The United States staged a comeback from a 0-2 hole against Brazil to claim the Volleyball Nations League gold medal in Nanjing, China, on Sunday.
For former Huskers Jordan Larson and Kelsey Robinson, the VNL title is their second as USA won the championship last summer in the league’s inaugural year. Now Mikaela Foecke joins them as champions.
VNL CHAMPIONS🏆 #gottheBREAD 🍞 pic.twitter.com/IteqzMt2z9
— Mikaela Richter (@mikaela_foecke) July 8, 2019
USA lost to Brazil in Lincoln during preliminary play, then won the rematch in four sets in Finals Round pool play, clinching a perfect record in Pool B.
USA’s chances in the rubber match looked bleak as the Brazilians took the first two sets, but the United States kept battling and took the last three sets to win the match in five (20-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 15-13).
The United States earned a couple of match points, Brazil pulled within one at 14-13 and then the United States won thanks to a net touch from Brazil, which the officials originally missed. Coach Karch Kiraly challenged successfully and it ended the match.
What an exciting @FIVBVolleyball #VNL win in the gold-medal match. Here are some highlights. pic.twitter.com/IDJ887khgG
— USA Volleyball (@usavolleyball) July 7, 2019
Robinson played in all five sets, finishing with 13 kills and 37 swings and two aces. Larson came off the bench to spark the team after the second set, playing in the final three games and recording eight kills on 18 attacks. Foecke did not play in the title match.
Purdue graduate Annie Drews was named MVP after recording 33 points against Brazil including 32 kills. Former Penn State middle blocker Haleigh Washington added eight kills and two blocks.
In the pool game against Brazil, Larson had 11 kills on 28 swings and two aces while Foecke added 10 kills on 26 attempts and two aces of her own. Robinson played in all four sets as a back-row substitute and notched six digs in her limited playing time.
After beating Poland and Brazil in pool play, the United States advanced to face host nation China in the semifinals. USA won that one 25-11, 15-25, 25-17 and 25-20. Robinson had 14 kills on 28 swings and an ace while Larson and Foecke did not play in that one.
The United States closed out the VNL on a nine-match winning streak and finished with a 16-3 record. Last summer, USA capped a 17-2 record with a win over Turkey in the gold medal game.
In other international competition, USA — including two other former Huskers in outside hitter Kadie Rolfzen and libero Justine Wong-Orantes — opened Pan American Cup Pool B play with a pair of wins in Chiclayo, Peru, over the weekend.
On Saturday, the U.S. swept Colombia 25-17, 25-18, 25-21. Rolfzen recorded seven kills on 23 swings and a block while Wong-Orantes finished with 10 digs. On Sunday, the United States dispatched Trinidad & Tobago 25-14, 25-15, 25-13, though neither of the former Huskers got into the match.
Pool play for USA continues on Monday against Mexico at 5 p.m. The United States’ final pool play game against Puerto Rico is set for Wednesday at 5 p.m.
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.