Gold! U.S. Women Rally Past Brazil to Win VNL

By Bill Kauffman (bill,kauffman@usav.org) | July 07, 2019, 11:25 a.m. (ET)

U.S. Women's National Team lifts the FIVB Volleyball Nations League trophy for the second year in a row
U.S. Women's National Team lifts the FIVB Volleyball Nations League trophy for the second year in a row

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 7, 2019) – U.S. Women’s National Team is golden again, rallying to defend its FIVB Volleyball Nations League title with a comeback for the ages.

Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana) scored 33 points and Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) came off the bench in the third set to solidify the Team USA passing game in defeating Brazil 20-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 15-13 in Sunday’s gold-medal match in Nanjing, China. In the process, the U.S. Women claimed the $1 million top prize.

Related: Unofficial Match Stats

“Wow, Annie,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “I don’t know how many points she had, but she was huge. Everyone was huge.”

The comeback concluded in high drama in the fifth set with an unusual ending. Although Brazil earned the first two-point cushion of the tiebreaking fifth set at 3-1, Team USA bounced back to take its first lead of the set at 5-4 with two Robinson kills after a Brazil service error. The Americans extended the advantage to three at 8-5 with a Drews kill, Robinson ace and Larson kill. Brazil closed to one at 10-9. Team USA went up 13-10 with kills from Drews and Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Colorado). Brazil saved two match points at 14-13. In a bold move, Kiraly called for a video challenge for net touch during the middle of match point and Team USA won the points as the video clearly showed Brazil touching the net antenna. Otherwise, Brazil would have won the point and tied the set if the video challenge was unsuccessful.

“What a great team win, fall down 2-0 against one of the great teams in the world, Brazil,” Kiraly said. “Jordan Larson came in and gave us a great lift, Tori Dixon also. It was a total team win, 14-person plus here, all the other people in our program including the 14 battling in Peru. Total team effort. So much to be proud of. We got better as the match went along. We improved our blocking lineups, had a nice passing lineup in there. Lauren Carlini doing a really nice job of running our offense and distributing.”

Drews, named the VNL most valuable player, hammered 32 kills on 59 swings to go with a block for her 33 points. Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) added 13 kills on 37 swings and two aces for 15 points. Drews and Robinson scored five and four points, respectively in the tiebreaker. Washington, who did not score her first of the match until late in the second set, contributed eight kills on 13 swings and two blocks for 10 points.

“I thought we did a real nice job coming back,” Drews said. “I think at the beginning we were a little too focused on assignments, maybe where to be or what they would do. But as the match went on, I thought we did a great job of adjusting, reading and just getting scrappier, staying engaged in the long rallies, and it paid off. Super proud of this group, super proud of all the people who were part of the seven weeks of VNL.”

USA, ranked No. 3 in the world, finished the 2019 VNL campaign with nine consecutive victories and a 16-3 record. The Americans had defeated Brazil in the Finals Round pool group after losing at home to the South Americans in the preliminary phase. Team USA defeated Turkey last year in the championship match.

At the end of the tournament, Washington was named Best Blocker and Megan Courtney (Dayton, Illinois) was selected Best Libero.

Larson, after subbing the first two sets, started the final three sets and instantly stabilized the passing game. She passed with a 56 positive percent on 25 chances. Offensively, she turned in eight kills on 17 attacks. Jordan Thompson (Edina, Minnesota) added five kills on 11 swings as a double-sub in the first two sets. Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois) scored four blocks. Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois) totaled four kills in starting the first two sets. Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) started the final three sets to score two kills and a block. Chiaka Ogbogu (Coppell, Texas) tallied two blocks and a kill for three points in starting the first two sets. Jordyn Poulter (Aurora, Colorado) rounded out the scoring with a block.

Brazil, which trailed 10-6 early in the opening set, broke a 20-all tie by scoring the final five points. Brazil rallied from a 21-19 deficit in the second set with a 6-1 run to win 25-22. The U.S. built an early 15-10 advantage in the third set, then scored eight of the final 10 points of the set for a 25-15 victory. Trailing 15-13, the U.S. used a 6-0 run to establish a 19-15 advantage and went on to win 25-21 to force the deciding fifth set.

GOLDEN AGAIN: U.S. Women's National Team wins the FIVB Volleyball Nations League and $1 million top prize, rallying past...

Posted by USA Volleyball on Sunday, July 7, 2019

According to unofficial stats, the Americans had a 42 kill percent and .266 hitting efficiency (73-27-173) with Carlini taking the majority of the sets with Poulter as the double sub setter. Brazil was held to a 33 kill percent and .186 hitting efficiency (57-25-172).

“I am really proud of our team,” Larson said. “I think we came out strong, but Brazil had a couple great first two sets. But I think we came out stronger in the end. I am really proud of our team for pulling it out together.”

Robinson handled 21 receptions with a 67 positive percent to go with 10 digs. Courtney was credited with a 61 positive reception percent on 23 chances and 18 digs. Bartsch-Hackley tallied another 21 receptions with a 48 positive percent. Carlini chipped in 17 digs from her setter position.

The U.S. dominated on offense with a 73-58 advantage in kills. Brazil held a 15-11 margin in block, but that the Americans had an 8-6 advantage over the course of the final three sets. Brazil had a slim 3-2 edge in aces. The Americans limited their errors to 23 for the match to the Brazilians’ 21.

The U.S. started Bartsch-Hackley and Robinson at outside hitter, Ogbogu and Washington at middle, Drews at opposite, Carlini at setter and Courtney at libero.

After trading the first 10 points, Team USA scored three straight points to go up 8-5 as Bartsch-Hackley had a kill around two Brazil attack errors. The Americans jumped their lead to 10-6, however Brazil responded with two unanswered points to close to 10-8. Team USA upped its lead to 14-10 with two kills from Thompson coming in on the double sub. Out of a timeout, Brazil bounced back to within one at 14-13. Brazil scored three points out of the second technical timeout to take the lead at 17-16. Brazil extended its lead to 19-17 with consecutive points. Team USA tied the set at 20-all with a Drews kill and Ogbogu block. Brazil answered with five quick points to win 25-20.

Brazil used a 4-1 spurt to go up 6-4 in the second set. Team USA leveled the set at 6-all with kills from Robinson and Drews. Brazil regained a two-point cushion at 9-7, but Team USA answered with two points to level the set at 9-all. The Americans went back into the lead at 12-11 with consecutive Brazil errors. Team USA went into the second technical timeout leading 16-13 with kills from Thompson and Bartsch-Hackley and a Brazil attack error. Brazil went on a 4-1 run to square the set at 17-all. The Americans earned a two-point cushion at 21-19 with a Larson kill and Poulter block. Brazil answered with five straight to earn a two-point edge at 24-21.

Brazil scored the first two points of the third set to go up 2-0. Team USA went on a 4-0 run to take a 5-3 advantage after two Drews kills and two Brazil errors. Brazil responded with two points to square the set at 6-all. The Americans went into the first technical timeout up 8-6 with a Carlini block and Brazil error. Team USA earned a three-point edge at 10-7 after a Dixon kill. Brazil closed to 10-9 with back-to-back points, only to have Larson, Drews and Robinson pound kills to put USA up 13-9. The U.S. upped its lead to 15-10 with kills from Larson and Drews. Out of the second technical timeout, Brazil scored twice to cut the gap to 16-13. The U.S. answered with two Drews kills and a Robinson kill to go up 19-13. Team USA used a 3-0 run to extend its lead to 22-14 with kills from Drews and Larson followed by a Washington block. The U.S. reached set points at 24-15 with a Washington kill and Dixon block, then Carlini blocked the final point for 25-15 victory.

The U.S. grabbed a 4-2 lead in the fourth set with kills from Robinson, Drews and Washington. Brazil scored five straight points to stake a 10-7 advantage. Team USA stopped the run with kills from Larson and Drews to close to 10-9. The Americans tied the set at 12-all with a Drews kill and Brazil attack error. Brazil went back in front by two at 14-12 with consecutive points. Team USA took a 19-15 lead on a 6-0 run with two Drews kills, a Brazil attack error, Robinson ace and Carlini block. The Americans advanced their lead to 21-16 with a Washington kill and Dixon block. Consecutive Brazil errors gave the U.S. a 23-17 advantage. Brazil closed to 23-19 with consecutive points, then saved two set points before the U.S. ended it at 25-21 on a Brazil attack error.

U.S. Women's National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals Round – Nanjing, China
# - Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
2 – Jordyn Poulter (S, 6-2, Illinois, Aurora, Colorado)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
7 – Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, Wisconsin, Aurora, Illinois)
10 – Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Hooper, Nebraska)
11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Purdue, Elkhart, Indiana)
12 – Jordan Thompson (OPP, 6-4, Cincinnati, Edina, Minnesota)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Champaign, Illinois)
17 – Megan Courtney (L, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
18 – Mikaela Foecke (OH, 6-3, Nebraska, West Point, Iowa)
20 – Dana Rettke (M, 6-8, Wisconsin, Riverside, Illinois)
22 – Haleigh Washington (M, 6-3, Penn State, Colorado Springs, Colorado)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Manhattan Beach, California)
24 – Chiaka Ogbogu (M, 6-2, Texas, Coppell, Texas)
27 – Mary Lake (L, 5-7, BYU, Palm Springs, California)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Luka Slabe, Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu

FIVB Volleyball Nations League Schedule - U.S. Women's National Team 
May 21: USA def. Belgium 25-23, 25-8, 25-22
May 22: USA def. Japan 25-21, 24-26, 25-21, 25-20
May 23: USA def. Bulgaria 25-20, 25-16, 25-21
May 28: USA def. Serbia 23-25, 25-16, 25-15, 25-21
May 29: USA def. Italy 25-22, 17-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-11
May 30: USA lost to Dominican Republic 25-10, 16-25, 25-19, 19-25, 15-11
June 4: USA def. Korea 19-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-18
June 5: USA def Germany 25-18, 25-22, 25-18
June 6: USA lost to Brazil 25-19, 25-17, 22-25, 25-20
June 11: USA lost to Turkey 25-15, 25-17, 27-25
June 12: USA def. Poland 21-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-11
June 13: USA def. China 25-17, 25-22, 25-21
June 18: USA def. Russia 25-23, 25-17, 25-18
June 19: USA def. Netherlands 25-21, 23-25, 22-25, 28-26, 15-9
June 20: USA def. Thailand 25-13, 25-20, 25-17

FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals Round - at Nanjing, China 
July 3: USA def. Poland 21-25, 25-16, 25-15, 26-24
July 3: Turkey def. China 25-22, 25-19, 22-25, 25-22
July 4: Brazil def. Poland 22-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-19, 15-10
July 4: Turkey def. Italy 25-21, 25-15, 25-21
July 5: USA def. Brazil 25-18, 25-19, 20-25, 25-21
July 5: China def. Italy 25-17, 25-22, 22-25, 25-22
July 6: Brazil def. Turkey 25-23, 25-15, 25-10
July 6: USA def. China 25-11, 15-25, 25-17, 25-20
July 7: China def. Turkey 25-23, 25-15, 20-25, 25-21
July 7: USA def. Brazil 20-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 15-13