 6-0, Eagan, Minn., 2021, Northern Lights/North Country, verballed to University of Nebraska)
10 - Jess Mruzik (OH, 6-1, Livonia, Mich., 2020, Legacy VBC, Lakeshore, verballed to University of Michigan)
11 - Devyn Robinson (M, 6-1, Ankeny, Iowa, 2020, Iowa Power Plex/Iowa, verballed to University of Wisconsin)
12 - CC Crawford (M, 6-2, Kansas City, Mo., 2020, MAVS/Heart of America, verballed to University of Kansas)
14 - Emily Londot (OPP, 6-2, Utica, Ohio, 2020, Mintonette/Ohio Valley, verballed to Ohio State University)
16 - Bre Kelley (M, 6-3, Rockwall, Texas, 2021, Excel VBC/North Texas, Uncommitted)
17 - Lindsay Krause (OH, 6-3, Papillion, Neb., 2021, Nebraska Premier/Great Plains, verballed to University of Nebraska)
19 - Ally Batenhorst (OH, 6-4, Katy, Texas, 2021, Houston Juniors Volleyball/Lone Star, Uncommitted)

Head Coach: Jim Stone (USA Volleyball)
Assistant Coaches: Nicki Holmes (women’s associate head coach at George Washington University), Kelly Surrency (USA Volleyball)
Technical Coordinator: Fabian Ardila (assistant coach at Babson College)
Doctor: Dr. Jarod Keller
Team Leader: Katie Mitchell (USA Volleyball)