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Press release

USA reach Finals with 3-2 victory over Bulgaria


Kimberly Hill spikes against Bulgaria on Sunday

 Sendai, Japan, August 18, 2013 – USA edged Bulgaria 3-2 (16-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-15, 15-8) on the third and final day of action in Pool M of the FIVB World Grand Prix at Sendai City Gymnasium on Sunday, sealing their spot in the Finals.

USA improved to 8-1 and 22 points, while World Grand Prix debutants Bulgaria dropped to 6-3 but raised their points total to 19.

Elitsa Vasileva was the top scorer in the match with 20 points while Kristin Hildebrand led USA with 15.

Bulgaria outblocked USA 14-11 and both teams had six service aces. Bulgaria made 24 errors to USA’s 21.

USA struggled to get into the match in the early stages and coach Karch Kiraly called a timeout at 2-6. The Bulgarians, on the other hand, found their spiking range early – notably Dobriana Rabadzhieva and Elitsa Vasileva – and the Americans were playing catchup from the start. The Americans also didn’t manage to get a blocking point until late in the set, but the Bulgarians dominated throughout. Emiliya Nikolova brought setpoint with a sweet kill and a block by Hristina Ruseva put the Bulgarians 1-0 up.

Some sloppy defending gave the Bulgarians an advantage at the start of the second set and Vasileva landed a couple of good blows as her team took a four-point lead at the first technical timeout. Kiraly called a timeout after a big block by Strashimira Filipova on Kelly Murphy made the score 12-7 for Bulgaria. USA captain Kristin Hildebrand then started to find her range with some cracking shots and Bulgaria coach Marcello Abbondanza had to call a timeout when the Americans closed to within two points at 15-13. The Americans kept knocking at the Bulgarians’ door and finally it opened. Bulgaria went 23-20 ahead on a netted serve by Lauren Paolini, but Mariya Karakasheva did likewise and the Americans scored five straight points – including great blocks by Christa Harmotto and Kimberly Hill – to take the set 25-23 and level the match.

The key to the third set was simple: Bulgaria’s blocking. Or, to be more accurate, Ruseva’s blocking. The Bulgarian came up with five huge blocks, including three in a six-point section mid-set, to raise the Bulgarians’ total to 12 for the match. However, American captain Hildebrand was fighting hard to keep her team in the match and they were ahead at the second technical timeout – but only by a point. The Bulgarians then came up with more big blocks to take the advantage. A long serve by Hildebrand handed the set and a 2-1 advantage to Bulgaria.

Alisha Glass made a couple of sensational defensive plays early in the fourth set and also served an ace that put the Americans 10-7 up. They were soon five points ahead, defending better and playing with plenty of confidence, a point Nicole Fawcett emphasized with two ripping service aces to make the score 17-11. Another fantastic block by Glass – her third of the night – saw the Americans six points ahead at 20-14 and after that the match headed for a fifth set.  

The momentum stayed with the Americans in the fifth set and three errors by the Bulgarians and an ace by Hildebrand allowed USA to lead by five points at the turnaround. Glass came up with another classy block to stretch the Americans lead to seven points at 10-3 and they had little trouble after that. Matchpoint came when Desislava Nikolova couldn’t handle a drive by Fawcett and Fawcett then hit the winning shot.

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