The top-ranked U.S. Olympic women's volleyball team absorbed all it could take from No. 11 Netherlands on the second day of Olympic Games competition, finding a way to rally for an 18-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 15-8 victory on Monday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Americans (2-0 in Pool B) face Serbia on Wednesday. Netherlands, after defeating China on the opening day, is now 1-1 overall with two five-set matches.
“We expected a test and we expect every match to be a test,” U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. “That’s what the Olympics are. It's the best. They just beat China two days ago, the reigning World Cup champion. Of course it's going to be a battle and we're going to have to fight for everything we get.”
The U.S. received balanced scoring, with four players scoring at least 14 points. Opposite Kelly Murphy charted a team-high 18 points with 15 kills on 31 attacks and three blocks. Outside hitter Jordan Larson added 12 kills on 47 attacks, two aces and a block for 15 points.
Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo contributed 15 points with 12 kills on 18 swings, two blocks and an ace for 15 points. Outside Kim Hill added 14 kills on 36 swings.
“Our pool is not an easy one,” Akinradewo said. “It's not an easy road. We expect to be pushed like this every single night. It’s nice that we were able to come out strong in the end. It gives us a sense, not of relief, but of knowing that we can do it. We get pushed again by the next team, because we know it's going to happen, we'll have that to fall back on. That’s why we came here, to work hard and play good teams.”
After the U.S. rallied from a 7-3 deficit in the opening set to come within one at 11-10, Netherlands went on a roll the rest of the set to claim a 25-18 victory.
The U.S. recovered from a 12-9 deficit in the second set with a 7-1 scoring run to take a 16-13 lead en route to winning 25-18.
Netherlands broke an 8-all tie in the third set and inched its lead to 24-17 before the Americans saved four set points, but Netherlands closed it out at 25-21.
The fourth set was back-and-forth with both teams trading the lead and Netherlands holding its last advantage at 17-16 before the Americans scored nine of the final 12 points for a 25-20 win.
Team USA jumped to a 7-3 lead in the tiebreaker and never looked back in closing out the comeback 15-8.
“I think we got our serving going much better,” Kiraly said. “We created ourselves more chances when they were on offense in the second, the fourth and especially the fifth set. Our servers really took over and made our work a lot easier.”
Akinradewo felt the tide switch in that fourth set as well, and it started at the service line.
“I think the fourth set set the tone for the fifth set,” Akinradewo said. “Our servers went back and did an amazing job keeping the pressure on their passers. We were getting them out of system a lot and we carried that into the fifth set. We had that energy. We played with that edge that we always try to play with. It was a great group effort.”