USA women sweep Turkey, play Brazil in VNL championship

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USA women VNL 6/24/2021
Jordyn Poulter sets for the USA in the VNL semifinal win against Turkey/FIVB photo

The USA women advanced to Friday’s Volleyball Nations League championship match with a 25-21, 25-23, 25-20 sweep of Turkey on Thursday.

The Americans will face Brazil, which beat Japan in four in the other semifinal, for the gold medal at 1:30 p.m. Eastern in the tournament in Rimini, Italy. Japan will face Turkey at 10 a.m. for the bronze.

The VNL men’s semifinals are Saturday when Brazil plays France and Poland plays Slovenia.

The USA seeks a VNL three-peat after winning in 2018 and 2019. There was no VNL last year, but in 2019 the Americans beat Brazil in the 2019 final after going down 0-2 to win 20-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 15-13.

Thursday, the Americans played a much cleaner match than Turkey, committing only 13 errors to Turkey’s 24. USA setter Jordyn Poulter led a balanced offense as Annie Drews led with nine kills and two aces. Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson and Michelle Bartsch-Hackley eight each, while Kelsey Robinson had seven kills. Libero Justine Wong-Orantes finished with 14 digs.

“Special props to Annie Drews and Kelsey Robinson who came in and gave us a great lift and helped us break (Turkey’s) will a little bit,” USA coach Karch Kiraly said. “When we came back and stole that second set, that was not easy. We’ve been on the other side of that situation before.”

In the middle of the second set with the U.S. trailing 14-8, Kiraly brought in Drews for Jordan Thompson at opposite and Robinson for Jordan Larson at outside hitter.

“We had some girls come off the bench who really helped us make a momentum change,” U.S. setter Jordyn Poulter said. “We homed in on a couple of our first and second touches and put a little more service pressure on them and were able to pull out the second set.

“We took that momentum into the third set and that helped us be successful in the end.”

Ebrar Karakurt led Turkey with 17 kills, with Eda Erdem scoring 11.

“I think we came out very strong in the first set,” Poulter said. “Then, they came back in the second and they pushed us a lot.

“At some point we were eight points behind. We had some girls who came in from the bench and really helped us make the momentum change. We kinda held on a couple of our first and second touches, put a little bit more service pressure on them and then we were able to claim the second set. I think that we took the momentum to the third set and we were successful in the end.”

In the tournament, the USA (15-1) beat Brazil (14-2) 25-17, 25-19, 23-25, 25-22.

The Volleyball Nations League is the last FIVB international competition before the Tokyo Olympics begin July 24.

USA Volleyball reported that before the match, the six Olympic alternates left Rimini, leaving the the 12-woman Olympic roster.

“I told them after the game, ‘We’re 23 strong,’” Kiraly said. “That’s been our core group since early last year. We were 18 strong here in VNL and our six alternates went home so now we’re 12 strong, but we’re carrying all 23 with us.”

Click here for USA-Turkey highlghts.

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USA women's national volleyball team-USA women VNL 6/24/2021
The USA celebrates after advancing to the VNL final/FIVB photo

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