Sports

USA volleyball heading for a Serbian adventure

Stanford grads Kristin Richards Hildebrand and Cassidy Lichtman are looking to help the United States women's national volleyball team recover from its first FIVB Grand Prix loss in three years when the Americans visit Belgrade, Serbia for the second round of preliminary play beginning Friday.

Hildebrand, who graduated from Stanford as the school's all-time digs leader, owns a .366 hitting percentage so far in the tournament for the top-ranked Americans.

The U.S., which plays winless Algeria on Friday, the Netherlands on Saturday and host Serbia on Sunday, lost to host Brazil, the reigning Olympic champions, last weekend in four sets.

Like No. 2 Brazil, ninth-ranked Serbia went 3-0 last weekend.

"They are all strong teams this weekend," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. "We take every opponent we face as the best one we can possibly face. It starts with Algeria."

Following their Serbian adventure, the Americans travel to Sendai, Japan, for the final preliminary round weekend to play No. 24 Czech Republic on Aug. 16, host No. 3 Japan on Aug. 17 and No. 43 Bulgaria on Aug. 18 in Pool M action.

Team USA's two leading scorers are newcomers to FIVB competition. Through the first week of action, Kim Hill ranks 11th overall in scoring with 47 points (37 kills, four blocks and six aces) and Kelly Murphy has collected 41 points (32 kills, four blocks and five aces) to rank tied for 16th.

Murphy is second in Best Spiker with a .492 hitting percent. Hill ranks third in Best Server with a 0.55 ace average, while Murphy is 10th in the category with 0.45 per set.

Hildebrand, the U.S. team captain, is 28th in Best Spiker with a 36.6 kill percent.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/USA Volleyball

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