Stanford grad Kristin Richards Hildebrand and other veterans of the United States women's national volleyball team took a back seat to a handful of newcomers who led the Americans to a 25-22, 25-23, 25-16 victory over Poland on the second day of pool play at the FIVB Grand Prix in Brazil on Saturday.
Hildebrand recorded five kills for the Americans, who extended their World Grand Prix record win streak to 19 matches.
The three-time defending Grand Prix champion United States plays host Brazil, the two-time defending Olympic champions, on Sunday in the final round of pool play. Both countries are 2-0 entering the match.
"Playing in Brazil is a pretty unique and special experience," Hildebrand told Bill Kauffman of USA Volleyball. "Up until now, the only time I had played in Brazil was in 2009 at the World Grand Prix in Rio De Janeiro. And to this day, it is one of the most memorable matches I have ever played in. Brazilians are passionate about volleyball - and as a result of that, the fan base is incredible wherever you go. It is going to be a pretty fun atmosphere on Sunday."
The Americans are 41-4 in FIVB Grand Prix matches since 2010 and are seeking to become the first team to win four consecutive titles.
Team USA shares a storied rivalry with Brazil. The two teams have been either No. 1 or No. 2 in the world for the past six years.
"Being able to come here to Campinas - which is where I will play professionally next season - and acquaint myself with the city, the fans and the staff is really quite extraordinary," Hildebrand said. "And to be able to compete with my USA team against one of our biggest rivals, Brazil, in my future home arena is also pretty special. Everyone from Amil has been so kind and I am really excited for this upcoming season here in Campinas."
The Americans have won six of the past seven meetings, with the lone setback in the 2012 London Olympic gold-medal match.
Brazil, with a record 191 victories in FIVB World Grand Prix play, has won the event eight times including three consecutive gold medals from 2007 to 2009 before the Americans rolled off three straight titles.
Against Poland, the United States outblocked their opponents, 12-5, and recorded six service aces to Poland's four.
Men's national volleyball team
Former St. Mary's and Arizona State women's assistant coach Mike Wall has been hired to coach with the U.S. men's national team it was learned Saturday.
"I'm honored and excited to be joining John, (Stanford grad) Matt Fuerbringer and the USA men's volleyball program for the next three years," Wall said. "Our staff is committed to working hard for this group of athletes. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
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