The U.S. Women’s Volleyball National Team is golden again, rallying to defend its FIVB Volleyball Nations League title with a comeback for the ages.
Annie Drews scored 33 points and former Husker Jordan Larson came off the bench in the third set to solidify the Team USA passing game in defeating Brazil 20-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 15-13 in Sunday’s gold-medal match in Nanjing, China. In the process, the U.S. Women claimed the $1 million top prize. Larson finished with eight kills playing in sets three, four and five. Another former Husker, Kelsey Robinson, had 13 kills and two aces. Mikaela Foecke was also on the U.S. squad.
The comeback concluded in high drama in the fifth set with an unusual ending. Although Brazil earned the first two-point cushion of the tiebreaking fifth set at 3-1, Team USA bounced back to take its first lead of the set at 5-4 with two Robinson kills after a Brazil service error. The Americans extended the advantage to three at 8-5 with a Drews kill, Robinson ace and Larson kill. Brazil closed to one at 10-9. Team USA went up 13-10 with kills from Drews and Haleigh Washington. Brazil saved two match points at 14-13. In a bold move, U.S. Head Coach Karch Kiraly called for a video challenge for net touch during the middle of match point and Team USA won the points as the video clearly showed Brazil touching the net antenna. Otherwise, Brazil would have won the point and tied the set if the video challenge was unsuccessful.
“What a great team win, fall down 2-0 against one of the great teams in the world, Brazil,” Kiraly said. “Jordan Larson came in and gave us a great lift, Tori Dixon also. It was a total team win, 14-person plus here, all the other people in our program including the 14 battling in Peru. Total team effort. So much to be proud of. We got better as the match went along. We improved our blocking lineups, had a nice passing lineup in there. Lauren Carlini doing a really nice job of running our offense and distributing.”
USA, ranked No. 3 in the world, finished the 2019 VNL campaign with nine consecutive victories and a 16-3 record. The Americans had defeated Brazil in the Finals Round pool group after losing at home to the South Americans in the preliminary phase. Team USA defeated Turkey last year in the championship match.