OMAHA, Neb. (AP) A lineup change by Italy forced the United States to make adjustments Thursday night that should help them through the remainder of the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals.
With better shot-blockers on the floor, the Italians slowed the American's roll and won the third set 25-15 after the United States won the first two 25-17, 25-14.
The Americans made several adjustments and pulled away to win the fourth set 25-15 before an announced crowd of 6,500 at CenturyLink Center.
Lauren Gibbemeyer and Christa Dietzen combined for 23 kills while Kelsey Robinson and Karsta Lowe knocked home eight apiece to lead the American attack.
''They were playing great defense and hitting a lot of deep balls off the top of our blocks,'' Dietzen said. ''We made some great adjustments in the fourth set and we executed pretty well.''
The Americans cruised through the first two sets before Italy's defense clamped down in the third set. Miriam Fatime Sylla and Lucia Bosetti led the Italians with three blocks apiece.
Neither team could build an advantage early in the third set as the teams traded points until a spike by Robinson got the American's to the first timeout with an 8-7 lead. The Italians flipped that to a 12-10 over the next seven points.
Neutralizing the U.S. offense with key blocks, the Italians outscored the Americans 13-5 to impressively hand the Americans their first set loss of the finals.
''I think we take pride in our belief that we can put any group out, any combination out, and make lots of good plays,'' Kiraly said. ''We also take pride in the fact that in a long tournament, playing different combinations keeps people fresher and we can be strong at concluding points.''
In Thursday's opening match, Russia also stayed undefeated with a 25-19, 28-26, 25-19 sweep of Brazil. China earned its first victory of the finals and dropped Japan to 0-2 with a 25-20, 25-19, 25-12 victory in Thursday's second match.
The United States faces Russia on Friday night, after China faces Italy and Brazil plays Japan. The event, the last major tuneup for elite teams before Olympic qualifying, continues through Sunday.
''It's going to be a tough one tomorrow,'' U.S. outside hitter Jordan Larson-Burbach said. ''Obviously the Russians are big, they rely on their block a lot, so we're going to have to work hard on our offense.''