Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo produced 13 kills to help the USA women to a 26-24, 19-25, 25-16, 25-22 victory over Russia on Friday to remain undefeated in the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals at the CenturyLink Center Omaha in Nebraska.
The Americans got big games from several players. Opposite Karsta Lowe came alive in the third set with nine points and provided a power boost, especially in the final two sets. Lowe scored a team-high 22 points on 19 of 38 swings, plus three blocks. Kim Hill, the 2014 World Championship MVP, tallied 15 points with 11 kills, one block and three aces.
And, Akinradewo hit the ball like she was mad at it as she scored 12 points on a mix of slides and short sets kills.
But this match centered a lot on the Russia star Nataliya Goncharova, who scored 18 points in the first two sets; eight in the first set and 10 in the second set, which Russia won. The U.S. held her to seven points in the last two sets.
The Americans have faced opponents in the past three days that have gotten progressively bigger and better on the block. The U.S. is particularly good at playing fast on offense, being in the right place on defense and never quitting, but the Russians put all of that to the test.
The U.S. next faces Brazil on Saturday. The other half of the U.S. Women's National Team in Toronto will battle Brazil's other half at the Pan American Games for the gold just a couple hours later.
At the Pan Am Games, Team USA rallied to defeat the Dominican Republic, 25-17, 22-25, 25-18, 25-22, in the semifinals. Nicole Fawcett led the team with a match-high 16 points via 14 kills on 41 swings, one block and one ace. Stanford grad Kristin (Richards) Hildebrand posted six points via five kills one ace plus eight digs with seven excellent receptions on 19 chances.
Stanford grad Cassidy Lichtman, mainly used as a serving sub, was on the serving line four times in the five sets allowing Team USA to gain several runs on her serve.