The U.S. Women’s National Team adjusted from a rough first set and beat Thailand, 3-1 (17-25, 25-13, 25-23, and 25-18) in a Volleyball Nations League (VNL) match on Sunday in Quezon City, Philippines.
U.S. Head Coach Karch Kiraly used another new starting lineup on Sunday, with Ali Frantti and Madi Kingdon Rishel at outside hitter, Chiaka Ogbogu and Anna Stevenson at middle blocker, Danielle Cuttino at opposite, Micha Hancock at setter and Justine Wong-Orantes at libero.
Thailand controlled the tempo in the first set, running a fast offense and getting seemingly impossible digs. The U.S. also committed 10 scoring errors while Thailand had one.
Kiraly brought in Kelsey Robinson for Kingdon Rishel, Lauren Carlini for Micha Hancock, and Nia Reed for Cuttino to help slow down Thailand’s offense and get higher and harder attacks on the U.S. side.
The strategy worked. The U.S. ended up leading Thailand in kills (61-47), blocks (8-2) and aces (5-3). The U.S. finished with a .322 hitting efficiency. It did give up 27 points on errors while Thailand gave up 18.
“They really brought things to us hard with their fast offense to the pin, [and] set a fast back court set,” Kiraly said. “It was difficult for our team to calm things down. Then, we made three changes for the second set with Kelsey, Lauren and Nia coming in, and props to them and to the whole group of 14 to help get us into a little better rhythm.”
Carlini agreed that the team mentality helped push the U.S. forward.
“We’ve done a really good job of being able to come in and make plays and be 14 strong,” Carlini said. “Everyone who came in did a good job with that today and I know the people on the bench were ready to come in and make a change. I am really proud of all 14 of us for staying engaged. Even the girls who went to the bench helped us throughout this match and we couldn’t have won without them.”
Frantti also proved to be a big part of the victory for the U.S. as she finished with 27 points on 24 kills, 2 blocks and 1 ace. She was recognized with 10 digs and 4 successful receptions.
Robinson finished with 11 points on 10 kills and 1 ace. She was credited with 16 digs and 7 successful receptions. She credited her time playing professionally in Japan over the fall and winter of 2021-22 for her success in hitting against Thailand.
“It’s not easy to get a kill (in Japan),” Robinson said. “Having to be crafty and learn those skills really helped.”
Middles Ogbogu and Stevenson each finished with 10 points. Ogbogu had eight kills, one block and one ace. Stevenson had a match-high three blocks and seven kills.
Reed finished with eight kills. Kingdon Rishel had five points on three kills, one block and one ace. Carlini scored three points on a kill, a block and an ace.
Wong-Orantes was recognized with 16 digs and 2 successful receptions.
“[We] always love to play Thailand,” Kiraly added. “They have such a great spirit about them, and they are just so scrappy … and relentless. They play great defense, and they keep the ball alive. They never give up, always give max effort. They really honor the game with what they do. It’s always fun and good for us to compete.”
The U.S. Women concluded the second preliminary round of VNL at 7-1, which will play China (5-2) later on Sunday. The Team as well, will play their final round of VNL in Calgary, Canada, starting on June 29.