The United States kept their unbeaten run and gained the second semifinal spot in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games women's volleyball competition, following its 25-16, 25-23, 25-22 win over Japan in the quarterfinals at Maracanazinho on Tuesday.
Jordan Larson Burbach and Kimberly Hill top scored for USA with an equal point output of 14 points, while Japan's Miyu Nagaoka and Yuki Ishii scored 13 points each on a losing effort.
“I think we did a nice job of just putting pressure on them," Larson said. "We knew they would defend us well. They came back there in the third set, but that is just what they do. We stayed patient and we stayed doing us, and that was the most important thing.”
USA were prolific against Japan in spikes 45-37, in blocks 5-2 and in aces 5-2, although the latter played excellent defense on the North American team with 21 excellent digs and 32 receptions.
USA will make their third straight semifinals appearance in the Olympic Games, following their appearances in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, where they bagged back-to-back silver medals.
"I love to play against Japan," American coach Karch Kiraly said. "They have the best defense in the world and bring us to the limit. We are excited to move a step closer to the medals but we don't have any expectations. You have to go out and earn the points and then enjoy your achievements."
American middle Foluke Akinradewo, a Stanford grad, has been a steady offensive threat through the first six matches of the Olympic Games, and that was no different against Japan as she piled up 10 points with seven kills on 13 swings and a team-leading three blocks.
USA setter Alisha Glass organized clever combination plays that allowed her hitters to get their rhythm on offense. USA succeeded in the first set with a significant lead and a great block on Japan captain Saori Kimura secured the set win 25-16.
Japan challenged USA in the second set, as Ishii and Nagaoka stepped up on their game, but Larson and Hill benefited from Glass' brilliant setting as they led the USA offense. Larson helped out as she score the last two points to overcome the strong Japanese challenge 25-23.
USA utilized their blocking strength and applied more pressure on the serve to gain momentum at the start of the third set. Japan retaliated and completed a comeback, as Kimura and Erika Araki heroically wiped out the lead of USA at 20-all. USA then regained their momentum with Hill and Akinradewo in the forefront of scoring the last two points 25-22.
Stanford grad Kristian Ipsen placed fifth and American Michael Hixon took 10th Tuesday night at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center in the Rio Olympics, marking the first time since 2000 the U.S. had two divers among the top 10.
China’s Cao Yuan won the gold with 547.60 points, with Great Britain’s Jack Laugher taking the silver at 523.85. Germany’s Patrick Hausding scored 498.90 for the bronze.
Ipsen finished with 475.80 points while Hixon scored 431.65. Troy Dumais was sixth and Mark Ruiz was seventh in Sydney 16 years ago.
Ipsen placed third in the preliminaries and was seventh in the semifinals before upgrading his list for the finals.
He took a risk and swapped out his front 2 1/2 with 2 twists for a front 2 1/2 with 3 twists, adding an extra .5 to his degree of difficulty in the finals. He scored 89.70 points on the dive, which he had been struggling with but still opted to take the chance in the finals.
In all, Ipsen scored 72 or more points on all six of his dives in the finals, including 77 points on a reverse 3 1/2, a dive he scored just 40.25 points on in the morning semifinals.
“I’m happy with my performance. It was definitely better than my semifinal. I’m happy that I came back and hit the dive that I missed really bad in the semifinal,” Ipsen said. “I’m also happy that I decided to switch my last round dive to triple out because I hit it and I think it scored more than I would have if I stayed with the double out. I haven’t hit (the triple out) all week. That was the first time all week that I hit it, so I think that was my face of shock. I was so happy to hit it. I was super stoked.”
After a challenging preliminary round the night before, Ipsen said the semifinals were a little tough on him Tuesday morning.
“It was a pretty quick turnaround this morning from the really long, windy event last night to the semifinals this morning and so I felt way more ready to go in the finals," Ipsen said. "I think this morning it was a little tough to get fired up."
Hixon was fourth in the morning semifinals but struggled with consistency in the finals. He had two dives score more than 80 points in the finals, but also had three that scored between just 60 and 65 points.
Ipsen, a two-time Olympian who won a synchronized 3-meter bronze four years ago in London, said he isn’t sure if he will make a run for a third games in Tokyo.
“I’m taking a significant break. We’ll see if that Olympic spark comes back, but I’m definitely going to take a break after this,” Ipsen said.
Anna Cruz hit a jumper with no time left on the clock to lift Spain past Turkey, 64-62, Tuesday in the quarterfinal round of the Rio Olympics at Carioca Arena.
Turkey's Lara Sanders hit a lay-up with four seconds remaining to tie the contest. The Turks held a 60-52 edge with 3:45 remaining to play.
Stanford grad Sebnem Kimyacioglu hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to put Turkey ahead, 54-46.
Stanford grad Lucy Davis finished 15th, riding Barron, in the Jumping individual second qualifier on Tuesday at the Olympic Equestrian Center in Rio.
Davis helped Team USA qualify for the finals in team jumping.
Team USA’s Anita Alvarez and Mariya Koroleva posted their highest scores of the year on the biggest stage Tuesday, giving U.S. synchronized swimming a boost for the future.
The pair placed ninth in the duet free final Tuesday to finish ninth overall in duet at the Rio Olympic Games.
Alvarez and Koroleva scored 87.5333 points in the final. Combined with their 86.4612 points in Monday’s tech routine, they finished with 173.9945 points.
“It’s definitely our highest score ever, by a lot,” Koroleva, a two-time Olympian, said. “In the last year we’ve moved up three spots, which is kind of unheard of in synchro, to do that in one year. So we’re really proud of ourselves and happy with the way everything went.”
Russia’s Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina scored 98.5333 points in the final to win gold with 194.9910 total points. China’s Xuechen Huang and Wenyan Sun (192.3688) took silver and Japan’s Yukiko Inui and Risako Mitsui (188.0547) won bronze.
“We’re really happy. It was a great performance; they gave everything,” U.S. National Team Coach Lolli Montico said. “They didn’t leave anything in the pool. They showed everybody that they can do even better.”
The increase in the difficulty of the duet’s routines made a big difference, according to the swimmers.
“We noticed our difficulty scores for this swim were all 8.9s, which is really, really good, and we’re really happy with that,” Alvarez said.
Added Koroleva: “In the last couple of months, after every competition, we tried to increase our difficulty. But by adding difficulty you also have to be able to execute it well, so you have to be high, really sharp and synchronized. And I think it’s worked out really well.”
The U.S. duet finished ahead of Greece (171.8550) and Mexico (170.9935), two teams they placed behind at the 2015 FINA World Championships.