On Wednesday night, the U.S. women’s national team dominated Germany to the tune of a 3-0 victory and earned three valuable points in the Volleyball Nations League standings, where the USA ranks second to Turkey.
Kelsey Robinson, making her 2019 debut with Team USA, lead all players with 18 points, while setter Carli Lloyd and middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer, both national team veterans, also saw the court for the first time in the tournament.
The match marked Robinson’s first time playing on the outside for USA since the beginning of last season. After just two matches at 2018’s VNL, head coach Karch Kiraly moved her to the libero position for the remainder of the tournament and for World Championships in the fall.
“Whether I’m a libero or an outside, I’m just out there to have fun and have a good time and push the girls around me and make them better,” Robinson said.
After winning a five-set battle with Brazil on Tuesday night, Germany chose to rest a number of its usual starters, including star opposite Louisa Lippman and setter Denise Hanke.
“That was not Germany’s first team, but mostly their second team,” USA head coach Karch Kiraly said. “There are still some things we need to clean up. We can be happy with the win, happy with the 3-0 result, and unhappy with some things we need to get better at.”
After a slow and sloppy start to the match versus Korea on Tuesday, one thing USA can be happy with was its fast start against Germany. The Americans went up 17-9 in the first set and then, with the exception of a brief stint in the second, held the lead for most of the match. Eleven aces and strong serving overall helped the USA keep Germany’s young players from getting into a rhythm, and 36 digs kept the ball alive on USA’s side of the net.
“I thought we got our service pressure going,” Robinson said. “I thought we handled the misconnects and the bad plays and the weird things that were going on, I thought we handled those balls and I’m really proud of the younger girls for maintaining.”
Rookie and current University of Cincinnati athlete Jordan Thompson subbed in for Annie Drews part way through Tuesday’s match, but earned the start against Germany, finishing the night with 14 points on nine kills, two blocks, and three aces. Mikaela Foecke also had 14 points (13 kills and an ace).
“The defense was amazing, so that really helped me to be confident,” Thompson said of her performance against Germany. “I know I can transition, I have a lot of time, and Carli was just, I mean, her sets were amazing. I haven’t been hitting off of her for that long, it’s only been a few days, but I think we have a really good connection so far, so I’m really excited to just keep growing that.”
After starting the match with Megan Courtney at libero, Kiraly chose to use 20-year-old Mary Lake in the position for sets two and three. The current BYU libero tallied six digs and 21 receptions with a 48 percent position reception percent.
“My actually initial reaction, I said to [Kiraly], ‘For who,’ like ‘Who am I going in for?’ because I just assumed I’d be a sub in because that’s what I’ve been doing,” Lake said of getting the nod for set two. “He pointed to Megan [Courtney] and Megan was like, ‘For me!’ And so I felt a little adrenaline rush and got really excited and tried to calm myself down and just go to doing what I know how to do.”
With Thompson, Lake, current Wisconsin middle Dana Rettke, and recent college grad Foecke all making major contributions in the Germany match, and with Kiraly using his seventh unique starting lineup in as many matches, USA’s youth and depth was once again on display.
“We have so many young girls, and I think everyone could see how much enthusiasm they were bringing,” Robinson said. “It was hard not to smile when you’re out there, whether you’re making a mistake or scoring. It was just so much enthusiasm, and for a lot of the older players, it’s kind of a breath of fresh air.”
Thursday night, USA concludes it’s slate of matches in Lincoln, taking on rival Brazil. Brazil opened Week 3 with a five-set loss to Germany, but rebounded on Wednesday, executing a dominant sweep of Korea.