No. 3 USA made short work of No. 15 Germany on Wednesday night as the Americans swept the Germans 25-18, 25-22, 25-18 to improve to 2-0 during week three of Volleyball Nations League at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
After back-to-back slow starts in a loss to Dominican Republic last week and a four-set win over No. 9 Korea on Tuesday, the United States took control from the opening serve, though coach Karch Kiraly wasn’t thrilled by the overall performance.
“I think we came out better,” Kiraly said. “I still don’t think we’re as dialed in as we need to be. That was not Germany’s first team; that was mostly their second team. There are still some things we have to clean up. We can be happy with the win and happy with the 3-0 result and unhappy with some things that we still need to get better at.
“Our blocking was not nearly as effective as it should have been over the course of the evening. But we also had some really nice, tough serving from people like Kelsey Robinson and Jordan Thompson, just jumping high and hitting it flat across the net. We’re creating these opportunities but not taking advantage of them with a clean block.”
After sitting for USA’s win over No. 9 Korea on Tuesday, Robinson started at outside hitter alongside fellow former Husker Mikaela Foecke while Jordan Larson watched from the bench.
“It’s always a blast to play in front of Nebraska fans, and they love volleyball so it’s a treat for Jordan, Foecke and me to come home and just be in front of a home crowd,” Robinson said.
Foecke led the Americans with 13 kills and chipped in one ace. Robinson added 11 kills, four blocks and three aces to lead USA with 18 total points.
“I thought she was really dialed in tonight, and that’s understandable,” Kiraly said about Robinson. “She played a lot of ‘bro [libero] for us last year and got back to her natural position. This was her first outside hitter match for USA in over a year and it was really fun to watch her do her thing and it won’t be the last time this year; that was just the first of 2019. I’m sure she was pumped because we’re playing in Lincoln and we’re playing quality opponents across the net.”
After trading sideouts early in the first set, USA put together a 4-0 run including a pair of aces by 6-foot-8 middle blocker Dana Rettke to pull ahead 8-5. The Americans blew the game wide open with a stretch where they won 11 our of 14 points, pushing the lead to 19-10.
Germany made a push late but the United States held on and Robinson put down the winning kill, tooling the German block for the 1-0 lead.
Foecke led the United States with five kills while Robinson added four kills and two blocks. Germany committed six errors while the U.S. played a clean game.
Kiraly sent BYU senior Mary Lake into the game at libero to start the second set in place of Megan Courtney, who had played the entire match on Tuesday and the first set on Wednesday. Lake’s college coach at BYU, Heather Olmstead, made the trip to Lincoln to watch her play.
“Things were going pretty well and that was a nice opportunity for Mary to show what she can do,” Kiraly said. “She passed at a really high level and I liked that we got to face a team that traditionally is quite a good serving team, so there are no slouches at the service line. That was a good challenge for Mary; she held up really well.”
The teams traded blows early in the first set before Germany created a little separation, pulling ahead 10-8 and then 15-12. However, USA evened the match with a 3-0 run. The Americans tied it at 16-16, 20-20 and 21-21 before finally pulling ahead on an ace by Lauren Gibbemeyer. Germany tied it once again but the United States closed the set on a 3-0 run featuring a kill by Robinson and back-to-back aces by Jordan Thompson.
Kills and errors were even in the second set; USA was plus-two in blocks and plus-one in aces to create the difference. Thompson, Foecke and Robinson had eight kills apiece through two sets.
After battling to a 6-6 tie early in the third, the teams traded runs with the United States pulling ahead 12-8 with a 6-2 stretch then Germany tying it back up with a 5-1 response. The U.S. dominated from there, taking control with a 7-1 run that put them up 20-14 before cruising to the win. Robinson put down the final kill to complete the sweep.
No. 3 USA sweeps No. 15 Germany 25-18, 25-22, 25-18. Kelsey Robinson with the winner on match point, her 11th kill. Mikaela Foecke led the way with 13 kills. #VNL #ProBigRed pic.twitter.com/BAAxGifO0r
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) June 6, 2019
USA dominated from the service line, serving up 11 aces to just three by Germany.
“Karch really preaches that we win by serve and pass; our serve and pass game is how we win the game,” Robinson said. “Obviously we’re working on passing but I think we put a lot of emphasis on bringing heat from the service line. I think the second match we let up and that’s where you saw it going back and forth but once we got back to putting that pressure on I think we were able to take off.”
In the first match of the day, Brazil swept Korea 25-17, 25-16, 25-11 to notch its first win of the week. USA (7-1) will take on Brazil (5-3) on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. to wrap up week three of Volleyball Nations League play in Lincoln.
“That should be a fun one,” Kiraly said. “Brazil’s a legendary program and they’ve got a great coaching staff. We’re excited and looking forward to the challenge.”
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.