USA women to face Brazil for Volleyball Nations League gold

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USA coach Karch Kiraly looks on as Annie Drews makes a one-armed save in Saturday's VNL semifinals/FIVB photo

The USA will play Brazil — which it beat in pool play — for Volleyball Nations League gold in Nanjing, China, at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

The match can be seen on the Olympic Channel.

It took contributions from nine players, but the Americans defeated host China in the VNL semifinals on Saturday 25-11, 15-25, 25-17, 25-20, after Brazil blasted Turkey 25-23, 25-15, 25-10.

After losing the second set, USA coach Karch Kiraly made two substitutions, trading starting setter Lauren Carlini for rookie Jordyn Poulter and middle Haleigh Washington for Tori Dixon and the team responded.

It was typical of how balanced the USA team has been. Cincinnati senior-to-be Jordan Thompson had the match of her life on Friday in a 25-18, 25-19, 20-25, 25-21 victory over Brazil in the last of three pool-play matches. Thompson had 30 kills, two blocks and an ace.

In the semifinals, Annie Drews and Michelle Bartsch-Hackley shared the majority of the offensive load, finishing the match with 21 points each, including three blocks and four aces for Bartsch-Hackley.

China, despite being the host team for the VNL Finals, competed in pool play and the semis without head coach Lang Ping or star players Zhu Ting, Yuan Xinyue, and Xia Ding. Twenty-six-year-old outside hitter Liu Yanhan led China with 17 points.

As television analyst Nicole Davis said on the broadcast. “China’s B team will beat most teams in the world on any given day,” she said.

Click here for the FIVB match center which includes statistics and match photos.

Brazil outplayed Turkey in almost every category, including blocks (8-3), aces (4-1), attacks (37-31), and digs (46-41). Captain Natalia Pereira led all players with 15 points, while Brazil’s top scorer in the VNL, Gabi Guimaraes, was relatively quiet, tallying just seven points.

Click here for the FIVB match center for Brazil’s victory over Turkey.

Friday against Brazil, Thompson, the 22-year-old opposite, became the first American player in the two-year history of the Volleyball Nations League to ever score 30 or more point.

“She is amazing,” USA veteran Jordan Larson said. “I think a lot people don’t know she is still in college — she still has one more year left. We have been blessed to have her and to get to know her. She is a great human, and obviously a great volleyball player.”

The Americans had the Fourth of July off after downing Poland on Wednesday, and with Brazil defeating Poland on Thursday, Brazil and the USA were both guaranteed a spot in the semifinals regardless of the result of Friday’s match.

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