By Cindy Luis
The top-ranked U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team concluded the FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round by rallying past Bulgaria 16-15, 25-23, 20-25, 25-15, 15-8 Sunday afternoon in Sendai, Japan.
Tama Miyashiro was the libero, had 4 digs
With the victory, Team USA advances to the FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round set for Aug. 28 to Sept. 1 in Sapporo, Japan. The Americans, the three-time defending champions of the premier annual women’s international volleyball tournament, finished the nine-match preliminary round with an 8-1 overall record with 22 points. The U.S. ended the preliminary round on a six-match win streak with its only loss a four-set match at Brazil. The top five teams plus host Japan will compete in the Final Round. Updated standings can be found by clicking here.
Bulgaria, which had wins over No. 2 Brazil and No. 3 Japan earlier in the tournament, ends the preliminary round with a 6-3 record and 19 points.
Heading into the final preliminary round match, the U.S. needed at least one standings point (victory or a five-set loss) to qualify for the FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round and continue its trek in trying to become the first team to the win the event four consecutive years.
Kristin Hildebrand (Orem, Utah) paced the U.S. scoring with 15 points on 13 kills on 29 attacks, one block and one ace. Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio), who came off the bench and started the final three sets, picked up 13 points with 11 kills on 29 attacks and two aces. Kim Hill (Portland, Ore.) charted 12 kills on 31 swings and a block for 13 points. Christa Harmotto (Hopewell Township, Pa.) tacked on nine kills on 17 errorless attacks and three blocks for 12 points.
Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.) racked up nine kills off the bench. Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) pocketed four blocks and two aces for six points, while Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) added three kills and two blocks for five points. Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) totaled three kills and Cassidy Lichtman (Poway, Calif.) rounded out the scoring with an ace.
The U.S. converted on 43.8 percent of its attacks with a .270 hitting efficiency (60-23-137) as Glass was credited with 40 running sets on 99 set attempts. Hill contributed a team-high 21 excellent receptions on 47 attempts, while Hildebrand was eight of 19 on service receptions. Tamari Miyashiro (Kaneohe, Hawaii) was credited with six excellent receptions on 17 attempts along with a team-high four digs.