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Five For Friday: July 3, 2014

By Paul D. Bowker | July 03, 2014, 3:27 p.m. (ET)

Nicole Davis returns the ball in the women's volleyball preliminary match between the United States and Brazil at the London 2012 Olympic Games at Earls Court on July 30, 2012 in London.

While many people are planning to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and cookouts, the nation’s best volleyball athletes will be in California and Serbia for big international matches. Meanwhile, Olympic tennis players Bob and Mike Bryan are in London chasing a fourth Wimbledon title, amateur cyclists are in Wisconsin, and goalball players are in Finland.

As the weekend approaches, here’s a look at five events to follow:

1) Volleyball

The 2014 USA Volleyball Cup will begin with a bang this weekend in Southern California.

In fact, a possible preview of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games gold-medal match will take place Saturday, when the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team meets Brazil at the University of California Irvine’s Bren Center. It is a match-up of the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams in the world.

The United States and Brazil will play four times. After the opener in Irvine, they will play again Sunday at the University of Southern California’s Galen Center in Los Angeles, then shift to Hawaii for two more matches next week.

“Brazil is coming to battle USA right in our backyard – what a phenomenal opportunity for our program and our fans, to go head to head with the top-ranked team in the world,” U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said.

The U.S. squad includes 2012 Olympic silver medalists Foluke Akinradewo, Nicole Davis, Jordan Larson-Burbach and Courtney Thompson. Larson-Burbach and Thompson may play in all four matches. Brazil’s roster includes two-time Olympic gold medalists Fabiana Claudino and Thaisa Menezes.

Brazil defeated the United States in the last two Olympic gold-medal matches.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team will spend the Fourth of July weekend in Serbia, where it will finish up group play in the World League with a pair of matches against Serbia. The United States swept Serbia in June in Chicago, and is the Pool B leader with 21 points and an 8-2 record.

Serbia and the United States will play Friday in Novi Sad, Serbia, and Sunday in Beograd, Serbia. The World League Final is set for July 16-20 in Florence, Italy.

2) Tennis

Two-time Olympic medalists Bob and Mike Bryan are seeking their 16th Grand Slam title this week at Wimbledon. Gold medalists at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Bryans are the No. 1 seed in the Wimbledon men’s doubles field. They defeated Julian Knowle (Austria) and Marcelo Melo (Brazil), 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

The Bryans are defending champions and seeking their fourth Wimbledon doubles championship. The final is Saturday.

TV: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday, ESPN

3) Goalball

The U.S. men’s and women’s national teams are chasing after podium finishes in the IBSA Goalball World Championships in Espoo, Finland. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be held Friday, followed by the medal round Saturday.

The U.S. men advanced to the quarterfinals with a third-place finish in Pool A and a 4-2-1 record, while the U.S. women advanced to the quarterfinals with a fourth-place finish in Pool X and a 2-3-0 record.

4) Track & Field

2004 Olympic silver medalist and Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi will compete in the Peachtree Road Race on the Fourth of July holiday. The race will be a little different than normal, as he will start in last place and try to pass as many runners as he can in hopes of raising money for an Atlanta youth running group.

5) Cycling

Nearly 1,000 of the nation’s best amateur cyclists and para-cyclists are in Wisconsin this week to compete in the USA Cycling Amateur and Para-cycling Road National Championships. Friday’s competition alone will feature 39 national titles being awarded at the time trials in Waterloo, Wisconsin, located just east of Madison. Road racing in para-cycling will be held Saturday, followed by the criterium events Sunday in downtown Madison.

Top cyclists include 2013 U23 men’s road race champion Tanner Putt, women’s 2013 road race and time trial champion Kaitlin Antonneau, men’s 17-18 time trial champ Michael Dessau and women’s 17-18 riders Hannah Swan and Summer Moak. Kelly Catlin, a member of the 2013 USA Cycling Junior Road World Championship Team, edged Antonneau in the U23 road race Wednesday. Janelle Cole won her second consecutive women’s 17-18 road race national title Wednesday.

Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1990 and was Olympic assistant bureau chief for Morris Communications at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. He also writes about Olympic sports for the Springfield (Mass.) Republican. Bowker has written for TeamUSA.org since 2010 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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