Another player lost, another deficit.
But this time the USA women came back and not only beat Italy 21-25, 25-16, 25-27, 25-16, 15-12 in the Tokyo Olympics on Monday, they won their Pool B. They are the No. 1 seed and play the Dominican Republic in the quarterfinals that begin Wednesday.
The Americans, who finished pool play 4-1, again lost a player. Saturday, in a three-set loss to ROC (Russia), leading attacker Jordan Thompson went down with a sprained ankle. She watched USA-Italy from the stands. Then Sunday, setter Jordyn Poulter sprained her right ankle early in the third set, also landing on a teammate, and left the match for good, immediately starting treatment.
“She’s going to head off to get X-rays and an MRI,” USA coach Karch Kiraly said. “That’s going to take a few hours.”
Thompson, he said, “The first night, I think, she woke up at midnight, 3 (a.m.) and 6 to do extra therapy, so she is crushing the therapy. There is some hope she will get back to play part of this tournament, but we don’t know if that’s in two days or, if we can win our quarterfinal match, if it might be after that.
“She is keeping hope alive, and we are, too. We’ll adapt and compensate for either scenario.”
In a post-match celebration photo, not only had Jordan come down from the stands, but Poulter, ankle wrapped, also joined in the shot.
Speaking of those quarterfinals, the first match pits Korea and Turkey, then after USA-DR, Serbia plays Italy, and Brazil faces ROC.
Click here for Wednesday’s women’s quarterfinal schedule.
Annie Drews, who replaced Thompson in the last match, led the Americans with 19 kills as she hit .311 and had three blocks.
“We’d love to have everyone healthy, but we are a strong 12 and we adjust accordingly,” said Drews, who also had six digs.
“Definitely (I was a) little nervous at the beginning, good nervous. It’s a role I’ve played with our team before. I felt the trust they had in me.
“Not the circumstances you’d like to be playing in, but we talk a lot about being 12 strong, so when our team needs something from any of us, we’re going to do our best.”
Micha Hancock, who came in for Poulter, had 23 assists, a kill and five digs. Poulter had 25 assists and two digs.
The veteran outside hitters were solid in all respects.
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley had 13 kills, 12 digs, two aces, and two blocks.
“We’re down two starters and that sucks,” Bartsch-Hackley said. “But the beauty of this team is its depth. We’re confident in our backups.”
The other outside, Jordan Larson, had 12 kills, an ace, and nine digs.
“We have 23 people in the (national-team) gym who could have been on this roster and we knew it was going to take a lot of us to find a way to win,” Larson said.
“We’re finding that now. We can have anybody at any point step in to take over a match. We’ve been talking about it, and you’re seeing it come in to play now.”
Both middles, Haleigh Washington, who had seven kills, and Foluke Akinradewo, who had six kills, had four blocks each.
Libero Justine Wong-Orantes had 12 digs and Kim Hill had an ace.
“You don’t beat teams in five without using everyone,” Drews said. “You don’t lose a set without making a change, typically in a tournament of this caliber.
“Having people ready to come in and, if their role changes or it doesn’t, having people ready has been huge for us.”
Kiraly’s team is ranked No. 1 in the world but couldn’t have looked worse against ROC, so he was obviously excited.
“That was an incredible team win,” Kiraly said.
“There are lots of great teams here who all have a dream of winning this tournament but for somebody to make it a reality, they have to face some very serious adversity, and so we have faced some.”
Paola Egonu was phenomenal for Italy, leading with 27 kills, a block, and seven digs.
Caterina Bosetti had 10 kills but hit .000.
“We know that Italy, like our team, fights with a lot of grit. Many of us play professionally in Italy so we know each other well,” Bartsch-Hackley said.
“We tried to fight but made too many errors. The USA was very patient and on long points they waited for us to make a mistake,” said libero Monica de Gennaro, who had 13 digs.
“We played at a high level in the first set and as the match progressed we became weaker. When Italy attacked, the USA had answers from its receivers.”
Click here for Monday’s complete results as pool-play finished.