LINCOLN, Neb. — The top-ranked U.S. women’s volleyball team, powered by Benjamin Logan product Nicole Fawcett, took its first step toward qualifying for the Rio Olympics with a straight-set win over Canada on Thursday in the in the opener of its NORCECA Olympic qualifying tournament.
The Americans overwhelmed the 16th-ranked and lowest seed Canadians with their depth and powerful attack in the 25-18, 25-18, 25-15 victory at Pinnacle Bank Arena to take the first step toward earning a berth into this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“First off, hats off to Canada as they played great defense which is a struggle for a lot of our opponents,” said U.S. captain Christa Dietzen. “Their defenders did a phenomenal job and put pressure on us. We talked about throwing ‘a lot of good’ at them. I thought we kept our patience in the match. Was it our best match? No. If we are operating at a C level or B-minus, we have to find ways to win.”
In the second set, Fawcett’s service ace put the U.S. up 23-17 and Kelsey Robinson’s kill soon ended it, then Fawcett made a kill on match point to finish off Canada.
Fawcett, one of two opposites on the U.S. roster, scored a team-high 14 points, including 13 kills and one ace.
Coach Karch Kiraly’s 14-player squad this week features five players who settled for silver at the London Olympics in a disappointing defeat to Brazil.
In tonight’s lineup for the round-robin event, the U.S. takes on No. 15 Puerto Rico, a four-set loser in Thursday’s opening match to the seventh-ranked Dominican Republic — 17-25, 25-13, 25-23, 25-23.
United States players including Foluke Akinradewo, right, celebrate their win over Canada in three sets in a women’s volleyball NORCECA round-robin Olympic qualifying tournament match Thursday in Lincoln, Neb. The United States won in three sets. (AP PHOTO | NATI HARNIK)