Santa Fe, Argentina, June 13, 2018 - Lauren Gibbemeyer guided a rejuvenated United States to a straight sets thrashing of Korea in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League on Wednesday.
Gibbemeyer top-scored with 11 points, including three blocks, as the USA won 3-0 (25-13, 25-23, 25-19) to rebound from just their second loss of the tournament suffered against Serbia on Tuesday. The USA had a host of contributors with Jordan Larson (10 points) and Kelly Murphy (10 poins) also finishing in double figures.
Korea, who have lost eight of their past nine matches to be out of finals reckoning, were overmatched but can take solace in a courageous second set where they pushed their fancied opponents to the brink.
Jaeyeong Lee had a game-high 12 points but Jeongah Park struggled with just 8 points, while Korea also missed the services of captain Kim Yeon Koung.
The USA won for the 10th straight time over Korea at major world level spanning 13 years and this result never looked in doubt. Having already qualified for the finals, the USA improved to 12-2 and had the luxury of emptying their bench during the rout.
The US started fast with a first set masterclass as they overwhelmed Korea with thunderous spikes, well executed sets and innate cohesion.
A brilliant feed by Micha Hancock to a high-flying Michelle Bartsch-Hackley - who thundered home a 91 kmh spike - punctuated an imperious opening set that lasted just 22 minutes.
After such a lamentable opening, Korea started the second set looking far more settled as impressive hustling from Dayeong Lee and thunderous hitting from Jeongah - who shook off a forgettable opening stanza - helped Korea gain an early three-point lead. However, it didn't take long for the US to regain the initiative as they quickly restored the lead but their play had undoubtedly gone down a level as the standard of the rallies dipped.
Korea were belatedly able to somewhat stymie the relentless attacks to stay within striking distance but clutch play by Larson ensured the US were never seriously threatened. Korea were having some success counterpunching through a backline offence but Bartsch-Hackley and Gibbemeyer countered with spikes as the second set was far more competitive than the one-sided opening stanza.
Points were being traded as the underdog Koreans were showing great heart to reel off four straight points to take a shock 20-19 lead. The standard notably increased and peaked during a 22-second epic rally won by the USA, who accepted the stern challenge with clutch play and a Sarah Wilhite put away wrapped up a keenly fought second set.
After an erratic second set, the US were keen to wrap up the match quickly and a Tetori Dixon spike gave them the perfect start. Soon enough, the US restored their earlier overwhelming dominance and raced out to a 8-2 as the result appeared a mere formality.
To their credit, Korea wouldn't roll over and made the US earn the victory as several spectacular rallies energised the fans, who were waiting in anticipation to watch Argentina later in the evening.
The USA's class shone through as an expected straight-sets result ensued and they will meet hosts Argentina on Thursday to complete the pool phase, while Korea finishes a disappointing campaign when they take on in-form Serbia.