In a match pitting together the two teams that won gold and bronze at the previous Olympics, the United States beat China in straight sets Tuesday at Ariake Arena in Japan.
Hard-hitting opposite Jordan Thompson tallied an incredible 34 points – the most of any player, male or female, scored in a match at the Tokyo Games thus far – to help Team USA improve to 2-0, while China fell to a surprising if not shocking 0-2.
China had an unexpected, straight-sets (25-21, 25-14, 25-14) loss to Turkey in its first prelim match. Outside hitter Zhang Changning recorded 13 points while her captain counterpart Zhu Ting, MVP of the Rio Games tournament, only had four and was substituted out. Meanwhile, the U.S. beat Argentina 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-20), led by Thompson and outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley.
The U.S. took the first set 29-27 after China fought back from 22-24. Setter Jordyn Poulter was instrumental in the decisive moments and Thompson supplied 12 points and four blocks.
Zhu, seen wearing a bandage and brace on her right wrist, came alive in the second set with nine points on eight attacks. The teams traded stellar, back-to-back rallies – the U.S. for 23-19 and China for 23-20 – before the Americans eventually closed out 25-22 to go up two sets to none. Thompson continued her dominance adding 11 more points on 11 attacks.
Late in the third set outside hitter Jordan Larson came up with a huge block to put the U.S. up 21-18, and Thompson followed it up with an ace, extending the lead to four points. Bartsch-Hackley eventually put away the set, 24-21.
Both teams compete again Thursday in a continuation of prelim matches — the U.S. plays Turkey at 8:45 a.m. ET, while China moves on to face the ROC at 3:25 a.m. ET.