New Players Center Stage for FIVB World Grand Prix

July 23, 2009, 12:41 p.m. (ET)

Bill Kauffman
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 23, 2009) – The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team played two international tournaments on domestic soil (Pan American Cup at Miami and FIVB Women’s World Championship Qualification Tournament at Orlando) in June and July with six Olympians playing key roles, but newcomers will take center stage during the upcoming FIVB World Grand Prix that begins on July 31.

U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) sees the World Grand Prix as a perfect opportunity to see what the younger players can do for the future of the program.

“We are at the beginning of the Olympic quadrennial and this seems like a very appropriate time to look at a new generation of athletes in order to see if they can help sustain and build on this program’s success.”

The preliminary 19-player roster, from which McCutcheon must select a maximum of 14 players per World Grand Prix stage, includes 2008 Olympic Games silver medalists Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) and Stacy Sykora (Burleson, Texas) vying for the libero position. Nancy Metcalf (Hull, Iowa), a 2004 Olympic Games roster, and Heather Hughes (Fallbrook, Calif.) are the two pure opposites on the roster. At setter, Angela McGinnis (Fraser, Mich.), Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) and Nellie Spicer (Barrington, Ill.) are the three players competing for spots on the final FIVB World Grand Prix roster.

Outside hitters on the preliminary roster include Cynthia Barboza (Long Beach, Calif.), Jane Collymore (Seattle, Wash.), Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Pa.), Jordan Larson (Hooper, Neb.), Angie Pressey (Lake Mary, Fla.) and Kristin Richards (Orem, Utah). The six middle blockers vying for court time for the U.S. in the World Grand Prix are Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.), Alexis Crimes (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), Christa Harmotto (Aliquippa, Pa.), Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Tracy Stalls (Denver, Colo.) and Elisha Thomas (Grass Valley, Calif.).

Akinradewo, Barboza, Hughes, McGinnis, Richards and Stalls were all alternates on the U.S. 2008 Olympic Games roster and now looking for their opportunity to shine in the upcoming Olympic quadrennial.

Although the preliminary roster is youthful in age and experience, it is not short on talent. Both Sykora and Davis walked away from the first two major tournaments in 2009 with individual hardware. Davis was the Best Digger during the Pan American Cup in which the U.S. finished fourth after winning Pool A with a 5-0 record. Sykora earned Best Libero, Best Digger and Best Receiver at the FIVB Women’s World Championship Qualification Tournament – NORCECA Pool G held in Orlando. The liberos will provide leadership to the young squad.

Barboza, an alternate for the U.S. at each of the last two Olympic Games yet still relatively young at age 22, was presented the Most Valuable Player and Best Spiker Award at the FIVB World Championship Qualification Tournament earlier this month in Orlando. In addition, Thompson was the recipient of the Best Setter and Best Server awards in the tournament as she split time with Spicer at setter in each of the opening tournaments. Thompson and Spicer could be pushed during the tournament by McGinnis, who had a late start in training with the National Team this summer after a solid first season in 2008.

Metcalf, Larson and Richards could be called upon as go-to offensive threats at the World Grand Prix. Metcalf, an Olympian in 2004, was Team USA’s leading scorer at the Pan American Cup with 93 points in her first action with the team since 2006. Larson, competing in her first senior-level international event for the U.S., added 77 points during the Pan American Cup. Neither Metcalf or Larson played in the World Championship Qualification Tournament. Richards played in 20 of the 24 sets during the Pan American Cup and provided 66 points, followed by 12 points in limited action during the World Championship qualifier.

Harmotto has competed in the first three events of 2009 for the U.S. and averaged 2.24 points per set with a .404 hitting efficiency in Egypt, Miami and Orlando. Akinradewo, who had a breakout tournament in last year’s World Grand Prix, Stalls and Alexis Crimes are middle blockers seeking their first action for the U.S. in 2009. Meanwhile, Thomas has not played for the U.S. since 2005 and looks to find her way back into the middle blocker mix. The middle spot also includes Paolini, who started both matches in Egypt earlier this year with a 3.83 scoring average.

The outside hitter role has three relative newcomers to the program. Collymore, who competed with the national team early in the previous Olympic cycle, returned to the team this summer and helped the U.S. win the World Championship qualifier with 3.44 points per set topped by an 18-point performance against Costa Rica on July 8. Pressey was a reserve for Team USA in both international tournaments this year. Meanwhile, Fawcett could get her first taste of international competition at the senior level during the World Grand Prix after a standout career at Penn State that included two NCAA titles and Player of the Year honor.

“This trip could be difficult, but it could be very good for our team,” Metcalf said. “It will be very interesting to see how our team will react in facing some very good competition. The World Grand Prix will be a great time to get better as a team and individually.”

“Our goal is to try to win as many matches as possible during the World Grand Prix,” McCutcheon said. “But more important will be our focus on implementing techniques and systems that will be used for the rest of the quad. As a team, we learned a lot from the first two tournaments this year in Florida. Since then we have practiced hard, made adjustments and continued to improve as a team.”

The 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix involves 12 national teams playing a total of 69 matches over four consecutive weeks in 10 cities. The preliminary weekend rounds are set to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Kielce, Poland and Ningbo, China, on the first weekend, Miao Li, Chinese Taipei, Macau, China, and Osaka, Japan, the second weekend and Hong Kong, Mokpo, Korea and Bangkok, Thailand, the third weekend. The Final Round – composed of the top five teams plus host Japan – is a five-day round-robin event in Tokyo settling the overall title.

The U.S. Women’s National Team opens the FIVB World Grand Prix at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as part of Pool A. The Americans begin the tournament versus Germany on July 31, followed by NORCECA rival Puerto Rico on Aug. 1. On Aug. 2, the FIVB will have its featured match of the preliminary round as top-ranked and 2008 Olympic Games gold medalist Brazil hosts second-ranked and 2008 Olympic Games silver medalist Team USA.

The U.S. Women travel from Rio de Janeiro to Miao Li, Chinese Taipei, the following weekend for Pool D action. Team USA plays NORCECA rival Dominican Republic on Aug. 7, Netherlands on Aug. 8 and Germany on Aug. 9.

The Americans conclude the preliminary action in Pool I Aug. 14-16 at Bangkok, Thailand. The U.S. Women face Russia on Aug. 14, Puerto Rico on Aug. 15 and host Thailand on Aug. 16.

“The travel is extensive in the World Grand Prix, but I think we have some strategies for that,” McCutcheon said. “We will be playing some good teams and it will be good to see how our players compete under these trying circumstances.”

During the trip, McCutcheon will be assisted by Karch Kiraly (San Clemente, Calif.) as assistant coach and Jamie Morrison (Dana Point, Calif.) as technical coordinator/team leader. Beth Launiere (Salt Lake City, Utah), the head women’s coach at University of Utah, will serve as an assistant coach for the first two preliminary weekends. John Speraw (Irvine, Calif.), the head men’s coach at UC Irvine and former assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team that won the 2008 Olympic Games gold medal, will serve as an assistant coach in the third weekend and the Final Round should Team USA advance.

The U.S. Women’s National Team qualified for the 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix through the 2008 Pan American Cup in which the Americans were the third highest placing team from NORCECA.

U.S. Women’s National Team Preliminary Roster FIVB World Grand Prix
# - Name (Pos, Ht, Hometown, College)
1 – Nicole Fawcett (OH, 6-4, Zanesfield, Ohio, Penn State)
2 – Elisha Thomas (MB, 6-3, Grass Valley, Calif., Long Beach State)
3 – Lauren Paolini (MB, 6-4, Ann Arbor, Mich., Texas)
4 – Angela McGinnis (S, 5-11, Fraser, Mich., Florida)
5 – Stacy Sykora (L, 5-10, Burleson, Texas, Texas A&M)
6 – Nicole Davis (L, 5-6, Stockton, Calif., Southern California)
7 – Angie Pressey (OH, 5-8, Lake Mary, Fla., California-Berkeley)
8 - Cynthia Barboza (OH, 6-0, Long Beach, Calif., Stanford)
9 – Alexis Crimes (MB, 6-3, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Long Beach State)
10 - Kristin Richards (OH, 6-1, Orem, Utah, Stanford)
11 - Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Hooper, Neb., Nebraska)
12 - Nancy Metcalf (OPP, 6-1, Hull, Iowa, Nebraska)
13 - Tracy Stalls (MB, 6-4, Denver, Colo., Nebraska)
14 - Heather Hughes (OPP, 6-2, Fallbrook, Calif., Loyola Marymount)
15 - Courtney Thompson (S, 5-7, Kent, Wash., Washington)
16 - Christa Harmotto (MB, 6-2, Aliquippa, Pa., Penn State)
17 - Nellie Spicer (S, 5-9, Barrington, Ill., UCLA)
18 – Foluke Akinradewo (MB, 6-3, Plantation, Fla., Stanford)
19 - Jane Collymore (OH, 5-11, Seattle, Wash., Florida)
Head Coach: Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand)
Assistant Coach: Karch Kiraly (San Clemente, Calif.)
Assistant Coach: Beth Launiere (Salt Lake City, Utah) – at Brazil and Chinese Taipei
Assistant Coach: John Speraw (Irvine, Calif.) – at Thailand and Finals
Technical Coordinator/Team Leader: Jamie Morrison (Dana Point, Calif.)
Athletic Trainer: Jill Wosmek

2009 FIVB World Grand Prix Schedule for U.S. Women's National Team

Pool A - at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Maracanazihno Gym)
July 31: vs. Germany, 1 p.m.
Aug. 1: vs. Puerto Rico, 1 p.m.
Aug. 2: vs. Brazil, 10 a.m.

Pool D - at Li Miao, Chinese Taipei (Miao Li Country Gymnasium)
Aug. 7: vs. Dominican Republic, 2:30 p.m.
Aug. 8: vs. Netherlands, 2:30 p.m.
Aug. 9: vs. Germany, 4:30 p.m.

Pool I - at Bangkok, Thailand (Keelawes Gym)
Aug. 14: vs. Russia, 2 p.m.
Aug. 15: vs. Puerto Rico, 2 p.m.
Aug. 16: vs. Thailand, 4:30 p.m.