Sports

Akinradewo, Americans take charge in FIVB Grand Prix

Stanford grads account for 40 of USA's 109 points in five-set win over Brazil

Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo helped the United States women's national volleyball team take charge of the final round of the FIVB Grand Prix, recording a match-high 23 points as the Americans beat defending champion Brazil, 22-25, 25-19, 30-28, 17-25, 15-13, Friday in Ningbo, China.

Team USA rallied from a 16-13 deficit, and overcome two set points, to win 30-28 on its fourth set attempt in the key third set.

The U.S. (3-0, 7 points) is the only undefeated team remaining in the Final Round with two matches to play. Brazil, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, fell to 1-2 but is in second place with 5 points.

Points are distributed with the winning team earning three points for a three- or four-set victory, and two points for a five-set win. The loser of a five-set match earns one point.

The Americans, winners of nine straight matches overall, play host China on Saturday. A win would put the U.S. on the brink of its first Grand Prix title since 2001.

"It was a very difficult match," U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "Both teams played hard. There are some great hits, some great rallies. It was very close. I'm very happy, but we understand that we have a lot to do."

Brazil, which has won this competition in five of the previous six years, suffered its second five-set setback. The Brazilians won eight of their nine preliminary round matches.

The Americans, which last defeated Brazil at the 2007 FIVB World Cup, are scheduled for a friendly exhibition series against the Brazilians in late September.

Akinradewo had 16 kills, hit .536 and recorded seven blocks. Cardinal grad Logan Tom added 14 kills, two blocks and 24 excellent serve receptions, while Stanford grad Ogonna Nnamani added a kill in the decisive third set.

Stanford grad Cynthia Barboza was a serving sub in three of the five sets, including the fifth set.

"A five-setter against Brazil was really tough," USA captain Jennifer Tamas said. "But before the match we knew it would be a close match. We played really hard tonight. We will come back and try to play our best volleyball again."

In the third set, Tom recorded two consecutive kills to tie it at 19-all. That's when Nnamani entered and finished a kill to give the U.S. the lead.

The Americans led 24-23, 26-25 and 29-28 before finally finishing it when Destinee Hooker served an ace.

Tom scored eight points in the set while Akinradewo scored back-to-back blocks to save set point and give the Americans new life.

In the final set, Brazil rallied to tie it at 13-all before committing a service error. Heather Bown ended the 2-hour, 18-minute match with a block.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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