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After three matches in Lincoln, U.S. volleyball team moves on to take on the world
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FIVB VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE

After three matches in Lincoln, U.S. volleyball team moves on to take on the world

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Jordan Larson played her college volleyball matches for Nebraska in a pretty historic venue at the NU Coliseum.

But she’s also a little jealous that she didn’t get to play at the Devaney Sports Center, where the Huskers moved in 2013 and now are able to play in front of larger crowds.

This week she got an extended stay at the Devaney Sports Center, playing three matches with the United States women’s volleyball team during the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, a six-week tournament that will take the Americans all over the world.

The Americans are leaving Lincoln on a win, beating Italy in three sets on Thursday. The U.S. team has started the tournament with a 2-1 record.

There was an announced crowd of 5,000 on Thursday, with similar crowds all three nights.

“The Coliseum is awesome, obviously,” said Larson, who played for the Huskers from 2005 to ’08. “But to allow for more fans here is huge not only for Nebraska, but also the sport, so I was definitely a little bit jealous to not be able to play here. It’s a cool arena. And I think they did a really nice job of kind of lowering that ceiling and making it more intimate.”

After the final point the American players applauded the fans. The three ex-Huskers on the team — Kelsey Robinson, Justine Wong-Orantes and Larson — took photos with fans for more than 20 minutes.

Outside hitter Kim Hill led the Americans with 13 points in the 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 win.

The U.S. mostly went back to the lineup it used during its win against Poland on the first night, with one notable twist. Robinson started at libero in place of her former Husker teammate, Wong-Orantes. It was Robinson’s first time starting at the libero position in her five years with the national team.

U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said the team had struggled with its serve reception in a loss against Turkey on Wednesday, and tried to stabilize that by having Robinson play libero.

“She’s a world-class receiver,” Kiraly said. “She was one of the best passers at the Rio Olympics.”

Robinson said it was cool to play libero. She’s done so a few times for her professional clubs.

“It’s something I know that I have in my tool belt, but it’s still always a surprise when I have to do it,” Robinson said.

Now the U.S. will go to work, and if the team can win enough of its remaining 12 preliminary matches, it will qualify for the six-team field for the final round. The top five teams in the preliminary round will join host China for the final round.

Now the grind of these tournaments picks up for the U.S. team. The bus is scheduled to leave the team's downtown hotel at about 4 a.m. on Friday for a flight to Denver, and then on to Japan.

Next week the Americans will be in Toyota, Japan; followed by Bangkok, Thailand; Jiangmen, China; and Santa Fe, Argentina.

Larson had the best set of matches of the ex-Huskers. Her eight points Thursday gave her 36 in three matches with 30 kills, four ace serves and two blocks.

Larson wished the Americans had won all three matches, but said it was a good week. The entire team had only been together for a few practices.

“I thought by the end here we were kind of grooving pretty well,” Larson said.

Back at the USA gym

While the U.S. team had 14 players in Lincoln this week, there are another 20 players still training in California at the Team USA gym.

That group, essentially the U.S. junior varsity team, will train for seven weeks and then make up most of the players representing the U.S in July at the Pan American Cup in the Dominican Republic.

Former Nebraska players Kelly Hunter and Kadie Rolfzen are part of the group training in California.

Amber Rolfzen has also spent time in the past with the national team. She isn’t part of the group now, but could be again in the future. Former Husker Annika Albrecht also had a one week tryout this spring with the national team as a libero. She was not chosen to stay, but Kiraly said Albrecht is somebody they’ll keep on their radar.

Briefly

There is a chance this tournament could be back to Lincoln in the future, because as one of the 12 core teams in the 16-team tournament the U.S. will host one round of matches each year.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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