The U.S. women’s volleyball team moved another step toward a medal Wednesday afternoon.
With former Penn State player Alisha Glass guiding an effective offense, the Americans knocked off Serbia 25-17, 21-25, 25-18, 25-19 at Maracanazinho Arena.
The win moved the U.S. to the top of Pool B with a 3-0 record, guaranteeing a spot in the quarterfinal knockout round. The top four teams in the two six-team pools advance to the quarterfinals. Team USA has won a silver medal in each of the past two Olympics.
“For us, it’s really about the process,” Glass said in Rio, unaware until that moment that the Americans had clinched the spot in the next round. “It’s about us getting better throughout this whole tournament. We look at the next match as an opportunity to get better; and then the next match after that and the next match after that. We’re excited to get better and improve, wherever that takes us.”
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Glass posted 39 running sets while directing the offense to a .325 hitting day. The team’s starting middle blockers were the biggest beneficiaries, with Rachael Adams notching 13 kills on 19 error-free swings to hit .684. She added four aces and a block. Foluke Akinradewo added 12 kills on 19 swings with just one error to hit .579, and added four blocks.
“Going in we knew Serbia was a very strong team, and we had to take smarter swings,” U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. “Alisha did a great job of moving the offense around to create a lot of awesome opportunities for our hitters. The passers were on and made Serbia’s job difficult.”
Kim Hill added 11 kills, while Jordan Larson-Burbach notched nine kills.
Brankica Mihajovic’s 16 kills and two aces, Tijana Boskovic’s 14 kills and four blocks led Serbia (2-1), which was handed its first loss.
The offensive success for Team USA came courtesy of solid passing, which gave Glass plenty of choices to run the offense.
“When we fed our middles the ball, they put it away every time,” said libero Kayla Banwarth, who had nine digs. “The passers did a really nice job of scouting this team and where they’re going to serve. So we really front-loaded that really well.”
The Americans had only five aces, but made just eight service errors and put plenty of pressure on the Serbs to make that offense predictable, hitting .258.
The previous two meetings between the teams had gone to five sets, with each team winning a match, during the 2015 season.
“Serbia is a team we lost to in (the) World Cup,” Banwarth said. “We were hungry to get some revenge on them. I think it was a ‘go get it’ kind of mentality.”
Another former Nittany Lion, U.S. captain Christa Harmotto Dietzen, did not play in the match.
Team USA next hits the court at 2 p.m. Friday to meet Italy before closing pool play Sunday against the world’s No. 3 team, China.