USA gets past Poland in four to open Volleyball Nations League

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Annie Drews, left, and Haleigh Washington put up the block against Poland's Natalia Medrzyk as Lauren Carlini looks on/FIVB photo

Luckily for the USA women’s national team, a slow start doesn’t necessarily doom you to a loss. Such was the case Wednesday in Nanjing, China, for the Americans’ first Volleyball Nations League Finals match.

The USA women dropped the first set to Poland after allowing their opponents to go on a late 6-1 run.

But by the start of the second set, Team USA’s jitters disappeared. The Americans dialed up the intensity from behind the service line, collecting four aces in the second set alone. With Lauren Carlini quarterbacking the offense, the Americans hit .325 to Poland’s .157 and won the match in four, 21-25, 25-16, 25-15, 26-24.

The Americans get the Fourth of July off and will see what happens between Poland and Brazil on Thursday.

If Brazil defeats Poland, then no matter what happens between Brazil and the USA on Friday, the USA and Brazil will both advance to the semifinals.

“We talked about service pressure,” Annie Drews told the FIVB. “If we are going to error, let’s make some aggressive errors. Let’s really push them to be out of system, put their setter on the move or make their non-setters set.”

Drews led the USA with 21 kills, a block and an ace.

“I think we did a better job of that as the match went on,” Drews said. “We still were pretty high error in service, but I thought we were better at putting pressure on and getting them out of system.”

Poland had a chance to push the match to five, launching a comeback to get to set point at 24-23 in the fourth. But 18-year-old Magdalena Stysiak, the youngest player on Poland’s roster, missed her serve long and then in a moment of confusion with Poland head coach Jacek Nawrocki trying to call a timeout, Stysiak caught Bartsch-Hackley’s serve on the next play to give USA match point.

Despite adamant protests from Poland’s players and coaching staff, the point remained with the USA and Kelsey Robinson finished off the match with a kill from the left pin.

Carlini had her most success going to Drews and Kelsey Robinson, who had 15 kills. Michelle Bartsch-Hackley had nine kills and four aces, and Haleigh Washington had four kills and a match-high seven blocks.

Poland’s star opposite Malwina Smarzek led her team with 22 points on 20 kills and two blocks, growing her tournament-leading points tally to 387.

“I think we pushed them hard in the first set. After that, we lost focus and did not play well in many aspects including setting and blocking,” Smarzek said.

“We should have pushed harder in the fourth set after the game was tied at 24-24, but we were not patient enough.”

Also Wednesday, Turkey beat China in four.

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