OMAHA, Neb. » The United States is the only undefeated team left in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals after a four-set victory over Russia on Friday night.
It was a five-point run inspired by a call on a dig by that wasn’t awarded to USA libero Kayla Banwarth that helped the top-ranked Americans close out the 26-24, 19-25, 25-16, 25-22 victory before an announced crowd of 7,500 at CenturyLink Center.
Banwarth said the inspiration from the crowd after the replay was shown helped fuel the USA’s final rally.
"I know it was for me," Banwarth said. "Just toward the end of that set we knew we had to close it out because we didn’t want to go five with Russia. There was a heightened focus toward the end of that set.
"That play helped the crowd get into it. I got riled up, and I helped the crowd get into it, so it might have helped us in the end."
Karsta Lowe, Foluke Akinradewo and Kimberly Hill combined for 43 of the American’s 61 spikes. Lowe led the way with 19.
Russia scored its final point of the fourth set on that call that went against Team USA. An attack error by Russia tied the score 22-22 before the United States offense took care of the final three points.
A spike by Lowe and a block by Jordan Larson-Burbach set up the match-winning ace by Tetori Dixon to make the American’s 3-0 in finals matches.
Dixon also had two digs on attacks by Russia’s Nataliya Goncharova, who led all players with 25 spikes, that led to the spike by Lowe that put the American’s ahead for good a 23-22.
Second-ranked Brazil swept Japan 25-21, 25-23, 25-16 to improve to 2-1 in the finals in Friday’s opening match. Japan has yet to win a set in its first three matches.
Italy rallied to defeat China and improve to 2-1 with a 25-15, 22-25, 25-22, 18-25, 15-12 in Friday’s second match. It was the first five-set match of the finals.
Russia faces China in the early match on Saturday, followed by Italy against Japan before the nightcap between the United States and Brazil.
The event, the last major tuneup before Olympic qualifying, continues through Sunday.