Santa Fe, Argentina. June 14, 2018 - Michelle Bartsch-Hackley helped the table-topping USA sign off with a record equalling flourish as relegated Argentina crashed to their 14th defeat in the VNL following a comprehensive 3-0 loss (25-15, 25-14, 25-15).
This easy victory for the Americans saw them draw level with Brazil for the most straight-sets triumphs at world level and, on this evidence, they could well go on and beat the record of 11 when they resume hostilities at the finals in China in 12 days time.
Bartsch-Hackley led from the front with 12 spikes and an ace while there were notable contributions from Andrea Drews (13 points) and Tetori Dixon (11 points).
The final stats were sorry reading for Argentina fans who saw their team out-spiked 44-23, and out-blocked 13-3. Anahi Tosi (seven points) and Julieta Lazcano (four points) were the top scorers though no-one got close to double figures.
“We wanted to end this long tournament with a good match and we are ready to push on now, “ said wing spiker Bartsch- Hackley. “We are excited to go home and restart."
Their spike power and blocking game was always going to be too strong for a gallant yet ultimately outclassed home team who finished rock bottom in the 16 team standings with just one win - Tuesday’s 3-0 triumph over Korea - to their name.
Captain Nizetich and Tosi both tried their best but it wasn’t enough. The South Americans are the first ever team to lose 14 games at a major tournament and this harrowing campaign will give the coaching staff plenty to think about for the future.
A expectant crowd in Santa Fe arrived dreaming of a shock victory but the USA signaled their intent from the very first point when Drews smashed down an unstoppable 87 kph spike which set the stall out perfectly.
And it was Drews - the opposite spiker was also excelled at the net - who helped seal the first set when she blocked an attempt from Nizetich. It was tough on Argentina who weren’t playing badly - they just didn’t have the firepower to compete, as has been the case through the whole of this tournament so far.
The spike count which read 20-9 in the USA’s favor told its own story.
The second set followed a similar story with Bartsch-Hackley’s power helping establish a 15-9 lead though their game wasn’t all about fireworks - some brilliantly athletic work at the net was also a key foundation for their excellent results over the past three weeks and why they will be one of the favorites to win the title in China.
Such was the pace of America’s attempt to wind up the match, Argentina’s players were struggling to keep the third set competitive no matter how hard they tried. At 22-11, the home team were being blown off the court and a service error gave the US 10 match points so it was left to Dixon to crash in the winner after the first one was saved.
There was, however, something to smile about in the Argentina ranks. Before the match, the sister of wing spiker Agostina Soria, Silvina, was proposed to by her boyfriend Dante on court.
She said yes - but home hearts soon sank once the game began as their VNL love affair came to a sad but predictable end.