The United States women’s volleyball team suffered its first loss to the FIVB Volleyball Nations League with a five-set setback against Turkey on Wednesday at the Devaney Sports Center.
Turkey, the 12th-ranked team in the world, beat the second-ranked Americans 28-26, 25-19, 20-25, 24-26, 16-14.
To begin the match, U.S. coach Karch Kiraly went with a different starting lineup than Tuesday’s first match, which is common during the start of a tournament that could last six weeks.
But after losing the first two sets, Kiraly made some lineup changes, replacing Kelsey Robinson with Jordan Larson at outside hitter, and Annie Drews for Kelly Murphy at opposite.
The changes worked, as the United States won the third set 25-20 to extend the match. Larson had four kills in the third set.
In the fourth set, the United States got an early lead, but then had to fight off a match point from Turkey. But the Americans won the final three points, including block on set point, to tie the match at two sets.
In the fifth set, Turkey took leads of 13-9 and 14-11. The United States reeled off three straight points to tie the match. But on the final two points the U.S. had a hitting error and was blocked.
It was a big win for a Turkey team that didn’t qualify for the last Olympic Games.
“It’s big, but at the same point we’re at the beginning of a tournament where every team is not ready, and making a lot of experiments,” Turkey coach Giovanni Guidetti said. “But of course it gives confidence to these young girls because we are facing one of the best teams in the world.”
U.S. servers grounded: It has been about 10 years since Jordan Larson played in a volleyball match for Nebraska, but sometimes when they do stories about her on the local news, the video is still Larson flying through the air doing a jump serve in a match for the Huskers.
“It was kind of one thing that people knew me for,” said Larson of those jump serves. That’s the serve where the ball is thrown high into the air, and the player jumps and hits the ball.
U.S. setter Micha Hancock also had a wicked jump serve in college while playing for Penn State.
But now playing with the United States women’s volleyball team Larson, Hancock and others have been grounded. Now they almost always use a jump float serve, a more compact serve where the ball changes direction more in the air, making it more difficult to track.
“In all of the studies we’ve done, and others have too, the most efficient serve in international women’s volleyball is actually a jump float serve, not just a jump spin serve,” U.S.coach Karch Kiraly said. “On the men’s side that’s not the same answer, but on the women’s side the jump float is the most effective serve.”
The jump serve is also a high-risk, unpredictable serve
“The ball goes out too much, or in the net,” Kiraly said. “And it goes to the wrong person too much. It’s much more difficult to pinpoint the proper serving target. A few years ago we had some jump spinners, Kelsey Robinson, Jordan, and a couple of others.
“We were struggling so much we played a tournament in 2014 and we were the worst serving team in the tournament out of the 12 teams and we scrapped our jump spin. Our players are such great learners they all picked it up and we went from the worst serving team to the best serving team four weeks later at the World Championship.”
In Lincoln this week, Italy has a few players that use jump serves, as does Turkey.
Not doing jump serves can also prolong a player’s career.
“I can tell you my body loves me a lot more because I don’t do it,” Larson said.
Now, Kiraly said, not many teams in the world should be able to out serve the Americans.
Kiraly was impressed with Turkey: “They just never stopped coming at us, and that’s what we expect,” the U.S. coach said. “We have a target on our chest, and so those kinds of matches are really good for us to have to fight through, and we fought through well. We didn’t get the last point or two that we wanted, but we fought through really well.”
Kiraly said putting the lineup together for each match is like putting together a puzzle.
“The solution we found I think was a pretty good one, it’s just that we set ourselves into a whole of 2-0, and when you play a game to 15 against a good team anything can happen,” he said. “So we waited a little too long. It took me a little too long to find the answer to that puzzle and get the pieces in place. I think we did, but it was pretty late by then and we had no margin for error.”