USA overcome Dominican Republic 3-1 in World Grand Champions Cup
The win saw USA finish the tournament with a 4-1 record for 10 points while the Dominicans dropped to 1-4 and ended on three points.
The medals will be decided in the final match of the tournament when Japan (nine points) face Brazil (12 points).
It was the first time USA and the Dominican Republic had met in the World Grand Champions Cup. USA had a 12-2 record in FIVB events against the Dominicans going into the match.
USA beat the Dominican Republic twice earlier this year – in the finals of the Pan American Cup and the NORCECA Championship.
Lauren Paolini was the top scorer in the match with 19 points, while Kelly Murphy and Jordan Larson-Burbach had 16.
Gina Mambru led the Dominican Republic with 17 points followed by Brayelin Martinez with 10.
USA outblocked their opponents 16-8 and out-aced them 8-2. The Dominicans committed 21 errors to the Americans’ 20.
Gina Mambru of the Dominican Republic got into the groove quickly with four big hits that put her team 5-2 ahead. USA fought back and drew level at 6-6 on a lucky serve by Jordan Larson-Burbach that dribbled off the net cord onto the Dominican side of the net. USA captain Kristin Hildebrand then went on a smashing spree with three straight bombs that prompted Dominican Republic coach Marcos Kwiek to call a timeout. The Dominicans struggled after that. They failed to get back two serves from Cursty Jackson, while her teammate Lauren Paolini came up with back-to-back blocks that put USA 17-8 ahead and in firm control of the set. Larson-Burbach ended the set with a simple tipover.
Alysha Glass started the second set with some hot defence, earning three points behind the serving of Paolini, who also delivered an ace. USA were six points up at the first technical timeout and seven at the second. The Dominicans came to life only sporadically, while the Americans were playing confident volleyball. A spike by Paolini earned USA 10 setpoints and a clever tipover by the same player put the Americans 2-0 up.
Paolini helped USA jump out to an early 3-0 lead in the third set but the Dominicans dug in, with Mambru laying down three big hits. A Brayelin Martinez block on Paolini brought the teams level at 9-9. Larson-Burbach came up with a rasping, cross-court blast and a neatly placed shot in the corner as the Americans moved three points ahead, but a block by Annerys Vargas on Kelly Murphy saw the teams level again at 14, prompting USA coach Karch Kiraly to call his first timeout of the match. The Dominicans took the lead at 16-15 after a block by Vargas on Jackson and moved into a two-point lead at 19-17 after a thumping ace by Yonkaira Pena. That turned into a three-point lead after an error at the net by the Americans and with the Dominicans finding a new burst of confidence, the Americans weren’t able to get back into the set. A super block by Pena on Jackson brought up setpoint and the Dominicans pulled a set back when Murphy planted a shot into the net.
The scores were level at 4-4 in the fourth set but two spikes and a block on Pena by Murphy gave the Americans a slight advantage. The Dominicans tried to hold on with some good work by 17-year-old Martinez, including a delicate tipover and a monster kill, but at 12-15 Dominican coach Marcos Kwiek called a timeout. Martinez responded with two good hits before Pena planted a serve in the net, giving USA a two-point advantage at the second TTO. They stretched this to four points after a hit by Paolini and a lucky serve off the net cord by Murphy. After that, the Dominicans couldn’t find a way back. Larson-Burbach came up with two blocks, the second one handing USA six matchpoints. Alisha Glass then delivered the winning shot after a poor service reception by the Dominicans.