Washington inspires USA to victory over Japan

USA continued their perfect start in this season’s FIVB Volleyball Nations League with victory over long-time rivals Japan in Bulgaria. 

The Americans, who showed their depth with three changes to their starting line-up from yesterday’s 3-0 victory over Belgium, were forced to work hard for their 3-1 victory in the Arena Ruse.  

A hard-fought opening set was eventually edged by the Americans as they put together six unanswered points when the scores were tied 18-18 to finish the set 25-21 victors.  

But Japan fought back sensationally in the second to stun the Americans, who at one point were 20-12 and 24-20 ahead, to the take the set and pile the pressure on their opponents. 

However, the USA regrouped and bounced back to take the remaining two sets – 25-21 and 25-20 – to maintain their unbeaten start in Pool 2 with Japan suffering from a number of unforced errors, tallying 22 in total.

Haleigh Washington, a graduate from Penn State, was the standout performer for Team USA as she scored 17 points, with five blocks – including the match-winning shot. 

Lewie’s view

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

Japan were always likely to be the most dangerous threat to the States in this pool and that certainly proved to be the case today. Their huge comeback in the second set showed their resilience and their quick, subtle and clever passing often left the USA blocking thin air.

However, the towering presence of Haleigh Washington, Jordan Thompson and Hannah Tapp at the net ultimately proved too much for Japan to handle. The Americans will be mightily pleased to have overcome this hurdle and are now sitting pretty in Pool 2.”