USA holds onto first place, beating Cuba at FIVB World Cup


The world's top-ranked USA women's national volleyball team won its sixth straight match at the FIVB World Cup, defeating NORCECA rival Cuba, 25-15, 25-11, 25-15, Tuesday in Okayama, Japan.

The Americans (7-1 with three matches remaining) travel to Nagoya for the final contests that will decide the top two teams that earn berths into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Team USA meets second-place Russia on Friday, fifth-place Japan on Saturday and sixth-place Dominican Republic on Sunday.

"For the eight matches so far, I think our team, all 14 of our players and all our staff, have been doing nice work," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. "We know what we need to do and we're executing our job, so that is good. We have some very difficult matches coming up. Our focus going forward is how to score the next point a lot against Russia. We know it will be a challenging weekend of opponents.

"There are lots of teams that are close (in the standings), but we can't worry about them. The only thing we can think about is how to play as hard as we can and how to play smart volleyball for one point and then another point against Russia."

Tori Dixon, selected the most impressive player of the match, charted a team-high 13 points with six kills on 11 attacks, a match-high five blocks and two aces. Kim Hill scored a nine points via six kills on 10 attacks, two aces and a block in starting the first two sets. Jordan Larson-Burbach tallied eight points on seven kills via 14 swings and a block in the first two sets.

Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo collected five points coming on kills on six errorless attacks in the first two sets.

"I think we played really well together," Dixon said. "Cuba's a really good team, so it's hard to play against them. We had to adjust a lot of things along the way, but I think we played really well together. I think our coaches do a really good job of scouting teams ahead of time and we did a good job in practice of tidying up the block and I think our hard work showed today."

The final round begins with a familiar foe from July. Team USA defeated Russia during the FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round in Russia and in the Final Round in Omaha. The Americans won the World Grand Prix title and Russia finished second.

"(Russia) wants to win this tournament," Glass said. "They are a good team and they brought one player that they did not have at World Grand Prix."

With that familiarity, Glass sees a USA-Russia being a battle from the start.

"Absolutely, it gives you more information," Glass said. "But they have seen us and they have the same advantage in knowing what we will do. I think it will be a close match, and it will go back-and-forth. I am excited for it."

— USA volleyball/Palo Alto Sports

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