The U.S. women’s volleyball team took another step Tuesday afternoon toward its first gold medal.
The Americans dispatched Japan 25-16, 25-23, 25-22, enduring a number of long rallies thanks to the tough and frustrating Japanese defense, in the Olympic quarterfinals at Maracanazinho Arena.
The win guarantees two more matches for the U.S., which will face Serbia, a 3-0 winner Tuesday against Russia, in the semifinals Thursday.
“I don’t have any expectations. Others may have them, but I don’t,” said U.S. coach Karch Kiraly, the only person to win gold as a player in beach and indoor volleyball and looking to become the first as a coach and player.
“We talk about it a lot, the power of low expectations.”
Penn State product Alisha Glass guided the American offense to an incredibly efficient .412 hitting day on offense. The team made just seven hitting errors, with just two blocks for the Japanese.
Glass, the tournament’s leading setter, made 28 running sets to go with 11 digs and an ace.
Her main offensive targets were Jordan Larson-Burbach and Kim Hill, with a dozen kills apiece. Larson-Burbach had her total on .571 hitting and added a pair of aces, and Hill also served up two aces. Rachel Adams added nine kills on .500 hitting, Foluke Akinradewo had seven kills and three blocks.
The U.S. has now beaten Japan in 13 straight meetings.
“We always enjoy playing Japan,” U.S. captain and former Nittany Lion Christa Dietzen told teamusa.org. “They always expose different weaknesses. I think we both do that. They are always a wonderful defensive team. I’m sure you’ve seen tonight it takes four, five, six swings to put the ball down against them. That’s always a great challenge for us. We always enjoy playing them.”
The U.S. (6-0) defense held Japan to .243 hitting.
Team USA controlled most of the first set with an 11-4 run to go up 18-10. The second frame was much tighter, with the teams knotted 22-22 before Larson closed it with three straight kills.
In the third, Glass’ ace was part of a 6-2 U.S. run to build a 20-13 lead, leaving a win all but assured, but Japan rattled off seven straight points to knot the set. Karsta Lowe was brought into the lineup and immediately registered a kill, then an ace, to put the Americans back up for good, and an Akinradewo kill iced the win.
“I think we have to continue to remind ourselves (to be patient) because it is frustrating playing against a great defensive team like Japan,” Dietzen said. “It takes four or five swings sometimes for us to put the ball down. So that’s a tribute to that program. In general, I thought we handled that pretty well. We were patient. We’re excited to be one step closer and we will wait this afternoon to find out who we face.”
The U.S. women’s program has earned the silver medal in each of the last two Olympics, but has never won gold.