U.S. Girls' Youth Secures Spot in Worlds Finals

By Kelli LeGrande | Aug. 15, 2015, 5:18 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 15, 2015) - The U.S. Girls Youth National Team defeated China in a 25-18, 25-13, 27-29, 25-18 battle and punched its ticket to the finals of the 2015 FIVB Volleyball Girls' U18 World Championship on Saturday in Lima, Peru, making it to the biennial event's gold-medal match for the second time in as many editions.

"I think China is a great team," U.S. Girls' Youth National Team Head Coach Jim Stone said. "They played really hard in the third set and I am very proud of my team. The players showed great character recovering from a bad moment to win the game."

Team USA, now 6-1 combining its four preliminary round matches with its three playoff victories, will compete against the winner of the semifinal match between Italy and Turkey on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The U.S. got a sense of revenge as t was a repeat of the 2013 FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship title match in which the Chinese won. The Americans have never won the gold in any FIVB age-group World Championship competition, as the 2013 U.S. Girls' Youth Team became the first-ever to even medal - earning silver at the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Girls' U18 World Championship.

Outside hitter Lexi Sun (Encinitas, Calif.) led the offensive front for Team USA with a match-high 23 points via 17 kills on 40 swings, one block and five aces. Middle blocker Ronika Stone (San Jose, Calif.) pocketed 16 points via 10 kills on 16 attempts and a match-high six blocks. Opposite Kathryn Plummer added 14 points via 10 kills, two blocks and two aces.

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Outside hitter Khalia Lanier (Scottsdale, Ariz.) hammered out 13 points through 12 kills and one blocks. Middle blocker Regan Pittman (Spring Hill, Kan.) contributed nine points via five kills, three blocks and one ace. Setter Madison Lilley (Overland Park, Kan.) rounded out the scoring for the U.S. with seven points via three kills and one block and three aces.

Libero Tiffany Clark (Naperville, Ill.) handled nine digs with 11 excellent receptions on 36 total attempts. Sun had a team-high 10 digs while Plummer and Lilley each had six. Libero Morgan Hentz (Lakeside Park, Ky.), Stone, Lanier and Pittman each added at least one dig. Sun had four excellent receptions while Plummer and Hentz each had at least one.

The U.S. converted 46.7 percent of its attacks with a .336 (57-16-122) hitting efficiency. Lilley totaled 22 running sets on 99 attempts. The Americans held a 57-46 kill margin and a 14-4 advantage in blocks. Team USA's defense held China to a 33.1 kill percent and .187 (46-20-139) hitting efficiency. The Americans capitalized on 20 Chinese errors, but also surrendered 24 points in its own errors.

"I feel marvelous and our team is getting better and better with every day," said Sun. "I am excited about tomorrow’s match and hopefully we can get the gold medal."

USA controlled the first set as they immediately shut down the top corer for China and immediately forced her to tip around the U.S. block. USA served well to keep China out of system and was therefore not able to use middles. When China was in system, its middle were able to find ways to score. Team USA kept up a tough serve to deny that possibility and finished the set, 25-18. 

USA took the lead in the second set, but a tough China top spin serve put China back in the game early in the set. USA once again served well, with two aces for Lilley to pull ahead in the match for a second time. China kept swinging aggressively on the Americans, but the U.S. block was too solid to penetrate. USA dominated the second set keeping China out of system for the duration and blocking almost every swing it took. China could not find a solution and Team USA closed set two, 25-13.

Both teams passed and attacked well in set three. It was point for point and then USA pulled away. China kept pushing forward and after a few USA errors, China was back in the game and able to pull off the nail bitter and take set three, 29-27. 

The fourth set was close as both teams were laying everything on the line and taking their best swings. The difference in this set was the serving and blocking for USA. They shut down every swing China took, even on its top scorer. This, in turn, forced China to try anything and therefore, made several errors. Team USA closed out the match, 25-18. 

2015 U.S. Girls' Youth National Team
Name (Position, Height, Hometown, Club, Region)
1 - Brionne Butler (MB, 6-3, East Bernard, Texas, Texstar, Lone Star Region)
2 - Tiffany Clark (L, 5-11, Naperville, Ill., Sports Performance, Great Lakes Region)
3 - Paige Hammons (OH, 6-2, Louisville, Ky., Kentucky Indiana Volleyball Association, Pioneer Region)
6 - Morgan Hentz (L, 5-9, Lakeside Park, Ky., Northern Kentucky Volleyball Club, Pioneer Region)
7 - Sydney Hilley (S, 5-11, Brooklyn Park, Minn., Minnesota Select, North Country Region)
8 - Khalia Lanier (OH, 6-2, Scottsdale, Ariz., AZ Storm, Arizona Region)
9 - Madison Lilley (S, 5-11, Overland Park, Kan., KC Power, Heart of America Region)
12 - Regan Pittman (MB, 6-4, Spring Hill, Kan., KC Power, Heart of America Region)
13 - Stephanie Samedy (MB, 6-2, Clermont, Fla., Top Select Volleyball Academy, Florida Region)
14 - Kathryn Plummer (Opp/S, 6-6, Aliso Viejo, Calif., Tstreet Volleyball Club, Southern California Region)
19 - Ronika Stone (MB, 6-2, San Jose, Calif., Vision Volleyball Club, Northern California Region)
20 - Lexi Sun (OH, 6-3, Encinitas, Calif., Coast VBC, Southern California Region)

Head Coach: Jim Stone
Assistant Coaches: Lindsey Devine, Michelle Chatman
Technical Coordinator: Jared Hazel
Team Leader: Erin Leaser

FIVB Volleyball Girls' U18 World Championship Schedule—Lima, Peru
Aug. 8: USA def Dominican Republic 25-15, 25-17, 25-17
Aug. 9: USA def Argentina 25-20, 25-19, 25-23
Aug. 10: Russia def USA 23-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-23, 15-10
Aug. 11: USA def Belgium 25-17, 25-23, 25-19
Aug 13: USA def Brazil 25-19, 21-25, 25-20, 25-15
Aug. 14: USA def Germany 25-19, 25-11, 25-20 (Quarterfinals)
Aug. 15: USA def China 25-18, 25-13, 27-29, 25-18 (Semifinals)
Aug. 16: USA vs TBD Sunday 7:30 p.m. ET (Finals)