Saturday, July 11, 2015

National Team | USA overcomes passing problems to defeat Turkey in World Grand Prix

Courtney Thompson and Tama Miyashiro help USA to a 5-0 record in pool play
  • USA def. Turkey 3-1 (25-12, 15-19, 22-25, 25-21)

USA Captain Courtney Thompson celebrates a point during a 3-1 World Grand Prix win over Turkey

An early rout turned into an error-filled cliffhanger as USA held off Turkey 3-1 (25-12, 15-19, 22-25, 25-21) in a second round World Grand Prix match in Kaliningrad, Russia. USA is now 5-0 in pool play, and faces Serbia Sunday morning.

Setter Courtney Thompson and libero Tama Miyashiro—both former Washington All-Americans—started all four sets. Another recent Husky, Krista Vansant, came in as a serve substitute, and contributed an ace.

Early on, Thompson and Miyashiro both frustrated Turkey will stellar defense, including several diving digs by Thompson, the team captain. USA’s serves—mostly flat, hard and deep—kept Turkish passers on their heels, as USA cruised to wins in the first two sets.

USA head coach Karch Kiraly rotated all 12 players into the match. In the third set, Olympian Megan (Hodge) Easy struggled with her passing, throwing the Americans out of system. That allowed Turkey’s blockers to stuff a string of USA attacks, on the way to building a 7-point lead. The Americans fought back, but could not overcome the power of Turkish opposite Polen Uslupehlivan, who finished the match with 22 kills.

USA head coach Karch Kiraly said "we were not so good tonight" after his team's 3-1 victory over Turkey

The fourth set went back-and-forth, but USA outside hitter Kim Hill proved the difference. Serving lasers to the Turkish back line, she tallied 5 aces for the match. Even when passes were less than perfect, Thompson found Hill in both the front and back row, on the way to 16 kills. In the end, USA out-hit Turkey 30%-14%, as Thompson spread the offense across 8 different hitters, and added a setter dump of her own.

USA celebrates a point as it goes 5-0 in 2015 World Grand Prix pool play

The World Grand Prix is a month-long tournament played in venues around the world. The top six teams will qualify for the Finals, to be held in Omaha, Nebraska at the end of July—the first time the tournament Finals have ever been in the USA.

  • Twice during the match, Turkey’s head coach Ferhat Akbas asked for video challenges on plays that seemed fairly clear-cut in USA’s favor. In both cases, the original call was upheld, affirming that USA had won the point. But in each case, the challenge came late in the match when USA had momentum. As the Pac-12 and other college conferences introduce video challenges this fall, keep an eye on coaches who make gratuitous challenges simply to give players a chance to regain focus.

  • This was USA’s second victory against Turkey in the 2015 World Grand Prix. Last week, the Americans prevailed 3-1 in Ankara.

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