Sports

American women stun China in FIVB World Grand Prix volleyball

 

Jordan Larson scored 18 points to lead the top-ranked U.S. women's senior national volleyball team to a sweep over second-ranked China, 25-19, 25-21, 25-17, on Sunday to conclude the nine-match FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round in Hong Kong.

Team USA finishes the preliminary phase with an 8-1 record and 24 points, avenging an earlier loss to previously unbeaten China on June 12 in Ningbo, China.

The Americans finished the preliminary phase in first place and heads into the World Grand Prix Final 6 as the top seed.

The Americans are the reigning champions of the World Grand Prix, the premier annual international women's volleyball tournament.

The U.S. will have eight days off before resuming competition at the FIVB World Grand Prix Final 6 on July 6 in Bangkok.

Along with Team USA, other qualified teams are China, Brazil, Russia, Brazil and Netherlands who will join host Thailand in the competition.

All World Grand Prix Final 6 teams, except host Thailand, have qualified for the Olympic Games, which puts even more emphasis on the week in Bangkok to help evaluate tactics and finalize rosters.

The U.S. deadline to name its Olympic roster is July 17. U.S. coach Karch Kiraly and his staff could name the 12-player roster any time before that date, but it will likely not be decided Monday, as originally planned.

Leading 12-11 in the opening set, the U.S. used an 8-2 lead to establish a 20-13 advantage and went on to win 25-19 using five aces in the set.

After China scored three unanswered points in the second set to tie the score at 10-all, the Americans ran off seven straight points of their own for a 17-10 advantage and held off a furious Chinese rally to win 25-21.

Team USA put the match away quickly in the third with an 8-1 run to start the set and finished out with a 25-17 victory and seven blocks in the set.

Larson amassed her match-high 18 points via 14 kills on 28 attacks, three blocks and an ace. Kim Hill chipped in 15 points with 11 kills on 18 attacks, three aces and a block. The outside hitter combination of Larson and Hill combined for 25-46 hitting and 33 points.

"I thought we had a nice game serving, and I think our blocking defense did a nice job being in the right spots and defending them well," Larson said.

Middle Rachael Adams was dominant offensively with eight kills on 10 attacks, three blocks and two aces for 13 points. Opposite Karsta Lowe contributed eight points with seven kills on 14 swings and a block.

Middle Foluke Akinradewo, a Stanford grad, charted seven points with six kills on 12 attacks and a block. Cal's Carli Lloyd and Nicole Fawcett, the double-subs at setter and opposite, rounded out the scoring with one point each.

The U.S. converted 51.1 percent of its attacks with a .391 hitting efficiency (47-11-92) as setter Alisha Glass was credited with 26 running sets on 55 set attempts and Lloyd added five running sets on 19 chances. The American defense limited China to a .244 hitting efficiency (33-12-86).

USA libero Natalie Hagglund totaled a team-best five digs and had 10 excellent receptions on 24 serve receive chances. Larson was credited with nine excellent receptions on 12 errorless chances. Hill added four digs.

Team USA held a 7-2 advantage in aces to keep China out of system much of the afternoon. The American also managed a 9-7 block margin with seven of the blocks coming in the final set.

Team USA has won 23 of its last 25 World Grand Prix matches with both losses coming at the hands of China.

The U.S. defeated China on the final day of the 2015 World Grand Prix Final Round in Omaha, Nebraska.

In last year's World Grand Prix preliminary round finale, China defeated Team USA in five sets, also in Hong Kong, to go undefeated heading into the Final Round.

Team USA and China were meeting for the 35th time in the World Grand Prix with China leading the series 21-14.

— Bill Kauffman/USA volleyball

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