U.S. Women's Volleyball Junior National Team tops Thailand
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- In front of a rowdy Thai crowd, the U.S. Women's Junior National Team turned in a steady performance sweeping the home team, Thailand, 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-19) on the third day of competition at the FIVB Junior World Championship on Sunday in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.
Team USA Head Coach Andy Banachowski used the same starting lineup in all three sets. Taylor Carico (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) and Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) took turns directing the offense, Zoe Garrett (Laguna Beach, Calif.) and Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) were slotted in the middle, outside hitters Alix Klineman (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) and Kimmee Roleder (Pasadena, Calif.) played on the pin, and Tara Mueller (Scottsdale, Ariz.) was the libero.
Garrett almost single-handedly contained Thailand's offense with seven blocks, more than tripling the numbers of the other blockers. Mueller's 13 digs, four of which led to transition points for the U.S., balanced Garrett's defensive efforts at the net.
Thailand jumped out to a 7-5 lead in the first set before the U.S. Junior Women calmed down and evened the score at 10-10. Team USA improved to a 16-12 lead and eventually took the set, 25-20.
The second set featured a dominating performance by the Americans, blocking their way to a 25-18 win. Thailand, though the smaller team, proved to be very strong offensively, forcing Team USA to compete at the net.
"Our height advantage was not the main factor for the win," Banachowski said. "We beat them because our attackers are much stronger. Thailand is also a strong team with excellent defense. When they jump to spike, it's hard to stop them."
Banachowski also stated that he was pleased with his team's play from start to finish; the finish being a 25-19 decision in the third set. A 15-8 American lead invited the Thai crowd to turn up the volume, boosting the home team to a 16-16 comeback. The U.S. held it together, however, attacking the cross-court defense and serving aggressively until the final whistle.
The win puts the U.S. at 2-1 in pool play. Monday's match-up features NORCECA foe, Dominican Republic, which fell to both Germany and China, but defeated Egypt. The United States-Dominican Republic match is at 6 p.m. (8 a.m. CST).
China and Germany, the last undefeated teams in Pool A going into today's competition, played the last match of the day with China prevailing, 3-1. The match landed the U.S. Junior Women in a tie for second place with Germany. There are still two more days of pool play (July 23-24) and a day of rest before the playoffs begin on July 26. A new world champion will be crowned on July 27.