Jordan Larson rolls over the Polish block/Volleyball World photo by Dana Drambarean, @bet.on.her.collective

ARLINGTON, Texas — “Frustrating loss,” USA Karch Kiraly said Saturday after his team fell 29-27, 25-22, 20-25, 25-23 to Poland in Volleyball Nations League.

“It felt like we were trying to climb out of quicksand a lot and we were down most of the match.”

The American women have to climb out of it in a hurry, because they conclude the second round of VNL at 3 p.m. Central Sunday against Türkiye. 

Poland leaves here 8-0, tied atop the 16-team VNL lead with Brazil. Italy and Japan finished 6-2 and Türkiye is 5-2, alone in fifth place. Brazil finished the second round with a sweep of Thailand on Sunday in Macao, China.

The USA is 4-3 and in seventh place, percentage points ahead of Canada.

Canada continues its Olympic quest at UT Arlington at 11:30 a.m. Central when it plays Korea (1-6) and after USA-Türkiye, Bulgaria (1-6) plays Germany (1-6) in a battle of last-place teams. 

There were bright spots for the USA, for sure, not the least of which was the performance of 37-year-old  Jordan Larson. The outside hitter had 20 kills with one error — that attempt was blocked — in 40 attacks to hit .475. She also had a block and 11 digs.

“She’s playing unbelievably well right now,” Kiraly said. “When you look at her hitting .500 against China, close to .400 against Brazil, four-something against Canada, four-something tonight against a very good Poland team, she just keeps doing it.

“It’s really impressive how she prepared herself for this 2024 season.”

Larson, the Nebraska great and star of the Tokyo Olympics when the USA won gold, recognized that the team is still forming and this group has had limited time together, “but we shot ourselves in the foot.

“There are a lot of positives but more work to do than anything.”

If you take Larson out of the box score, her teammates combined for 42 kills with 21 errors in 106 swings. What’s more, the USA had one ace, by Jordan Thompson, and 15 serving errors. Poland had two aces and eight errors and hit .240.

Thompson had 16 kills and a block. Kathryn Plummer got the start at outside hitter and had six kills and three blocks, but also had four hitting errors in her 16 attacks and three service errors. She had five digs, but struggled a few times on serve receive and defense. Avery Skinner replaced her in the third set and made an immediate impact, finishing with seven kills and a block. She had, however, five errors.

“Yeah, except for hitting four BICs into the net,” Kiraly noted. “That was a disaster. (Skinner) is capable of putting a hole in their floor or knocking somebody over, but we have to hit those over the net, but she’s doing some really nice things for USA and showing some great potential.”

Middle Dana Rettke had seven kills in 11 errorless attempts, a block and six block touches.

“Obviously our serving could have been better, and that starts with me,” said Rettke, who had an error and no aces in 13 serves. “Poland is a really, really good team. They’re really talented with a lot of great players … I think in general today we probably could have jumped in quicker from the get-go but it was a great learning experience and we don’t have to be at our best right now, so this is a good opportunity to grow. Disappointing, but I think we’ll have a lot to take away from this match.”

Chiaka Ogbogu started at the other middle spot and had a kill and a block before being replaced by Haleigh Washington in the second set. Washington had five kills and three blocks — two at the end of the third set to win it — and seven block touches.

USA setter Jordyn Poulter had two blocks and six digs, and only two errors to show for her 20 serves.

“It took us a little while to settle into how we want to play volleyball,” Poulter said. 

The Americans finished the second set on a 9-1 run and in the fourth led 22-21. 

“Every match is a different set of problems or a different set of locks to pick,” Kiraly said, “and I think we came closer but didn’t take care of the detail plays enough to make it go five and give ourselves a real chance to win that one.”

Poland’s Magdalena Stysiak led her team with 24 kills, an ace and two blocks. Martyna Lukasik had 13 kills and a block and Natalia Medrzyk had 11 kills and a block.

“In the first sets we took advantage of some of their mistakes by the United States and we kept our attention, our focus on the details,” Polish coach Stefano Lavarini said. 

It’s more than likely the two teams will meet again in Paris, but that’s a long way off. Kiraly is expected to name the USA’s 12-person, one-alternate Olympics roster late next week, but there’s no hurry. He has three weeks before it has to be submitted. Kiraly also mentioned Saturday that he’s glad that two USA veterans who have yet to play in this VNL, opposite Annie Drews and outside Kelsey Robinson Cook, will be in the fold soon.

“We’ve got stuff to work on, for sure,” Kiraly said.

“We’re not taking care of the details like we need to like I’m confident we will as we get into the season. It’s June whatever, first, so there’s a lot of work to be done and there’s time to do it.”


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