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Brilliant Bartsch-Hackley delivers again as USA records another sweep to top VNL standings

 

Toyota, Japan, May 24, 2018 - Michelle Bartsch-Hackley provided a real masterclass in power and precision as the United States overwhelmed Belgium 3-0 (25-11, 25-18, 25-17) with an awe-inspiring team performance in the inaugural women's FIVB Volleyball Nations League on Thursday.

With Kimberly Hill sitting out the match, Bartsch-Hackley moved to the top of the American team's point-scoring list for the tournament, adding a game-high 14 points against the Belgians to lift her series total to 71.

Andrea Drews was also in great form, racking up 10 kills in her 12 points, while the American captain Jordan Larson, who top scored in Wednesday's 3-0 romp over the Netherlands, chipped in with 11 as the US completed their third straight sweep in Toyota.

With an average age of just 21, the Belgians lacked the experience of their older American counterparts, but lost no supporters with their brave showing as they continue to build.

Celine Van Gestel was the standout player, making 10 kills from 25 attempts, while Kaja Grobelna, Nathalie Lemmens and rising teenage star Britt Herbots each had four points.

Belgium finished Pool 5 with three losses against the Netherlands, Japan and USA to drop to 2-4 overall after the first two weeks of the new competition, while the USA remained at the top of the standings with their fifth win from six games.

Brimming with confidence, the reigning world champions were in a class of their own against the Belgians, dominating at both the front and back of the court, and setting a standard of excellence for the other teams in the competition.

Bartsch-Hackley was a constant threat at outside hitter, regularly penetrating the Belgian defence through a combination of power and accuracy, while Drews, at opposite spiker, was a dominant figure at the net, picking up two winning blocks in addition to her 10 scoring hits.

The US sealed the first set after a spike from Larson was deflected out of court then clinched the second when middle blocker Rachael Adams (8 points) leapt high to safely foil another Belgian attack.

Lauren Gibbemeyer, who also finished with eight points in a strong performance, secured the straight sets victory by scoring the last two points, the first a ferocious spike down the line, then the second a gentler push into an unguarded area.

The USA team heads to Bangkok next week to join Thailand, Dominican Republic and Germany in Pool 11 while the Belgians will travel to Europe to play against Pool 10 hosts Serbia as well as Russia and Turkey.

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