GYNT Sweeps Dominican in NORCECA Semi

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | Aug. 31, 2018, 11:49 p.m. (ET)

U.S. Girls' Youth National Team celebrating its NORCECA semifinal victory and spot into the 2019 FIVB World Championship
The U.S. Girls' Youth National Team celebrating its NORCECA semifinal victory, and spots into both the NORCECA gold-medal match and berth the 2019 FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 31, 2018) – The U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team convincingly swept Dominican Republic 25-12, 25-17, 25-17 on Friday during the NORCECA Girls’ U18 Continental Championship semifinals in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

The U.S. is accustomed to meeting Dominican Republic in the later stages of the biennial event, but it usually occurs in the gold-medal match. In four of the previous six NORCECA Girls’ U18 Championships, the two teams met in the finals with each team winning twice. Dominican Republic had won the last two editions (2014, 2016) by beating the Americans.

By winning the semifinal round, Team USA advances to the gold-medal match on Saturday to face Canada for the title. The Americans have now reached the gold-medal match in all 11 editions of the tournament, finishing with seven golds and three silvers. USA has not lost a set in four matches in this year's NORCECA event. Canada, which finished third in Pool A, rallied from a 14-11 deficit in the fifth set to defeat Pool A winner Cuba in the day’s first semifinal. The two finalists secure NORCECA’s two berths into the 2019 FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championship being held in Egypt. Dominican Republic and Cuba will play for bronze.

Leading by a slim 12-11 margin in the opening set, the U.S. scores 13 of the final 14 points to win 25-12. The Americans went into the second set’s opening technical timeout on an 8-0 run for an 8-1 advantage, then weathered a Dominican Republic charge to within two at 10-8 and controlled the rest of the set for a 25-17 victory. The U.S. broke a 9-all tie in the third set with a 5-0 run to stake a 14-9 advantage, then eased into the 25-17 victory.

“I think this is a good win for this year’s team,” U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team Head Coach Jim Stone said. “Dominican Republic is a good team. I think our players did a really good job and showed themselves to be veterans beyond their years. We had this game plan, and they did a good job of executing a blocking strategy and a serving strategy. They deserved to win.”

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

U.S. outside hitter Jess Mruzik (Livonia, Michigan) led all scorers with 14 points, including 12 kills on 25 attacks, one block and once ace. Opposite Emily Londot (Utica, Ohio) charted nine kills on 18 swings, three blocks and an ace for 13 points.

Londot was able to find lots of open areas on her attacks, and that was partly with the help her back-row players.

“All I saw was blank space and I went for it,” Londot said. “My back-row players for sure helped in telling me what was open.”

Outside hitter and USA captain Allison Jacobs (Stevenson Ranch, California) piled up seven kills on 21 attacks and an ace for eight points. Middle CC Crawford (Kansas City, Missouri) produced five kills on eight errorless swings and three blocks for eight points. Middle Devyn Robinson (Ankeny, Iowa) added four kills on 13 swings and three blocks for seven points. Setter Kennedi Orr (Eagan, Minnesota) pocketed two blocks and a kill for three blocks. Outside hitter/defensive specialist Sydney Taylor (Grove City, Ohio) rounded out the scoring with an ace.

Libero Hattie Monson (Morris, Illinois) was credited with a team-leading seven digs and five excellent receptions on 19 chances. Jacobs totaled seven excellent receptions on 14 errorless chances. Mruzik added five digs in the victory.

Orr ran the American offense with 25 running sets on 73 total set attempts leading the U.S. to a 43.7 kill percent and .310 hitting efficiency (38-11-87). In contrast, Dominican Republic was limited to a 20.0 kill percent and negative .013 hitting efficiency (16-17-80).

“Our strategy for Dominican’s block was getting them to split up and utilizing everyone throughout the match,” Orr said. “Their middles would go out with our middles, so we kept running our middles at the beginning of the game then spreading it out to the pins at the end.”

2018 NORCECA Girls’ U18 Continental Championship Schedule for USA

Orr said Crawford and Robinson played key roles in the match allowing her to open up the full offensive playbook including the dumps and back-row attacks for the pin hitters.

“They were really helpful throughout the game because they kept talking to me,” Orr said. “If the other middle was on them or not, it definitely helped spreading the block.”

Team USA controlled all facets of the match with margins of 38-16 in kills, 12-5 in blocks and 4-0 in aces. Dominican Republic scored 25 of its 46 points on USA errors. The U.S. also had advantages of 17-6 in digs and 15-8 in excellent receptions.

“We worked really hard on studying Dominican Republic’s habits, and we knew where they liked to hit and we just went into there and blocked,” Londot said.

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. Kami Miner (Redondo Beach, California) was a serving sub in the final two sets.

The American focus now turns to Canada, which defeated the Pool A winner in a tough five-set battle. Cuba had won the pool play match over Canada in straight sets.

“Canada absolutely played great in the first semifinal, a well-deserved win,” Stone said. “They were mentally prepared. They had chances to lose that match being behind in the fifth set. I was really impressed with what they did. Cuba is a really great team. Two teams who may have been unexpected in the finals, and I think that is great for our zone.”

Dominican Republic scored the first two points of the opening set on USA errors, but two Crawford kills, Dominican error and Londot block gave the Americans a 4-2 advantage. Dominican leveled the set at 6-all with back-to-back points. Team USA took an 8-6 lead into the first technical timeout with a Mruzik call after a Dominican error. Dominican tied the set at 8-all with two points out of the break. Mruzik connected for consecutive kills to put the Americans in front 10-8. Londot scored two kills and block around a Robinson block to extend the U.S. lead to 16-11. Team USA advanced its margin to 18-12 with a Robinson kill and Dominican attack error prompting a timeout. Out of the break, Taylor served an ace, Dominican hit wide and Jacobs powered down overpass to put the U.S. in front 21-12. Out of Dominican’s second timeout, Orr placed a block and Robinson scored a kill to lift the U.S. to a 23-12 advantage. Robinson gave the U.S. set points at 24-12 with another block. Team USA won the set 25-12 with a 9-0 run at the end on Taylor’s service.

After yielding the opening point of the second set, the U.S. rolled off eight unanswered points with two kills and an ace from Mruzik, a kill and block from Crawford, a Jacobs kill and two Dominican Republic errors to put the Americans in front 8-1 at the first technical timeout. Dominican went on a 6-1 run after the break to close to 9-7. Orr and Mruzik scored back-to-back kills followed by a Jacobs ace and Dominican Republic error to raise the American lead to 14-9. Team USA reached the second technical timeout leading 16-9 after two Dominican errors. Dominican charged back to within four at 17-13. Jacobs and Londot hammered kills around a Crawford block for a 20-12 advantage. Mruzik gave the U.S. set points at 24-16 with a kill, then U.S. won on a service error at 25-17.

Dominican Republic scored three straight points in the third set to take a 4-2 advantage. The U.S. bounced back to take a 6-5 lead on a Londot ace. Dominican Republic took an 8-7 lead at the first technical timeout. Team US checked back into the lead at 9-8 with a Mruzik kill and Dominican error. The U.S. extended its cushion to 13-9 with back-to-back Dominican errors and blocks from Crawford and Mruzik. Londot added a fifth straight point with a kill at 14-9. Crawford and Jacobs hammered back-to-back kills to increase the American lead to 17-11. Team USA extended its cushion to 19-12 with kills from Robinson and Jacobs prompting Dominican to call timeout. Out of the break, Dominican chipped two points off the deficit at 19-14. Jacobs and Robinson turned in consecutive kills to push the gap to 21-14. Dominican Republic answered with consecutive blocks to narrow the deficit to 21-16. The U.s. responded with a Mruzik kill and Crawford block at 23-16. Team USA ended the set with a Mruzik kill and combined block from Crawford and Londot.

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 (M, 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)