OMAHA, Neb. >> Going with the friends and family game plan benefited the United States Wednesday night at the FIBV World Grand Prix Finals.
Karsta Lowe and Kelsey Robinson combined for 22 kills to lead the Americans to a three-set victory over Japan. The United States won 25-12, 25-15, 25-18 before a crowd of 5,105 at CenturyLink Center. The tournament continues through Sunday.
The Americans get precious few opportunities to play top-tier international competitions on United States soil; the last one was the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Instead of letting the pressure of playing in front of so many familiar faces be a hindrance, U.S. head coach Karch Kiraly is making the most of this unique opportunity.
"We’re embracing a rare chance for family and friends to cheer us on," Kiraly said. "We’re building in some family time every day, but we also have a job to do."
The Americans did that job against Japan. Robinson, one of three former University of Nebraska players on the U.S. roster, got things started for the Americans with six kills in the first set rout with a relatively young lineup.
"It was nice to be able to do that in front of friends and family," Robinson said. "This is what we’ve been starting with pretty much the whole tournament. It’s a testament to how deep our bench is."
After falling behind by three in the second set, the U.S. flipped an 8-6 deficit into a 10-8 advantage and gradually pulled away. Lowe finished the second set with back-to-back kills to finish the first two sets with 11 kills.
Foluke Akinradewo and Kimberly Hill both had six kills apiece, with Akinradewo getting several of hers late in the third set.
In Wednesday’s first two matches, Brazil defeated China 23-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-14 before Russia swept Italy 26-24, 28-26, 25-19.
On Thursday the United States plays Italy after Brazil faces Russia and Japan plays China.