ANTALYA, Türkiye, June 2, 2023.- Led by their talented setter Micha Hancock the Olympic champions the United States topped Italy in the tie-breaker to remain undefeated surviving their second big test in three days on Friday and continue on a roll in the opening week of the Volleyball Nations League 2023 in Antalya, Türkiye.
Two days after making their debut in this year’s edition of the tournament with a dramatic five-set victory over reigning world champions Serbia, the Americans played another tie-breaker in order to overcome defending VNL champions Italy 3-2 (25-16, 14-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-9) in Pool 1 at the Antalya Sports Hall.
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Setter and team captain Micha Hancock ran the American offense brilliantly, having all her five starting hitters leave the court with more than ten points. The 30-year-old, left-handed setter also scored a couple of points herself, with a kill and a block.
“It was an all-team effort,” she said. “Everyone was ready to come off the bench. Italy is a great team and a lot of us play club there, so they know us well. It’s always interesting when we play them, so I knew that getting everyone involved would make the match harder for them. My job is pretty easy. All these girls have very long arms, so all I have to do is get the ball up for them. We have a relentless attitude when we’re all together and it’s just fun to see a bunch of young girls doing so well.”
Getting on the end of Hancock’s sets, outside hitters Khalia Lanier (16 points) and Veronica Perry-Jones (15), middle blockers Dana Rettke (14) and Asjia O’Neal (11) and opposite Annie Drews (12) all reached double digits in scoring.
Despite the defeat, Italy had three top scorers in the match in opposite Sylvia Nwakalor, who scored 20 points (17 kills, three blocks), and outside hitters Loveth Omoruyi and Myriam Sylla, who produced 17 and 16, respectively.
The number of errors produced by the Italians proved to be the major difference in the match as the Europeans handed 31 points to the Americans, who generated 22 for their opponents. There was great balance in kills, with Italy leading 60-58, blocks, with nine for each side, and aces, with the Europeans having a 4-3 advantage.
On Saturday the United States will face Korea at 17:00 local time (14:00 UTC).