The United States women's national volleyball team ended its run at the FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round with a 17-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-17, 15-12 victory over host Japan on Sunday in Sapporo, Japan.
The Americans finished with a 1-4 record in the final round and recorded three points for sixth place. The U.S. (17-5 overall) saw its three-year championship run come to a screeching halt.
"This has been a challenging week," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. "We lost four straight matches. We knew we would face a very strong Japan team and I'm very happy for the way my team fought. They fought very hard and every player on my team made a contribution, all 14."
Nicole Fawcett scored 22 points off the bench to lead top-ranked U.S., which was looking for an unprecedented fourth consecutive title.
"The positive was the nice Preliminary Round (8-1) we played; the difficult part was seeing how good we have to be to compete in the world," Kiraly said. "We learned a lot this week; they were not easy lessons, but we learned a lot."
Stanford grad Cassidy Lichtman turned in eight points off the bench, while former Cardinal All-American and Team USA captain Kristin Hildebrand added one point.
"It's good to end on a positive note after a difficult week," Kiraly said. "I think it was great for our program and young players; there were a lot of people who hadn't had any significant time in the World Grand Prix people like Cassidy Lichtman, Lauren Paolini, Lauren Gibbemeyer, Kayla Banwarth, Kimberly Hill, Kelly Murphy. It was really good for them to get experience."
Fawcett scored her 22 points with 19 kills and three blocks. Kim Hill added 17 points, followed by Lauren Gibbemeyer's 12 points that included a team-high four blocks. Lauren Paolini added 11 points.
The U.S. has won all five of its meetings with Japan this year.
"It's been a challenging week for USA," Hildebrand said. "I'm really proud of the way we fought, especially in the fifth set."
Brazil won the competition, winning all five of its matches in straight sets. China (4-1) was second with Serbia (3-2) in third. Japan, Italy and the United States each finished the final week with 1-4 marks, though the Americans finished sixth with the fewest sets won.
The women's eight won gold for the eighth-consecutive year and the men's eight followed with a bronze medal at the World Rowing Championships in Chungju, South Korea on Sunday.
It's the first world championship or Olympic medal for the men in the event since the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Stanford oarsman Austin Hack earned his second medal of the summer in international competition. He previously had been part of the U.S. eight that captured the gold medal at the Samsung World Rowing Cup #3 event in Lucerne, Switzerland in July.
In the women's eight, Stanford grad Grace Luczak was joined by Meghan Musnicki, Katelyn Snyder, Caroline Lind, Vicky Opitz, Lauren Schmetterling, Emily Regan, Kerry Simmonds and Amanda Polk to do what every Tom Terhaar-coached boat has done since 2006. They dominated.
The crew kept inching away the length of the 2,000-meter race, winning in 6:02.14, nearly five seconds ahead of second-place Romania, who finished in 6:07.04. Canada was third in 6:09.34.
"It was great. It was so fun to feel the rhythm from all of our teammates, including the one in the stands, Heidi Robbins, who was supporting us the whole time," said Luczak, a two-time senior national team member. "We knew that it was going to be really tough off the start and everybody was going to try and gun it. It's the finals. Everyone is going for it. We just we had to stick in our boat, keep our heads together and go with the race plan."
In the women's single sculls, Stanford grad Eleanor Logan, who took up the single after winning her second Olympic gold medal in the women's eight in London, went up against a world-class field of women scullers including double London medal winner, Kim Crow of Australia, New Zealand's Emma Twigg, reigning Olympic champion Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic, Austria's Magdalena Lobnig and Inge Janssen of The Netherlands.
Logan rowed a strong and steady race, but was not fast enough to reach the medals. She finished fifth in 7:42.56. Crow won gold in 7:31.34, while Twigg was second in 7:33.57 and Knapkova was third in 7:36.88.
In the lightweight quad sculls, Stanford junior Nancy Miles claimed silver with the U.S. team.
Stanford's James Shaw started for the first time at the FIVB Men's Under-21 Volleyball World Championships, and set the United States to a sweep over Canada in the 11th-place match Sunday in Izmir, Turkey.
Shaw had had 11 assists, two blocks, two digs, and a kill in the 25-16, 25-17, 25-18 victory. The match concluded the tournament for the U.S., which went 4-4 in the 17th biennial event.
Shaw played in 20 sets overall. During a four-set consolation bracket victory over Egypt, Shaw started the second and third sets and had 14 assists, two digs, and a block.
In the Pool C opening round, in which the U.S. finished second of five teams, Shaw had two service aces in a sweep of Rwanda and another in a four-set loss to Tunisia.