Defending champion USA barged right back into the win column after stamping its class with a sweep over Bulgaria, 25-20, 25-22, 25-20, in Week 2 of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, Wednesday afternoon, at the SMART Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Tightly-contested was the first set as a gritty Bulgaria squad gave a tough challenge to the defending champions. The USA managed to create separation towards the latter stages before a cross-court hit by Danielle Cuttino secured the opening set with a 25-20 advantage.
Another nip-and-tuck affair ensued but several errors plagued the Bulgarians as they narrowly surrendered the second set, 22-25.
The USA then scored five unanswered points midway through the third set as the reigning titlists closed the game with a 25-20 victory.
Coach Karch Kiraly brought in a rejigged squad to play in the Philippine Leg as opposites Jordan Thompson and Annie Drews were replaced by Olympic setter Micha Hancock, libero Justine Wong-Orantes, middle blockers Haleigh Washington and Chiaka Ogbogu as well as outside hitter Kelsey Robinson.
“I’m just so happy to be wearing the USA jersey and be back with my amazing teammates. It’s fun to play with some new faces,” said Robinson who missed action in Week 1 of the VNL held in Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana. “We have some young players who are gonna get some looks and get some experience. It’s all about finding our rhythm and bringing back some players who got rest and us just getting cleaner every time.”
Robinson led the Tokyo Olympics gold medalists with 14 points on 13 attacks while Cuttino provided a lift with 12 points on 10 hits of her own.
Meanwhile, Miroslava Paskova was at the forefront of Bulgaria with 14 markers on 13 attacks to go with two blocks and a service ace. Silvana Chausheva followed with nine points on eight spikes and a service ace.
Bulgaria (1-4) will go up against Japan (5-0) on June 16, Thursday, at 7:00 PM. Meanwhile, USA (4-1) will aim to get a winning streak going against Poland (3-2) on June 17, Thursday, at 11:00 AM, still at the same venue.