It took just three sets for the USA women’s volleyball team to punch its ticket to the 2020 Olympics.
A 25-22, 25-17, 25-23 defeat of Argentina gave the USA a first-place finish in Pool C of the Tokyo Qualification Tournament, and guaranteed the team a spot in the Olympics in just a year’s time.
“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,” USA head coach Karch 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.”
On Saturday, Bulgaria went up 2-1 and the USA had to go all the way to five sets to get the win, with Kiraly making a few changes in his lineup midway through the match. Versus Argentina, he went with the same group of seven that finished out the Bulgaria match: Jordan Larson and Kelsey Robinson on the left, Jordan Thompson on the right, Tori Dixon and Haleigh Washington in the middle, Lauren Carlini setting, and Megan Courtney in the libero jersey.
Thompson led the match with 16 points, while Robinson and Larson also tallied double-digit scoring.
“This was our big goal for the year,” Courtney said. “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.”
Carlini quarterbacked the USA offense to a .286 hitting percentage, with the American defense holding Argentina to an .085 percentage. Team USA also boasted a 10-4 advantage in blocks and 6-1 lead in aces in the three-set match.
“There was a point where I was on the floor, and I was in this moment where I was like, ‘We are playing to go to the Olympics right now,’” Washington said. “That’s what this game means. If we win this we go to the Olympics. And so it’s surreal, it’s amazing.”
Five other countries also secured their spots in next year’s Olympics through the three-day Tokyo Qualification Tournament: Italy, Serbia, Brazil, China, and Russia. Japan has also already earned its spot in the 12-team Olympic tournament by virtue of being the host country. The five remaining berths will be awarded through the five continental championships in January.