Sports

Stanford grad Akinradewo helps USA volleyball qualify for Rio

 

Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo contributed 12 points, including 10 kills, and the world's top-ranked U.S. women's national volleyball team beat No. 7 Dominican Republic, 25-19, 25-19, 25-18, Saturday and earn a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The Americans, who went 3-0 in the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament, earned a trip to the Olympics on home soil for the first time in 16 years. Saturday's match was witnessed by 10,213 fans at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb.

"It is fantastic," Akinradewo said. "The fan support has been amazing from the get-go. Lincoln did a really good job. Usually we are overseas and we don't have support. I am really happy we are a step closer to winning Olympic gold."

Team USA earned silver in each of the past two Olympic Games.

Nicole Fawcett, the tournament most valuable player, added 10 points on nine kills and Jordan Larson, the first best spiker in the tournament, earned nine points, all on kills.

"There is no words to describe it," said Larson, a Nebraska grad. "It is unbelievable. I am happy that all the fans came out to support us. Obviously we have played Dominican Republic a lot. We know a lot of about them. We had a good game plan going in and executed well."

Alisha Glass, selected as the tournament's best setter, and Courtney Thompson set Team USA to a 44.12 kill percent and .353 hitting efficiency. Glass was credited with 22 running sets, while Thompson had five.

Tori Dixon, named the second best middle blocker, contributed nine points with eight kills on 12 swings and a block. Kelsey Robinson, selected as the best receiver, and Karsta Lowe each pocketed four points and Megan Easy rounded out the scoring with one point.

Kayla Banwarth totaled 17 digs and 17 excellent reception on a 19 chances each, both team highs. Robinson added nine digs and Larson chipped in 10 excellent receptions.

The U.S. held a 45-37 advantage in kills and benefited from 26 Dominican Republic errors.

"What a fabulous atmosphere it was here, a huge crowd that was going crazy for USA," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. "Three former Huskers playing big roles for USA. It is so nice to have a crowd. It is a huge advantage and we were fortunate to host this and book our ticket to Rio. We are really excited to do it in a venue like this and in a place that supports volleyball so fiercely."

The U.S. has now won six of its last seven tournaments including the 2014 FIVB World Championship, 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix, Pan American Games, Pan American Cup and NORCECA Continental Championship.

Team USA finished with the bronze at 2015 FIVB World Cup, the only tournament it failed to win. The Americans needed to finish first or second at the World Cup to earn an Olympic bid in the first qualifying tournament. The U.S. did beat World Cup champion China.

The U.S. started the opening set with an 8-3 advantage as Dominican Republic committed four early errors. The Americans maintained a comfortable margin the rest of the set to a 25-19 victory.

The U.S. broke an 11-11 tie in the second set with a 5-1 spurt taking a 16-12 advantage into second technical timeout. Team USA denied any comeback as it won 25-19.

After holding a slim 7-5 lead in the third set, the U.S. erupted for a 6-0 run taking a 13-5 margin and continued the pressure through to the final 25-18.

"Teams in your zone you know best because you play them most," Kiraly said. "Dominican knows us well, we know them well. Same is true for Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. We did have a good game plan. We are very happy with the players playing a big role in building it and executing it and driving the bus."

— USA volleyball

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