Three teams have risen to the top of the 2019 FIVB Women’s World Cup competition through the first two phases.
China, at 8-0, sits alone at the No. 1 spot, while the USA and Russia each boast 7-1 records. All 12 teams in the tournament will have two days of rest before the final three-match phase of competition resumes later this week. Undefeated China has dominated all competition, including handing the United States its only loss of the tournament, a 3-0 sweep (25-16, 25-17, 25-22). The USA hit just .196 in the match on Monday, while China hit .337 and held an advantage in blocking (11-6) and serving (5-1).
Only Karsta Lowe, who came in off the bench in the first set to replace Annie Drews, made it to double-digit scoring in the China match, tallying 10 points with nine kills and a block. USA head coach Karch Kiraly made a number of substitutions throughout the match, utilizing 13 of the 14 players on his roster, but he couldn’t find a lineup to compete with China.
“China played very strong in this match,” Kiraly said. “They were good in service and reception and we could not overcome those advantages they had today. When we receive well our offence is effective. When the other team serves well, we are not as effective.”
China’s star outside hitter Zhu Ting led the match with 23 points on 17 kills, five blocks, and an ace. She ranks third in the tournament with 126 total points. Brazil is the only team to take a set off of China, as the South American squad pushed China to five sets on Sunday.
In the round-robin format of the World Cup, the USA’s gold-medal hopes rest on China losing at least one of its final three matches. The Asian powerhouse will face Netherlands, Serbia, and Argentina this week. Serbia, ranked No. 1 in the world, would typically pose the greatest threat to China, but after a busy summer that included VNL, the Olympic Qualification Tournament, and European Championships, Serbia chose to leave a number of its top players at home.
In its two other matches in Phase 2, the USA defeated Japan in five sets and swept the Dominican Republic.
Highlights: USA vs Dominican Republic
Against Japan on Sunday, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley led all players with 30 points (26 kills, three blocks, and an ace). Lowe subbed in for Drews partway through the second set and finished the match with 18 points. But against Dominican Republic on Tuesday, it was Drews who led the American squad, recording a match-high 23 points on 18 kills, three blocks, and two aces.
“Andrea Drews has had a strong 2019 season,” Kiraly said after the Dominican Republic match. “She is a good learner and is working hard to become an elite level international opposite.”
“We knew it would be tough today after the tough loss last night,” USA captain Jordan Larson added. “I’m glad we came out stronger today. We knew the Dominican Republic would be a challenge. We took some time to digest the loss last night and then focused on today. There are still lots of matches left in the tournament.”
On Friday, the USA takes on Russia in what will be its toughest remaining match in the tournament. If China remains undefeated, the match between the USA and Russia will likely determine which team earns the silver medal and which settles for bronze. The USA will also play Cameroon on Saturday and Korea on Sunday (late Saturday night in the U.S.).
Upcoming games (In Osaka, Japan)