Four Olympic veterans made their 2017 debuts Sunday as the USA women beat fourth-ranked Brazil 25-21, 25-14, 29-27 in the Anaheim Convention Center. When it was done, the teams played a bonus fourth set in the event called the USA Volleyball Cup.
A USA team that had competed this season with quite a few young players was joined by Olympians Foluke Akinradewo, Rachael Adams, Kim Hill and Jordan Larson.
However, newcomer Annie Drews, the Purdue product, had 18 points with 14 kills on 26 attacks, three blocks and an ace during the official three sets of the match.
“She was certainly on the radar early in her career at Purdue,” USA coach Karch Kiraly said. “College volleyball has a different structure. There’s a lot more substitutions, there’s a lot more role players, and switching, and people playing part of the time, than the whole game.
It’s good for her to be out of Purdue, not that it wasn’t good for her development, but it’s been more helpful when she’s playing all the time and she doesn’t get subbed out half the game. She’s developed a nice serve. All of the parts of her game are developing, and she gave us a nice back row attack presence that we haven’t necessarily had the last four years.
“Over the course of time, she can develop into a really consistent opposite, she has exciting potential. Not the only player in the program with exciting potential.”
Larson contributed 15 points with 12 kills on 24 attacks, two blocks and an ace. Adams had 11 points with nine kills on 12 swings and two blocks.
“We came out strong,” Jordan said. “I think that’s the one thing we’ve been working on, coming out strong, really taking control of the match. I thought we did a nice job of coming out strong, we maintained that throughout the whole match.
“We had a little bit of a dip in the fourth set, but we got kind of thrown in there with the change of plans. I wish we had adjusted better going into that fourth set, but I’m really proud of my team, and the way we fought today.
“There’s a new wave of players, we still have some veterans, it’s been good. We’re still working out, and our base is still there, but in general, there’s a lot of good people in the gym, and I think that creates a great environment.
“The blending of it all has been great, and everybody’s been awesome. It’s been really seamless, which is good.”
Megan Courtney moved from outside hitter to libero.
“She was our best passer in Grand Prix,” Kiraly said. “So we’re trying an experiment today to play her at libero. It’s not a permanent switch, it could develop into that, all we’re doing is learning about playing her as a strong passer for us in a position that demands a lot of strong passing. As it happens she also plays pretty good defense, and she sets, and those are nice assets to have in that position, which she also bring to the outside hitter position. Based on her first experience tonight, she could play them both.”
Kiraly said he was fine with adding the last set.
“I’m fine with that because playing a good team and an extra set when we have players like Jordan and Foluke, Kim and Rachael not playing much this year, every little bit helps. We’ve only been able to train all together for about two weeks,” Kiraly said.
“We’re integrating, we’re getting everything all back together, we’re getting more rhythm as a group. It’s not all the way there and there are certainly things we’ll clean up, but that was certainly something we got out of especially those first three sets.
“In world competition, people are going to push really hard. We have to develop the ability to push back. They didn’t push us very hard in the second, and I’m glad they came back and pushed us in the third.”
Click here for the USA Volleyball account of the match.
The teams play again Tuesday and it will air live at 7:30 p.m. Pacific on the NBC Sports Network.