USA (USA) vs. Thailand (THA) women - Pool 2 - Preliminary Phase #15479016

A three-time NCAA champion, Skinner is one of the latest additions to the American squad

Playing her first match in a USA women’s national team uniform, opposite Madisen Skinner led the Americans to victory in their Volleyball Nations League 2024 debut as the Olympic champions topped Thailand in four sets at the Maracanãzinho stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Wednesday. In the second match of the day, the Dominican Republic overcame world champions Serbia also in four sets.

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Having the 22-year-old opposite as their main offensive option, the Americans rebounded from a difficult second set to regain control of the match and down the Asians 3-1 (25-22, 19-25, 25-12, 25-18) in their first match of the season. The outcome of the match didn’t have much of an impact on the FIVB World Rankings, adding 0.8 points to the United States and subtracting the same amount from Thailand, who both kept their positions (second and 13th, respectively).

The encounter will, however, always be a memorable one for Skinner, who left the court as the top scorer in the first international match of her career. A three-time national collegiate champion, she didn’t feel the pressure of the debut and contributed 20 points after registering 13 kills, four blocks and three aces.

“My teammates supported me through it and gave me a lot of confidence as we were training this past week,” the opposite commented. “Being on the court with them was awesome, so kudos to them for having my back. It’s a huge season for Team USA and we have so many important players coming back, so I’m super excited to see the team we’ll put together. The talent we have is endless, so it’s going to be a great group.”

One of the returning players mentioned by Skinner is Olympic champion setter Jordyn Poulter, who was sidelined since December 2022 because of a knee injury and played her first match since then in Rio, appearing as the American captain.

The 26-year-old setter made the American offense perform at a very high level, allowing for four other players to register double digits in scoring – outside hitters Alexandra Frantti (14) and Madisen’s older sister Avery (11) and middle blockers Anna Hall (12) and Brionne Butler (ten).

USA (USA) vs. Thailand (THA) women - Pool 2 - Preliminary Phase #15474948

The return of Olympic champion setter Jordyn Poulter was another highlight in the American victory

Besides their diversified offense, blocking was another key factor in the American victory as the Olympic champions outscored their opponents by 12 points to one in that skill.

Opposite Pimpichaya Kokram was Thailand’s leading scorer with 14 points (13 kills, one ace), followed by outside hitter Chatchu-On Moksri, who produced 13, all in kills.

“We were very excited to start our VNL campaign and to play the USA,” Pimpichaya commented. “They have very good blocking and today our passing wasn’t as efficient and that made things harder for us. We will try to enjoy every match here because that’s when we play better.”

Volleyball Nations League 2024: schedule and results

The Americans are set to play their second VNL match in just under 24 hours as they’re scheduled to face China on Thursday, at 17:30 local time (20:30 GMT). Thailand will have a full day off before returning to the court to face Serbia on Friday at 14:00 local time (17:00 GMT).

Dominicans win their opening match

Already qualified for the Paris Olympics, the Dominican Republic also triumphed in their opening match at the Maracanãzinho, beating world champions Serbia 3-1 (25-18, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20). The victory over a higher-ranked opponent earned the Dominicans 9.86 points in the FIVB World Rankings and made them regain eighth place from Japan. Serbia dropped the same amount of points, but remained in fourth place.

Serbia (SRB) vs. Dominican Republic (DOM) women - Pool 2 - Preliminary Phase #15485881

Dominican players celebrate their opening-match victory in Rio

Dominican Yonkaira Peña topped all scorers with 18 points (16 kills, one block, one ace), one more than fellow outside hitter Brayelin Martínez and opposite Gaila Gonzalez. Opposite Ana Bjelica led Serbia's offense with 15 points (12 kills, two blocks, one ace).

Starting on Thursday, three matches will be played daily in Rio de Janeiro. The schedule of the third day of action at the Maracanãzinho will have hosts Brazil facing Korea at 14:00 local time (17:00 GMT), China and USA battling at 17:30 local time (20:30 GMT) and the Dominican Republic meeting continental rivals Canada at 21:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Friday).

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