After having its six-match FIVB World Cup win streak snapped and a chance to win the tournament title for the first time, the U.S. women's National volleyball team bounced back to rally past host Japan, 20-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-10, Saturday in Nagoya, Japan to remain in the chase for one of two 2016 Olympic Games berths.
Team USA, 8-2 overall, moved up one spot to third place in the World Cup. With China's four-set win over then-leader Russia earlier in the day, the Americans still have a chance to move into second place should the U.S. defeat NORCECA rival Dominican Republic on the final day of the 11-match round robin and Japan (7-3) turns around and defeats China 3-0 or 3-1.
The U.S. needed to rally from a first set loss against Japan in which they fell behind 11-7 early. In the second set, the Americans came back from a 6-3 deficit and led most of the most of the frame before Japan level the score at 22-all. However, the U.S. won the final two points for a close 25-23 victory.
Japan ran a fast offense, so we had to speed up our eye work and footwork," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. "It is difficult to go down two sets against anybody, especially Japan. We brought in (Nicole) Fawcett and (Kelsey) Robinson in the second set and they gave us extra energy and helped reduce the block outs we had in the first set."
Japan answered in the third set by taking a commanding 8-3 lead, only to have Kiraly challenge the team during a time out.
After that, Team USA was a whole other team as it came back from five points down to win 25-20 and controlled the fourth set from start to finish in a 25-10 victory.
"It's always an honor and a privilege to play against Japan," Kiraly said. "They have a great fighting spirit, great coaching, a great history. Every seat is full and everybody is excited."
Nicole Fawcett came off the bench to score a Team USA high 20 points with 13 kills on 33 attacks, five blocks and two aces. Jordan Larson-Burbach pocketed 15 points with 12 kills on 24 swings, two aces and a block. Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo collected 15 points via 10 kills on 15 attacks, four blocks and an ace.
"I just really wanted to do what I have been doing," Fawcett said. "Christa (Dietzen) even said try not do anything different just play the game that you have been playing. I just tried to bring my good to them and help them out a lot. I just filled in whatever was needed, providing them a lift. I was just hoping to bring that to everyone."
While the team knew about Russia's loss to China earlier in the day, Fawcett said the team was focused on just taking care of its own business.
"I knew this was a great opportunity for us," Fawcett said. "I didn't want to leave things to where the what-ifs or if we could have done something. What was done was done with Russia, but I knew we had a new opportunity today. I wanted to really capitalized on that today, I think we did."