U.S. women overpower Japan en route to quarterfinals victory - WSMV News 4

U.S. women overpower Japan en route to quarterfinals victory

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Karch Kiraly doesn't get caught up in the past - good or bad.

The U.S. women's volleyball coach is always trying to move forward, looking to what's next.

Kiraly kept that same approach as his team moved to the Olympic quarterfinals Tuesday, calling a clutch timeout and helping his team over the hump in a trying second set.

As Japan drew even with the U.S. at 22-all, the "Michael Jordan of volleyball" halted play and told his team, "This is not a surprise. They are a good team. This is really good for us. We get a chance to clean it up."

And that's exactly what the Americans did, as Jordan Larson drove home two of the final three points of the second set and Team USA plowed over Japan for a three-set sweep (25-16, 25-23, 25-22).

Larson finished with 14 points and two service aces as the anchor of a U.S. team. The 29-year-old is in her second Olympics and has not come off the court yet in six matches, filling essentially every role on the floor at one point or another.

The match got started with Kiraly challenging the very first point of the game. The U.S. won the challenge, allowing the coach to breathe a sigh of relief.

In the first set, Kim Hill and Rachael Adams led USA with a combined 11 points on 10 spikes. Japan didn't help its case with seven unforced errors in the set.

The top-ranked team in the world moved to 6-0 in Rio and is now two wins away from its first gold medal ever. Japan notched the bronze medal in the 2012 Games, but will not be going home with any hardware from Rio.

"I love to play against Japan," Kiraly told FIVB. "They have the best defense in the world and bring us to the limit. We are excited to move one step closer to the medals, but we don't have any expectations.

"You have to go out and earn the points and then you enjoy your achievements more."

Following the tough battle in the second set, it looked as if the Americans were going to cruise to a sweep as they jumped out to a 20-13 lead in the final set. But Japan refused to go silently into the Brazil afternoon, rallying for seven straight points, leading to another clutch timeout from Kiraly.

Coming out of the break, Kiraly inserted Karsta Lowe into the lineup over Kelly Murphy and Lowe immediately asserted herself with a spike to halt the Japan run and put the U.S. back on the right track. A couple points later, Lowe collected an ace when her serve hit the top of the net and spun over onto Japan's side and found an empty spot on the floor. 

"We always enjoy playing against Japan," U.S. captain Christa Harmotto-Dietzen told FIVB. "They expose our weaknesses with their great defense. We had to make four or five swings to put the ball down."

The women's semifinals kick off Thursday and the U.S. will take on a Serbian team that is riding high off a big-time sweep over Russia in the quarterfinals.

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