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Fawcett powers U.S. to sweep of Japan

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. — Benjamin Logan High School graduate Nicole Fawcett scored 24 points and the U.S. women’s national team defeated Japan 25-15, 25-19, 21-25, 23-25, 15-10 on Saturday night to complete a three-match sweep of the inaugural USA Volleyball Cup.

Fawcett

Nicole Fawcett prepares for a serve during the U.S National Team’s volleyball match against Japan on Saturday in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (USA VOLLEYBALL PHOTO | MATT BROWN)

There was a standing-room only crowd of 2,000 fans at the JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Lauren Paolini added 14 points for the American women, who are ranked No. 1 in the world.

The Americans won the opening match 23-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-23 on Wednesday at UC San Diego, followed by a 25-17, 26-24, 18-25, 25-20 victory on Friday at Long Beach State.

Team USA is now 8-0 on the season in Karch Kiraly’s first season as head coach. He took over the team following its silver-medal finish at the London Olympics last summer.

Japan, which won the bronze medal in London, was led Saturday by Yukiko Ebata with 24 points and Saori Kimura with 23.

“Japan is definitely an unbelievable team and one of the toughest to score against in the world, and they showed that tonight in how they came back,” said setter Jenna Hagglund of West Chester, OH.

Fawcett tallied 18 kills on 33 attacks with just two errors to go with three blocks and three aces as part of her 24 points.

Hagglund tallied 47 assists in the victory.

All three of the matches were played in front of sellout crowds.

“It has been amazing to play in front of great crowds this week,” Paolini said. “We feed off the crowd and they have been incredible. By seeing the crowds show up and supporting us means our hard work and dedication means a lot to people other than just our team. It is very meaningful to have the crowds come out night after night to support us in this event.”

Both teams will be competing in the FIVB World Grand Prix, the premier annual women’s international volleyball tournament, starting on Aug. 2. The Americans travel to Brazil for the opening preliminary weekend to face Russia, Poland and Brazil, while Japan competes in Turkey against the host country, Thailand and Algeria. The World Grand Prix has three consecutive preliminary weekends with a total of nine matches. The top five teams in the 20-team field plus Japan advance to the Final Round that takes place Aug. 28 to Sept. 1 in Sapporo, Japan.

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