Gabi masterclass stuns USA

High-scoring performances from Annie Drews and Dana Rettke could not prevent USA from slipping to a second defeat of the season as Brazil ran out 3-1 winners in the final game of week three at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League.

Brazil were inspired by a match-winning display from outside hitter Gabi Guimaraes, whose 26 points and 65 per cent attacking efficiency forced USA coach Karch Kiraly to concede that his players had been outplayed in front of a partisan crowd at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The victory left Brazil in the top six in the VNL going into week four and, after dominating one of the competition’s favourites, Ze Roberto’s side have every reason to believe they can stay there until the Final Six play off in Nanjing in the first week of July.

USA were left shell-shocked after the Selecao came out all guns blazing in the opening set, quelling the impact of Kelsey Robinson’s kills by winning five of the last six points to prevail 25-19.

Rettke and Drews delivered impressive kills as the hosts sought to bounce back in the second but, with the scores poised at 19-15 in Brazil’s favour, the South Americans won four points without reply and went onto claim the set 25-17.

Chiaka Ogbogu and Mikaela Foecke starred as USA hit back in set three with a sequence of kills that gave the home crowd hope after a 25-22 win, but persistent errors plagued Kiraly’s side and proved their undoing in the fourth as Gabi capitalised and Brazil eased to a 25-20 final set victory.

No expectations

The result leaves USA with two wins and a defeat from their three VNL home games, and ending on a low was not the outcome Kiraly wanted ahead of a trio of matches against top five rivals Turkey, Poland and China in week four.

Drews was keen to take the positives as she reflected on a 7-2 record at this year’s VNL, telling TeamUSA.org: “A big emphasis from point one of the season was no expectations.

“We won last year, great. But we have a lot of new people who we are trying to get comfortable, so that is great as well. I can’t say we thought we would be one place or another. 7-2 is respectable and I am excited to build on that.”

Lewie’s view

Coach, commentator and Freeball podcast host Lewie Lett gives us his match analysis:

Brazil are no slouches, but USA were not at their best here. A defence that usually shows steely resolve was picked apart and Karch Kiraly will look to his more experienced players to cut out the sloppy errors that allowed Gabi one of her most enjoyable nights at the VNL.

“The Selecao will take great confidence from this victory and rightly so. Their passing was slick and USA struggled to cope with their serves. They could well finish higher than sixth by the end of the tournament.”