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.
U.S. head coach Karch Kiraly called it one of the best passing matches "in a long, long time," and said that Thompson was "on fire."
The Edina, Minnesota, native's 34 points puts her third on the Olympic scoring record list behind Croatian Barbara Jelic's 44 versus China at the 2000 Sydney Games and Brazilian Mari Steinbrecher's 37 against Russia at the following Games in Athens.
As a collegian at Cincinnati in 2019, she set the NCAA match scoring record with 50 points.
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.
Italy tops Turkey; Serbia, Brazil win
Italy beat Turkey 25-22, 23-25, 25-20, 25-15 to move above them and sit second behind the U.S. after Paola Egonu top-scored again with 29 points.
Reigning world champions Serbia leapfrogged Japan to top Pool A after beating the hosts 25-23, 25-16, 26-24 behind Tijana Boskovic's 34 points.
Earlier, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team claimed their first win in Tokyo with a 25-19, 25-15, 25-13 victory over bArgentina, with Nataliya Goncharova scoring 17 points and making four blocks.
Brazil survived a scare by the Dominican Republic, who stretched them to five sets. Five Brazilians, led by Fernanda Rodrigues (26 points), finished in double figures in a 22-25, 25-17, 25-13, 23-25, 15-12 victory to move second in Pool A.
In the final match of the day, South Korea dispatched Kenya, 25-14, 25-22, 26-24.