Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo scored a team-high 15 points to help the world's top-ranked U.S. women's national volleyball team open its FIVB World Cup 11-match slate with a three-set victory Saturday in Japan
The Americans downed No. 10 Korea ,25-15, 25-22, 25-15, in Matsumoto, Japan as they try to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Team USA returns to action Sunday, taking on No. 8 Serbia.
"Korea is a very strong team and one of the best in the region, and they have one of the best outside hitters in the world in No. 10 (YK Kim), so we faced some great challenges today," USA coach Karch Kiraly said. "But we also found that we can get better at many things and we must before tomorrow."
Akinradewo had nine kills and a hitting percentage of .692, four aces and two blocks. Kim Hill, selected the most outstanding player of the match, added 13 points with 11 kills on 20 swings and two aces. She contributed a team-best 16 excellent receptions on 26 chances.
"It is really exciting to get the win," Akinradewo said. "We have been working really hard this past training block. I am glad that we are able to get out there and show what we are working on."
Alisha Glass, in her first match of the year, turned in block and kill for two points while leading the Americans to a .556 hitting percentage and a .432 hitting efficiency (45-10-81) with 28 running sets on 51 set attempts.
Team USA's service game was too much for Korea, as the Americans recorded a 10-1 ace advantage and a 45-30 advantage in kills. The Americans had nine blocks to the Koreans' eight. Team USA held Korea to a .390 kill percent and .208 hitting efficiency (30-14-77).
"Korea is a very good team, especially when they are in system," Akinradewo said. "That was one of our goals and focus of ours to up our serving pressure throughout the season. We all did a great job today in having a flat, clean serve."
The U.S. held Korea's YK Kim, one of the best outside hitters in the world, to 10 points in the match as Hee-Jin Kim led the squad with 11 points.
"We haven't had the chance to play Korea much," U.S. captain Christa Dietzen said. "They pose a number of challenges and have strengths such as a number of players being able to play in multiple positions. But we handled that challenge well. I think that's one of the strengths of our team to be able to handle adversity."
Team USA's 25-15 victory in the first set included five aces and a 3-2 block advantage. Akinradewo scored six points in the set, including three aces.
Korea went up, 15-11, in the second set before the Americans rallied to tie, and, eventually, to take their first lead at 18-17. Consecutive Korea errors gave the Americans a two-point cushion at 20-18. The U.S. inched the lead to 23-20 and Akinradewo gave the Americans set points at 24-21. Hill ended the set with a kill at 25-22.
Akinradewo hammered an overpass to push Team USA's lead to 5-1 in the third set and later hit a slide, extending the U.S. lead to 8-4 at the first technical timeout.
Team USA took control with 11 of the next 13 points including two aces by Hill and two blocks from Akinradewo to take a 22-12 lead. Team USA finished the match a block at 25-15.