With tournament title secured, US sweeps China
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) With the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals championship already secured, the United States added a three-set victory over China on Sunday to cap the tournament.
With a spike by home-state hero Jordan Larson-Burbach to finish things off, the top-ranked Americans avenged their July 18 five-set loss to China with a 25-23, 25-19, 25-18 sweep before an announced crowd of 8,500 at CenturyLink Center.
Karsta Lowe and Megan Easy combined for 26 spikes to power the United States offense in its final test before the first 2016 Olympic qualifying tournament - the FIVB Women's World Cup from Aug. 22 to Sept. 6 in Japan.
Lowe finished with a team-high 17 points (15 spikes, two blocks) while Easy had 13 points on 11 spikes and a pair of blocks. Larson-Burbach, who grew up in tiny Hooper, Nebraska, and Christa Dietzen both finished with 10 points.
The victory capped a good week for the U.S. women's national team as it readies for the 2016 Olympics.
The U.S. team playing at the Pan American Games in Toronto swept Brazil 25-22, 25-21, 28-26 on Saturday to win the gold medal. The Americans finished that tournament 5-1, winning it for just the second time since 1967.
Carli Lloyd - not to be confused with the U.S. women's national soccer team star - won the Pan Am tournament's Most Valuable Player award, along with being named best setter.
In Omaha, the United States clinched the World Grand Prix title with a 25-16, 25-22, 25-21 over second-ranked Brazil on Saturday.
United States coach Karch Kiraly said winning two major international events with wins over rival Brazil - along with Sunday's sweep of China - was a milestone in the history of USA Volleyball.
Brazil is the defending Olympic champions after defeating the United States in the final of the 2012 London Olympics.
''Yesterday was a special day for the USA women,'' Kiraly said. ''Locking in our win here at Grand Prix Finals week and . minutes later, USA women beating the other Brazil in Toronto.
''I was really proud of the way this team dialed it in. We had already earned the right to be called champions here, but we wanted to finish this tournament right.''
Though China left some of its top-shelf players home to prepare for the World Cup and, like the Americans, Brazil was playing with a split squad, Lowe said any victory at this level is important for the program's progress.
''Yes, maybe we weren't playing their best rosters, but that doesn't matter,'' Lowe said. ''China has such a deep roster, as we do. I feel like when you get to this level, it doesn't matter who you put out there, everyone's good.''
In the later matches Sunday, Brazil defeated Italy 25-18, 25-27, 30-28, 25-18, and Russia swept Japan 25-11, 25-19, 25-18. Russia won the silver medal and Brazil won the bronze.
Lowe was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.