It was an ideal start to Finals Week for USA as they registered a 3-1 success over Poland in Nanjing, China. But what did we learn from their victory?
Here we’ve picked out a few highlights from USA’s victory in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League:
1. Annie Drews is doing her thing
The former Purdue University star, Andrea Drews, has been nothing short of electric for the Americans throughout this VNL campaign.
The 25-year-old is the team’s top scorer with 181 points and sits 14th overall in the competition. When you consider the chop-and-change style of Karch Kiraly, that’s pretty impressive.
2. Kelsey Robinson is every coach’s dream
Kiraly must count his lucky stars every time he looks at the team sheet and sees Kelsey Robinson available for selection. The University of Nebraska alumnus has played a pivotal role in helping America reach Finals Week with her versatility and leadership, which were again on show today against Poland.
— USA Volleyball (@usavolleyball) July 3, 2019
A confident Robinson is set to play a big part in USA’s attempt at defending the title and banking a $1 million cheque.
3. Haleigh Washington blocking charge
As impressive as Robinson and Drews were out wide, Haleigh Washington’s net play made it a tough day at the office for Poland. The Penn State University graduate registered seven blocks – and in doing so, overtook team-mate Chiaka Ogbogu for the most blocks by a USA player with 29 in total.
4. Kiraly will make changes for Brazil
One thing we can expect against Brazil is for Kiraly to make a change or two. During the preliminary stages, he named 15 different line-ups in as many games and he will want to test his full 14-player squad under the pressure of Finals Week.
Jordan Thompson and captain Jordan Larson did not feature against Poland but could be in line for a start against Brazil on Thursday (July 4).
5. Lapses in concentration will punish USA eventually
While the Americans will be pleased with their display, there are areas that could be improved – and if they want to successfully defend their VNL title, they will need to iron out a few creases.
Slow starts have been a constant for Team USA throughout the VNL competition and the result against Poland was identical to their match during the round-robin stages. Against China and Turkey, they cannot afford to stumble out the blocks.
As ruthless as they were in sets two and three, they left the door open in set four for Poland to fight their way back into the contest. Kiraly looked far from pleased on the sidelines as Poland almost stole the fourth set – and who knows, it could have been a different result if they managed to do so.