Girls' Youth Team Overwhelms Nicaragua

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | Aug. 27, 2018, 6:36 p.m. (ET)

Jess Mruzik attacks during NORCECA Girls' U18 Continental Championship
Jess Mruzik scored eight points in a balanced offensive attack against Nicaragua

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 27, 2018) – The U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team overwhelmed Nicaragua 25-6, 25-11, 25-12 on Monday afternoon to open the biennial NORCECA Girls’ U18 Continental Championship in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

The U.S. faces Barbados on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET in its next Pool B clash before concluding the preliminary round on Wednesday against host Honduras at 10 p.m. ET. The pool winner advances directly to the semifinals set for Friday after the crossover quarterfinals with Pool A on Thursday. The final classification matches take place on Sept. 1 with the top two finishers earning berths to the 2019 FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championship.

The U.S. raced to an 8-3 lead in the opening set, then scored 14 unanswered points to stake a 23-5 advantage en route to winning 25-6. The Americans inched their way to a 16-7 advantage in the second set before cruising for the 25-11 victory. Team USA jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the third set, then pushed ahead 14-5 on a 5-0 run as the Americans eased to a 25-12 victory.

“I thought we did okay. We made more good plays than bad plays for sure,” U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team Head Coach Jim Stone said. “We want our players to be aware of the good plays for sure, but I want our players to be aware of the areas that we are going to have to improve if we are going to move forward in the tournament. There are several of those that are glaring, but that is okay. That is what you want out of a first match. We are heading in the right direction. We are getting better. I fully expect our match will be better than this match. If we can keep doing that throughout the tournament, I will be happy.”

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

The U.S. had scoring contributions from everyone on the team minus its libero in a balanced attack. Outside hitter and captain Allison Jacobs (Stevenson Ranch, California) led the Americans with 10 points via nine kills on 16 attacks and an ace. Middle CC Crawford (Kansas City, Missouri) charted nine points with six kills on nine attacks, two blocks and an ace. Middle Devyn Robinson (Ankeny, Iowa) matched her total of 11 points with eight kills on 12 swings, two aces and a block. Outside hitter Jess Mruzik (Livonia, Michigan) contributed eight points with six kills on 12 attacks and two aces.

Outside hitter Ally Batenhorst (Katy, Texas) provided one kill, one ace and one block for three points. Opposite Emily Londot (Utica, Ohio) and middle Bre Kelley (Rockwall, Texas) pocketed two kills on four attacks each. Four players each had one points in the match. Outside hitter Sydney Taylor (Grove City, Ohio) and setter Kami Miner (Redondo Beach, California) each scored an ace, setter Kennedi Orr (Eagan, Minnesota) put up a block and Lindsay Krause (Papillion, Nebraska) notched a kill.

Libero Hattie Monson (Morris, Illinois) charted a team-leading 11 digs, while Taylor and Mruzik added four digs. Monson was credited with five excellent receptions on 10 reception chances, while Jacobs had four excellent receptions on eight chances.

"Coach said to get in there and make the team better,” Taylor said on taking the team on a 14-0 service run. “We were having some errors earlier, so I thought it was good to come in and put some serves in. I think having me and Hattie back there together can do a lot of work together.”

Miner turned in 15 running sets on 33 total set attempts while starting setter Orr had seven running sets on 20 attempts. With Miner and Orr running the offense, Team USA scored on 52.2 percent of its attacks with a .373 hitting efficiency (35-10-67). The Americans limited Nicaragua to a 11.6 kill percent and negative .159 hitting efficiency (8-19-69).

The U.S. held a 7-0 ace advantage over Nicaragua and a 5-2 margin blocks. The Americans overwhelmed their opponents 35-8 in kills.

2018 NORCECA Girls’ U18 Continental Championship Schedule for USA

  • Aug. 27: USA def. Nicaragua 25-6, 25-11, 25-12
  • Aug. 28: USA vs. Barbados, 4 p.m. ET
  • Aug. 29: USA vs Honduras, 10 p.m. ET
  • Aug. 30: Quarterfinals (can bypass by winning Pool B)
  • Aug. 31: Semifinals
  • Sept. 1: Medal Rounds and Final Classification

“We are going to have to step up as a team,” Stone said as the team advances through the tournament. “There is always going to be players with more sets or score more points. We are not going to win this tournament with eight players all rocking it. We are going to have to have everyone chip in on the heavy lifting. We are not there yet, but hopefully we can that done in the next couple days.”

Mruzik feels the team can improve on its passing game, which will hold back opponents’ block.

“I think we can step up our passing game to the setters and running our offense quicker is definitely going to challenge the other side of the net,” Murzik said in looking ahead to Barbados and Honduras. “Changing our shots a lot instead of just going back to what we normally do. We are going to have to make some adjustments, but it will be good for us.”

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 came off the bench in all three sets as a back-row replacement. Miner replaced Orr midway through the set second set at setter. Batenhorst was a sub in the second set and started the third set. Krause was a sub in the final two sets and Kelley entered the match midway through the third set.

The U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team has won the NORCECA Girls’ U18 Continental Championship seven of the 10 times of the biennial event. The Americans have finished second to Dominican Republic in the last two editions in 2014 and 2016. Team USA has won the event’s silver medal three times.

The U.S. reached the opening set’s first technical timeout leading 8-3 as Mruzik scored four times including an ace. Team USA rolled off 14 straight points on Taylor’s serve, including seven points from Robinson to grab a 21-5 advantage. The Americans closed out the set at 25-6 on a Jacobs ace.

The Americans scored the first three points of the second set, including a kill and ace from Mruzik around a Jacobs kill. Crawford scored a kill and ace to build the U.S. lead to 5-1. Mruzik hammered a kill followed by two Nicaragua errors and Crawford overpass kill to give the Americans a 12-5 lead. Londot powered down consecutive kills after a Crawford block to present the U.S. a 16-5 margin at the second technical timeout. Four Nicaragua errors and a Jacobs kill put the Americans in front 21-8. Crawford killed the final two points of the set for a 25-11 victory.

The U.S. jumped to a 6-0 lead in the third set as Crawford scored a kill and block around a Mruzik block, two Nicaragua errors and a Miner ace. After the U.S. extended its lead to 9-2 with a Robinson, Nicaragua scored three straight points to cut the gap to 9-5. Jacobs answered with three kills around a Taylor ace and Robinson kill to prompt Nicaragua to call timeout down 14-5. Nicaragua scored back-to-back points at 14-7 to end the USA run. Team USA reached the second technical timeout up 16-7 with a Jacobs kill and Nicaragua error. The U.S. ended the set on a 5-0 run with kills from Batenhorst and Jacobs followed by three Nicaragua errors.

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, 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)