Bill Kauffman, USA Volleyball Senior Communications Manager
The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team defeated Argentina 25-22, 25-17, 25-23 on Sunday at the CenturyLink Center to go undefeated in the Tokyo Women’s Volleyball Qualification Tournament Pool C and secure its berth into the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Team USA, ranked third in the world, defeated No. 23 Kazakhstan in straight sets on Friday and came from behind to down No. 16 Bulgaria in five thrilling sets on Saturday before Sunday’s win over No. 11 Argentina. The U.S. is the only country to reach the podium in women’s indoor volleyball in each of the last three Olympic Games.
“We can be really proud with how we fought through here, especially the challenge that Bulgaria threw at us down two sets to one and the nice response we put together,” U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team Head Coach Kiraly said. “This is huge for the program. Everybody knows that we are going to Tokyo. We got that ticket locked in. We worked really hard for that this year. That helps in the planning, and it makes it that much closer in the distance. It is not that much distance to Tokyo.”
While Argentina opened the first set with the first three points, the Americans recovered and scored the final three points of the set to win 25-22. Team USA used an 11-2 run in building a 17-9 advantage in the second set and went on to win 25-17. The Americans raced to a 15-6 advantage in the third set and carried through to a 25-13 victory.
Opposite Jordan Thompson (Edina, Minnesota) scored a match-high 16 points with 13 kills on 35 swings, two aces and a block. Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) added 10 kills on 23 attacks, two aces and a block for 13 points. Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) chipped in 12 kills on 24 attacks in the victory.
“I just think it is really excited to be a part of it,” Thompson said. “I know that, even when I am on the bench, I am just as much as part of it as those on the court. We always say that we are 14 players strong, and we really mean that. When Annie is on the bench or when I am on the bench, we are always being really good eyes for the other person.”
Middle Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Colorado) contributed five kills on 11 attacks, two blocks and two aces. Middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) pocketed three kills and a team-high four blocks for seven points on her birthday. Setter Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois) rounded out the scoring with two blocks.
“It feels amazing,” Washington said. “There was a point where I was on the floor, and I was in this moment where I was ‘we are playing to go to the Olympics right now.’ That’s what this match meant. It is surreal. It is amazing. I am exciting to the next grind and going to Tokyo.”
“I am really glad with how we played, how we performed,” Dixon said. “It is a best birthday present ever, honestly.”
Carlini set Team USA to a 44 kill percent and .286 hitting efficiency (43-15-98). The Americans limited Argentina to a 27 kill percent and .085 hitting efficiency (29-20-106).
Libero Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) was unofficially credited with a 50 positive reception percent on 26 chances. She added 11 digs in the victory. Larson provided 17 receptions and a 59 positive reception percent. Carlini had a match-high 15 digs.
“I mean we talk about it all the time,” Courtney said. “This was our big goal for the year. VNL win was good, but our main tournament was focusing on the Olympic qualifier. We took care of business although it wasn’t easy, teams definitely give it to us. We had to earn it. Just really excited for this team’s opportunity to play in Tokyo.”
The Americans were dominant at the net and service line with advantages of 10-4 in blocks and 6-1 in aces. Team USA had a 43-29 margin in kills.
The U.S. started Carlini at setter, Thompson at opposite, Dixon and Washington at middle, Robinson and Larson at outside hitter and Courtney at libero.
The Tokyo Women’s Volleyball Qualification Tournament includes six pools of four team being staged in a round-robin format Aug. 1-4. The top 24 ranked teams, minus 2020 Olympic Games host Japan, are placed into the six pools using the serpentine system with pool winners claiming berths into the 2020 Olympics along with host Japan. The final five spots into the 2020 Olympics will be determined in early January through the five confederation zonal championships.
Team USA, the only country to medal in women’s indoor volleyball in each of the last three Olympic Games, seeks its 12th appearance in the Olympics. In its previous 11 Olympic Games, the Americans claimed silver medals in 1984, 2008 and 2012 along with bronze medals in 1992 and 2016.