Sports

Clean sweep into quarters for American women's volleyball

 

Team USA was not as crisp as usual to start but the women's Olympic volleyball team finished strong in beating China, 22-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-19, Sunday evening in Rio de Janeiro to conclude Pool B play undefeated in five matches.

The Americans earned the group's top seed heading into the quarterfinal round, where they are scheduled to meet Japan.

Team USA, in search of their first Olympic Games gold medal in the sport, finished pool play with a 5-0 record for the second consecutive Olympics.

The U.S. has finished with the silver in each of the past two Olympics Games.

“Coming into this Olympic Games, our group looked like it would present many, many challenges and that is exactly what it has done," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. “From our start with Puerto Rico all the way to China today, I think every team in this group is better because we all challenged each other so much. So now four of our teams are excited to move on to see what happens in two days in the quarterfinals."

Team USA had four players score in double figures, led by outside hitter Jordan Larson with 18 points on 15 kills, two aces and a block.

Middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo, a Stanford grad, contributed 15 points with 13 kills on 23 attacks and two blocks. Opposite Kelly Murphy pocketed 13 points with 11 kills on 28 swings and two aces.

Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson, who was a sub in the first two sets, provided a huge spark in starting the final two sets with 11 kills on 22 swings and just two errors to go with a block and ace for 13 points.

“We have played China what feels like a thousand times, so you know the opponent, what they are good at, what they are not," Robinson said. “Our team played really well, especially when they pushed back. Just taking it one point at a time. That is all we had to do."

China built an early 17-11 lead in the opening set as the Americans were plagued by errors, but Team USA closed the gap to 21-20 before falling 25-22. China took advantage of nine U.S. errors in the set and added five blocks.

Team USA, using the late momentum from the first set, settled down in the second set in establishing a 17-10 lead and kept the pressure going for a 25-17 victory.

After China closed four-point deficit down to 17-15 in the third, the Americans responded by quickly regaining the four-point cushion and finishing the set with a 25-19 victory.

USA is 17-2 in its last 16 Olympic Games matches dating back to Aug. 13, 2008. The only two losses have been to Brazil in the gold-medal match of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.

— USA Volleyball

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