U.S. Women Stun Host China in VNL Sweep

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | June 13, 2019, 10:37 a.m. (ET)

Michelle Bartsch-Hackley hitting off the China block
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley hitting off the China block

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 13, 2019) – The U.S. Women’s National Team stunned host China with a convincing 25-17, 25-22, 25-21 victory on Thursday to conclude its fourth week of FIVB Volleyball Nations League preliminary round action in Jiangmen, China.

The Americans, ranked third in the world, are now 9-3 overall with 27 points in the VNL, while second-ranked China falls to 9-3 with 26 points. The U.S. plays its fifth and final preliminary round week in Ekaterinburg, Russia, where it will challenge host Russia on June 18, Netherlands on June 19 and Thailand on June 20. All Team USA matches in the VNL matches are being streamed on flovolleyball.tv.

Related: Unofficial Stats

With the victory, Team USA strengthened its chances of advancing to the VNL Finals July 3-7 in Nanjing, China. The Americans are in fourth place in the 16-team league heading into the final preliminary week, but they are only one match behind leaders Turkey and Italy in the loss column. The top five teams plus China advance to the Final Round.

The U.S. started the match strong with an 8-2 lead in the opening set and pushed the margin to 16-8, then weathered a 5-0 China run closing the gap to 17-14 before winning the set 25-17. Team USA used a key 6-0 run in the second set to reach at 16-11 advantage and went on to win 25-22. China overcame a 12-8 deficit in the third set to take the lead at 17-15, but the U.S. stormed back to win 25-21 with 10 of the final 14 points.

“Our team put together a really nice effort,” Kiraly said. “Our coaches put together a great scouting plan and our players executed it. It was by far our best and cleanest match of the tournament, even though we have had lots of good things happen in this tournament and some disappointing things also. This is a nice way to end the China leg of Volleyball Nations League.”

Team USA’s outside hitters posed problems for the Chinese all evening as Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois) and Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) combined for 40 points with 20 apiece. Bartsch-Hackley totaled 17 kills on 33 swings, two aces and a block in the victory. Robinson was dominating on offense with 18 kills on 26 attacks, one block and one ace. Opposite Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana) added 13 kills on 24 attacks.

“I thought the team came out today and played really well together,” Robinson said. “There was a lot of fire from both the people on the court and the people off the court. Everyone was working together to help us ultimately win. I thought the middles did a really great job of getting up in transitions and Mary Lake did a really nice job of handling a lot of tough serves and put our offense in system."

Middle Chiaka Ogbogu (Coppell, Texas) chipped in three kills on six attacks, three blocks and three aces for nine points. Middle Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Colorado) added eight points with six kills on 12 swings and two blocks. Setter Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois) rounded out the scoring with a kill and ace for two points.

Carlini set Team USA to a 56 kill percent and .465 hitting efficiency (57-10-101) in the lopsided victory. The American defense held the Chinese to a 39 kill percent and .289 hitting efficiency (35-9-90).

“Lauren Carlini really pushed the speed of our offense,” Kiraly said. “We got all three of our pin hitters, Kelsey, Bartschy and Annie – got them some great daylight.”

Unofficially, Bartsch-Hackley was credited with a 48 positive reception percent on a team-leading 25 chances. Libero Mary Lake (Palm Springs, California) handled 24 receptions with a 42 positive percent to go with 12 digs. Robinson hand nine digs and produced a 58 positive reception percent on 12 chances.

“Mary Lake filled in for Megan Courtney really well this week,” Kiraly said. “Mary has a lot to be proud of as Megan is working through some health issues.”

The Americans held advantages of 7-3 in blocks and 7-4 in aces to go with a 58-37 margin in kills. Team USA dominated despite giving China 16 points on errors and the host committed just three for the entire match.

“The middles – Chi and Haleigh – also did a really nice job of executing the game plan right down to the last point of the game where we really concentrated our blocking attention on one of the world’s best players, Zhu Ting, and ended the match with a stuff block on her,” Kiraly said.

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

China was led by its superstar Zhu Ting’s 13 points.

The U.S. scored the first four points of the match with a Bartsch-Hackley kill and ace, Ogbogu block and China error. China chipped two points off the deficit at 4-2. However, Ogbogu and Drews answered with kills, followed by an Ogbogu ace and China attack into the net to stretch the American lead to 8-2 at the technical timeout. Out of the break, China scored consecutive points to narrow the gap to 8-4. Bartsch-Hackley and Drews connected for back-to-back kills and Ogbogu added a block to extend the American lead to 13-6. Bartsch-Hackley scored an overpass kill and served an ace to give Team USA a 16-8 advantage at the second technical timeout. China used a 3-0 run to close the gap to 16-11 prompting a USA timeout at 16-11. China scored a fourth straight point at 16-12. Robinson slammed a kill and followed with an ace to raise the Team USA lead to 20-14. The U.S. advantage extended to 22-15 on kills from Bartsch-Hackley and Carlini. Bartsch-Hackley slammed back-to-back kills to give Team USA set points at 24-16. Bartsch-Hackley ended the set with a kill at 25-17.

The U.S. gained a three-point cushion at 5-2 in the second set on two Robinson kills and Ogbogu ace. China leveled the set at 7-all on a 4-1 scoring run. China regained the lead at 9-8 with consecutive USA errors. Robinson pounded consecutive kills and Drews followed with a kill to reverse the lead to Team USA at 13-11. Out of a China timeout, Ogbogu served an ace, Robinson put up a block and Drews hammered a kill to run the streak of USA points to six putting it up 16-11 at the second technical timeout. The Americans extended their advantage to 18-12 with a Drews kill and Robinson overpass slam. China cut into the deficit with consecutive points at 18-14. Bartsch-Hackley and Robinson collected consecutive kills prompting China to call timeout trailing 22-16. China came out of the break with back-to-back points to narrow the gap to 22-18, then moved to within three at 23-20 leading to a USA timeout. China saved two set points before the Americans closed the set at 25-22 on a China service error.

Robinson scored consecutive kills to give the U.S. a 4-3 margin in the third set. China changed the lead for the third time in the third set with consecutive points at 6-5. Bartsch-Hackley gave the Americans the lead back at 8-7 with a kill and block on back-to-back plays. Ogbogu put up another block out and Carlini served an ace out of the first technical timeout to extend the U.S. lead to 10-7. Team USA extended the gap to 12-8 with kills from Drews and Robinson. China moved back to within one at 13-12 with a 4-1 scoring run. China level the set at 14-all with an American error. China went into the second technical timeout leading 16-15 after an ace that trickled off the net, then upped the lead to 17-15 on a 3-0 run. Team USA tied the set at 17-all with a Washington kill and China error. Drews and Bartsch-Hackley slammed kills to reverse the lead to the Americans at 19-18. Team USA extended its advantage to 21-19 with kills from Bartsch-Hackley and Robinson prompting China to call timeout. The Americans reached match points with kills from Drews and Robinson at 24-21. Carlini blocked the final point for a 25-21 victory.

U.S. Women's National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League Week #4 – Jiangmen, China
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
7 – Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, Wisconsin, Aurora, Illinois)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)
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)
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)
25 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, UCLA, Rancho Santa Fe, California)
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 (All Times ET)
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 vs. Germany (at Lincoln, Nebraska), 8:30 p.m.
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 vs. Russia (at Ekaterinburg, Russia), 10 a.m.
June 19: USA vs. Netherlands (at Ekaterinburg, Russia), 7 a.m.
June 20: USA vs. Thailand (at Ekaterinburg, Russia), 7 a.m.

FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Round - at Nanjing, China
July 3-7: China plus top five other countries in preliminary round