Americans break 4-match losing streak with 5-set win
- #1 USA def. #3 Japan 3-2 (17-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-17, 15-12)
- next: NORECA Championships | September 16-21 | Omaha
It had been a rough World Grand Prix for Nicole Fawcett.
The 6-4 opposite out of Penn State had been in and out of the lineup, locked in a battle with newcomer Kelly Murphy to be in the right side mix once Destinee Hooker returns. Mostly, she had been out.
But with USA facing the possibility of a 5-match skunking in the World Grand Prix finals, Fawcett replaced a suddenly-struggling Murphy in the second set. In the end, she would connect on 22 kills to lead the Americans to a much-needed come-from-behind victory against host Japan. USA won the final match 3-2 (17-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-17, 15-12) in Sapporo, Japan.
Japan and USA both finished 1-4 in the final round-robin. Because scoring is based on points throughout the 5 match finals, USA finished in 6th place with 3 points. Brazil crushed previously-undefeated China 3-0 (25-15, 25-14, 25-20) to win the gold, while Serbia beat Italy 3-2 (22-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-16, 15-11) for third place.
Only three members of the 2012 US Olympic team participated in this year’s Grand Prix: libero Tama Miyashiro and middle Christa Harmotto saw action throughout the entire month, while setter Courtney Thompson contributed to three wins in Belgrade.
“There were a lot of people,” said head coach Karch Kiraly in a post-match press conference, “who hadn’t had any significant time in the World Grand Prix – people like Cassidy Lichtman, Lauren Paolini, Lauren Gibbemeyer, Kayla Banwarth, Kimberly Hill, Kelly Murphy. It was really good for them to get experience. The positive was the nice Preliminary Round we played; the difficult part was seeing how good we have to be to compete in the world.” Washington alum Jenna Hagglund was another newer USA player; she one again saw action in all five sets.
With one more international competition this summer—the NORECA Continental Championship September 16-21 in Omaha—Alicia Glass has seen the lion’s share of playing time at setter, with Hagglund and Thompson coming in during late-set switches. Glass’s decidedly sub-par week in Sapporo continued against Japan, as she committed 2 service errors, 4 digging errors 3 blocking errors and 2 setting errors. Open expressions of emotion are not her style, and while she connects well with middles when passers are on target, she struggles when she sets out of system. On defense, opponents have effectively targeted her for tips and roll shots.
That said, it’s a long way to Rio. Grand Prix rosters for the first year of a quad are rarely a good predictor of the final squad selected for the next Olympics.