It was a nice touch having Stanford grad Cassidy Lichtman start a match in her hometown. The San Diego native helped the U.S. women's national volleyball team top Japan, 23-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-23, Wednesday at a sold out UC San Diego in the first of three matches between the countries under the umbrella of the USA Volleyball Cup.
The U.S. and Japan travel up the coast to play again Friday, this time at Long Beach State, also at 7 p.m.
Cardinal grad and U.S. team captain Kristin Richards Hildebrand collected 16 kills for the Americans, with Nicole Fawcett adding 15 kills and Kim Hill getting 11.
"Tonight was so special for us," Hildebrand said. "It was an incredible turnout by our fans. We so seldom get to play in front of a home crowd, so it was a special night in feeling all the support for USA Volleyball. I am so proud of our team. Japan was incredible and they showed us they are relentless in coming back in each set. I look forward to another great match against Japan on Friday in Long Beach."
Hildebrand last played in front of a home crowd was in 2009, during the Pan American Cup and FIVB World Championship Qualification Tournament in Miami and Orlando.
"The sellout crowd is a reflection of a lot of people's hard work," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said in his American debut as the head coach. "The crowd was really into it."
Arizona grad Alisha Glass had 49 of the team's 63 assists. Hildebrand and Kayla Banwarth each had 14 digs in the victory.
The Americans held a 10-4 advantage in blocks during the night, in addition to a 7-4 margin in aces. Team USA converted 43.4 percent of its attacks for kills with a .338 hitting efficiency (63-14-145). Japan was limited to a 35.3 kill percent with a .221 hitting efficiency (48-18-136).
Yikiko Ebata led Japan with a match-high points, while captain Saori Kimura recorded 16 points.
San Diego native Juliann Faucette, who sang the National Anthem, was a sub in the first, third and fourth sets.
The USA Volleyball Cup is an initiative to draw elite teams to the United States to compete in an annual tour series with the U.S. men's and women's teams. The event is intended to foster local community ties to the two programs and to Anaheim, where the teams are based and train.
Kiraly acknowledged Japan's support in the USA Volleyball Cup.
"It is wonderful that a premier program in the world with the tradition of Japan came here to play and give us a battle tonight in our inaugural USA Volleyball Cup," Kiraly said.
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