Short-handed US advances to women’s volleyball semifinals

Aug 3, 2021, 11:52 AM | Updated: Aug 4, 2021, 12:25 am

TOKYO (AP) — Five years after their quest for a first Olympic gold medal was denied in the semifinals, the United States women’s volleyball team has returned to that stage after a relatively easy quarterfinal win.

The short-handed Americans overcame the absence of two starters to beat the Dominican Republic 25-11, 25-20, 25-19 on Wednesday and advance to the semifinals.

The U.S. will play the winner of the Serbia-Italy match on Friday for a spot in the gold medal game.

This marks the sixth time in the past eight Olympics that the Americans have made it this far in the tournament but are still seeking their first gold in the sport. They have gotten a medal the last three Olympics, getting silver in 2008 and ’12 and bronze five years ago in Rio de Janeiro.

“This program has had great success over the years,” U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. “But we haven’t stood at the top of the podium yet. So our goal, our objective is always to try to do something that’s never been done before. But the opponent has a lot of say over how that works out. … There are great teams here who have the same objective. But we’re going to keep hurling ourselves at that door and try to break it down.”

That five-set loss to Serbia in 2016 after star middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson left following the first set with a knee injury has served as fuel ever since and Kiraly’s crew is ready to try to avenge it.

The U.S. came into the quarterfinals short-handed with starters Jordyn Poulter and Jordan Thompson both sidelined by right ankle injuries. But both players have surprised Kiraly with how quickly they are recovering and could have played in an emergency.

“We knew that we had them available to play,” Kiraly said. “But we also knew if we could play without them, it’s nice to give them a couple of extra days to be confident in their ankle, to jump more at the net tomorrow in training and things like that.”

They weren’t missed against the Dominicans with fill-ins Micha Hancock and Annie Drews setting the tone early. Hancock’s set led to a spike by Drews on the first point of the match and Hancock ended a lopsided first set with an ace.

The second set was a bit tougher with the Dominican Republic fighting off four set points before Drews ended it again with an attack point. Drew finished with a game-high 21 points.

“I told them when Jordan Poulter got hurt that out of the match against Italy, the great teams adapt and compensate and adjust,” Kiraly said. “We’ve been doing a really nice job of that.”

Hancock and Drews are part of a group of several first-time Olympians like Thompson, Poulter, outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley and libero Justine Wong-Orantes that have had stellar tournaments so far.

The mix of youth with experience in three-time Olympians like Akinradewo Gunderson and captain Jordan Larson has been a good formula for the U.S.

“They’re playing like it’s any other tournament,” Akinradewo Gunderson said about her inexperienced teammates. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence and fearlessness. That is truly inspiring for me to see them just get after it. It’s easy maybe in big moments to shrink. I think everyone is being even bigger in the moment.”

The Dominicans made it to the quarterfinals in their third Olympic trip ever. They also lost to the U.S. in the quarters in London in 2012 and failed to make it out of pool play at the 2004 Athens Games.

South Korea outlasted Turkey in five sets earlier Wednesday to make it into the other semifinal against the winner of the quarterfinal between the Russian team and Brazil.

The South Koreans are seeking their second medal ever in the sport, having won bronze at the 1976 Montreal Games. The only other times they made it to the semifinals came in 2012 and 1972.


More AP Olympics: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Leeds United's Weston McKennie, right, and Manchester United's Lisandro Martinez battle for the bal...
Associated Press

Man United stages fightback to draw 2-2 with Leeds in EPL

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United fought back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Leeds in the Premier League on Wednesday. Substitute Jadon Sancho rescued a point for Erik ten Hag’s team, which missed the chance to move level on points with second-place Manchester City. Leeds fired Jesse Marsch on Monday. It is […]
15 hours ago
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones speaks to the media during the NFL football Super B...
Associated Press

Chiefs’ Jones sets sack standard for Kansas City defense

PHOENIX (AP) — Chris Jones claims to have very little memory of a relatively benign game in 2017, when the Kansas City Chiefs welcomed the Philadelphia Eagles to Arrowhead Stadium for the second game of the regular season. Jason Kelce remembers it quite well. The veteran Philadelphia center spent the afternoon lining up alongside Isaac […]
2 days ago
Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin speaks after being introduced as the winner of the Alan Page Community ...
Associated Press

Hamlin appears during Super Bowl event to receive award

PHOENIX (AP) — Damar Hamlin made a brief appearance in Phoenix during Super Bowl week to receive the NFLPA’s Alan Page Community Award. The Buffalo Bills safety received the award at the Phoenix Convention Center on Wednesday, a little over a month after he went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the […]
2 days ago
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes answers a question during an NFL football Super Bowl...
Associated Press

Chiefs’ Mahomes says ankle will be ready for Super Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes says he’s “definitely in a better spot” when it comes to his ailing right ankle than he was for the AFC championship game, and the All-Pro quarterback doesn’t expect to be limited by it when he leads the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. […]
2 days ago
FILE - Las Vegas Aces' Dearica Hamby (5) dribbles up court during a WNBA basketball game against th...
Associated Press

WNBA investigating Hamby’s allegations against Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The WNBA is investigating Dearica Hamby’s allegations that the Las Vegas Aces bullied and manipulated her for being pregnant, the league said in a statement Wednesday. It was the first time the league acknowledged it was looking into the situation. The players’ union had pushed for an inquiry into whether Hamby’s […]
2 days ago
Mat Ishbia, new controlling interest owner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, talks to the me...
Associated Press

Ishbia takes over Suns, works to improve team culture

PHOENIX (AP) — Justin Ishbia came home from college one day to find his younger brother Mat shooting hoops over an 8-foot obstacle as he practiced for his upcoming high school basketball season. The older brother asked why the 5-foot-10 Mat was doing that — after all, no one in high school was 8 feet […]
2 days ago
Short-handed US advances to women’s volleyball semifinals