USA Women's Volleyball: Americans take down Brazil in four sets

IRVINE — The Fourth of July is a major holiday in the U.S. A World Cup soccer match is a big holiday in Brazil whenever it plays.

A day after the U.S. celebrated Independence Day and Brazil celebrated a quarterfinal win on its home soil at the World Cup, the two countries met indoors on a volleyball court Saturday. While the U.S. cannot compete with Brazil in soccer, the Americans showed they are right there with Brazil in women's volleyball.

The world's top two countries in the sport squared off at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center, and the Americans tried to exact a little revenge. Brazil knocked off the U.S. in the gold medal match at the last two Olympic Games.

This summer, the U.S. and Brazil aren't playing for gold, yet the opener to the USA Cup exhibition series had the intensity of one. Playing at home, 4,800 fans lifted the No. 2-ranked Americans to a 25-22, 25-27, 25-19, 25-19 win against No. 1 Brazil.

The result meant a lot to the Americans, who have legendary Karch Kiraly as their coach. He served as an assistant when the U.S. lost to Brazil in four sets at the London Games in 2012. The Americans suffered a four-set loss to Brazil at the Beijing Games in 2008.

The U.S. turned the tables on Brazilians, topping them in four sets on Saturday.

The opening set featured seven ties, before Team USA went on a 4-0 run to take an 11-7 lead. Kim Hill, an outside hitter from Pepperdine, pounded two kills. Brazil got within one, but the Americans pushed the lead back to four, and on another of Hill's kills, the lead went as high as five.

Kelly Murphy, an opposite, closed out the first set for the U.S. The lefty hammered a kill, bringing the home crowd to its feet.

The fans rose back up as the Americans jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set. Foluke Akinradewo, a middle blocker, produced a couple of kills, forcing Brazil to call a timeout. The Brazilians rallied, claiming the lead for the first time. Outside hitter Jordan Larson-Burbach brought the U.S. back, with a kill and a service ace, giving the Americans a 17-16 lead.

The rest of the way, the second set was tight, until Brazil broke away to a 24-21 lead. At set point, the Brazilians failed to finish. Their shots went wide and the U.S. knotted the set at 24-24, then 25-25, and finally, at set point number five, outside hitter Gabriela Braga Guimaraes put it away for Brazil.

The set turned out to be the only one Brazil won. The Americans prevailed in the next two sets to win. Murphy led the way with 13 kills, Hill and Larson-Burbach had 12 kills apiece, and Akinradewo contributed 10 kills and three blocks.

The Brazilians and Americans will play Sunday at USC's Galen Center at 5 p.m. After that, the two countries face one another in Hawaii on July 11 and July 12.

They are sure to meet again, perhaps at the 2016 Olympics.

The Brazilians have already punched their tickets because they are the hosts. The U.S. no doubt wants another shot at gold, and to do it, it will have to go through Brazil.

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