American women fall short in final of FIVB World Grand Prix


The U.S. women's senior national volleyball team lost to Brazil, 18-25, 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 15-9, in a thrilling gold-medal match Sunday to cap the FIVB World Grand Prix in Bangkok, Thailand.

Team USA is ranked No. 1 in the world, while Olympic Games host Brazil is ranked No. 3. Both teams are among the favorites to win gold next month at the Rio Olympics.

Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo led the Americans with 19 points vis 16 kills on 24 attacks, two blocks and an ace.

Outside hitter Kim Hill, named the second best outside hitter of the tournament, added 17 points with 14 kills on 46 swings and three aces.

Middle Rachael Adams, selected as the best middle blocker of the tournament, picked up 11 kills on 20 attacks, three blocks and an ace for 15 points.

"Congratuations to Brazil - they played a really nice match," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. "We learned some really valuable lessons - this was really good for us to face a strong opponent like that. We look forward to training and moving onto the tournament in Rio."

Team USA was aiming for its seventh World Grand Prix title and fifth in the last seven years after having won the event in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. Brazil has won 11 of the 24 World Grand Prix titles.

The two countries have dominated the World Grand Prix lately as either the Americans or Brazilians have won the tournament 17 of the 24 editions and every year since 2008.

USA and Brazil have met in the gold-medal match of the two most recent Olympic Games in Beijing and London with the South Americans winning both times.

Team USA had won the last two matches in major competition. The Americans swept Brazil in the 2014 FIVB World Championship semifinal in Italy, as well as during the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals that clinched the title.

"Every time we face Brazil, it is always a really great battle," said U.S. captain Christa Dietzen. "I thought tonight we came up short, but I thought we learned a lot from the match. Brazil's middles got going early in the match, but I thought we made the necessary adjustments on defense. We are excited to take this lesson back, and learn and prepare these next few weeks before Rio. Congratulations to Brazil."

Holding a 16-14 lead in the opening set, the U.S. caught fire out-scoring Brazil 9-4 down the stretch as Hill scored five points and both middles of Adams and Akinradewo scored four.

Brazil evened the match at one set each after winning set 2, 25-17, by taking 11 of the final 15 points.

Brazil built a 17-12 lead in the third set, but had to fend off a late American challenge before winning, 25-23.

The fourth set had 16 ties and seven lead changes, but the USA was on the good side of the last change as it used a 4-0 run to establish a 23-20 lead en route to winning, 25-22.

Brazil never trailed in the fifth set and used a 6-1 run taking a 12-6 advantage and finished with a 15-9 victory.

"There are no big margins when you really get down to a battle like that," Kiraly said. "We have some areas where we can improve for sure - some weaknesses of ours that were exposed by Brazil, some weaknesses of theirs that we exposed."

Team USA converted .399 percent of its attacks into points with a .297 hitting efficiency (59-15-148) as Alisha Glass was credited with 52 running sets on 107 total chances. Brazil converted .458 percent of its attacks into points with a .373 hitting efficiency (70-13-153).

Brazil held a 70-59 advantage in kills and a slim 7-6 margin in blocks. Both teams served five aces in the match. Brazil's defense netted a 45-28 advantage in digs as it kept the ball in motion in transition.

Earlier in the day, Netherlands rallied to beat Russia, 18-25, 23-25, 30-28, 25-21, 15-9, in the bronze-medal match and China defeated Thailand, 25-23, 25-23, 25-12, for fifth place.

The World Grand Prix serves as the last major event for teams qualified to the 2016 Olympic Games to fine tune their systems. All but Thailand competing in the World Grand Prix Finals have qualified for the Olympic Games next month.

— USA Volleyball

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