U.S. Women Prepare for Key NORCECA Championship

Sept. 20, 2009, 3:48 p.m. (ET)

Bill Kauffman
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800
E-Mail: bill.kauffman@usav.org


ANAHEIM, Calif. (Sept. 20, 2009) – The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, ranked second in the latest FIVB World Ranking, will compete in the biennial eight-country NORCECA Continental Championship Sept. 22-27 at Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

The tournament winner qualifies for the 2009 FIVB Grand Champions Cup to be held Nov. 10-15 in Japan. Each of the four continental champions earns a spot into the FIVB Grand Champions Cup, along with host Japan and one wild card team.

“We go into every tournament with the mindset of winning it, and the NORCECA Championship is no different,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) said. “This tournament also carries with it the chance to qualify for the FIVB Grand Champions Cup. This is the most important time to peak, and we have been working hard all summer so that we can play our best heading into the NORCECA Championship.”

For the NORCECA Continental Championship, the U.S. is grouped in Pool B with defending champion Cuba, Mexico and Costa Rica. Historically, this year’s Pool B participants have ruled the NORCECA Continental Championship with all 20 previous titles. Cuba (1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2007) has won the event 13 times, while the United States (1981, 1983, 2001, 2003, 2005) has won the championship five times and Mexico twice (1969, 1971). Further, USA and Cuba have played against each other in 16 of the last 17 finals.

Despite the historical dominance of USA and Cuba at the NORCECA Continental Championship, McCutcheon believes other countries are rapidly catching up and creating a wide-open tournament field.

“Other countries besides USA and Cuba have been performing well in recent years, including Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico,” McCutcheon said of two teams which played in the 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix earlier this summer. “There are four teams capable of winning the NORCECA Championship, and it will not be a two-horse race. The field is quite deep and competitive.”

Team USA opens pool play against 26th-ranked Mexico on Sept. 22, then faces fifth-ranked Cuba on Sept. 23 as part of the marquee match on the middle day of the round-robin competition. The Americans finish out pool play against 30th-ranked Costa Rica on Sept. 24.

The U.S. has faced both Mexico and Costa Rica this summer, but has not played Cuba since defeating it during the 2008 Olympic Games semifinals. The Americans topped Mexico (25-19, 25-14, 25-11) on June 28 during pool play at the 2009 Pan American Cup held in Miami. Team USA started the 2009 Pan American Cup with a three-set victory (25-7, 25-6, 25-16) over Costa Rica on June 26. The Americans also defeated Costa Rica 25-15, 25-9, 25-15 nine days later on July 8 in the gold-medal match of the 2010 FIVB World Championship Qualification Tournament NORCECA Pool G at Orlando.

However, Cuba has been relatively quiet in competition against other top NORCECA teams in this first year of the quadrennial. It did not compete at the Pan American Cup, but hosted and won the NORCECA Third Round Pool F qualification tournament into the 2010 FIVB World Championship with victories over Trinidad & Tobago, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Further, Cuba did not qualify to compete in the 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix with 12 of the top countries participating in the annual tournament.

“Cuba is always a tough match,” McCutcheon said. “The coaching staff and players will get the chance to watch Cuba play against Costa Rica on the first day of pool play in Puerto Rico, plus watch videos of its matches during Montreux earlier this year. Despite not having played them, we will have a rough idea of what to expect from the Cubans.”

On the opposite side of the bracket, 23rd-ranked Canada, 14th-ranked Dominican Republic, 18th-ranked Puerto Rico and 53rd-ranked Trinidad & Tobago comprise Pool A. The U.S. has won two of three meetings against both Dominican Republic, while winning three of four matches against Puerto Rico. Team USA has not faced Trinidad & Tobago in 2009.

The winner of each pool receives an automatic berth into the semifinals on Sept. 26. The second- and third-place pool finishers will compete in crossover quarterfinal matches on Sept. 25. The championship and all classification matches take place on Sept. 27.

McCutcheon has named a 19-player preliminary roster for the 2009 NORCECA Continental Championship. The final roster of up to 14 players must come from the preliminary roster and presented at the preliminary inquiry on Sept. 21. McCutcheon’s preliminary roster includes six outside hitters, five middle blockers, four setters, two opposites and two liberos.

The outside hitters include three-time Olympian Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, Utah), 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games alternate Cynthia Barboza (Long Beach, Calif.), 2008 Olympic Games alternate Kristin Richards (Orem, Utah), Jane Collymore (Seattle, Wash.), Jordan Larson (Hooper, Neb.) and Angie Pressey (Lake Mary, Fla.). The middle blocker group includes four-time Olympian Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.), three-time Olympian Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif.), Alexis Crimes (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), Christa Harmotto (Aliquippa, Pa.) and Elisha Thomas (Grass Valley, Calif.).

Among the setters selected for the preliminary roster include two-time Olympian Lindsey Berg (Honolulu, Hawaii), 2008 Olympic Games alternate Angie McGinnis (Fraser, Mich.), Nellie Spicer (Barrington, Ill.) and Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.). The opposites are represented by 2004 Olympian Nancy Metcalf (Hull, Iowa) and Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio). The liberos are three-time Olympian Stacy Sykora (Burleson, Texas) and 2008 Olympian Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.).

The U.S. recently returned from Peru in which it claimed the silver medal at the Final Four Intercontinental Cup in Lima. After finishing 1-2 in pool play, the U.S. responded with a four-set victory over Dominican Republic in the semifinals. Team USA, which opened the tournament with a five-set loss to top-ranked Brazil in pool play, met its 2008 Olympic Games gold-medal match rival for the fourth time in 2009 during the Final Four Cup gold-medal match. Once again, the U.S. lost in four sets to Brazil during the title match and settled for a silver medal.

Pressey came away from the Final Four Cup with the tournament’s Best Scorer honor with 69 points scored in 20 sets. Harmotto averaged 0.95 blocks per set to earn the event’s Best Blocker award.

“It was clearly a good opportunity for us to take this group to Peru and compete against top teams,” McCutcheon said. “It provided the players another chance to play, while it also gave us a longer look at more players to evaluate them for the present and future of our program.”

The U.S. Women’s National Team has now played in four tournaments this summer covering 24 matches, not counting a two-match goodwill tour to Egypt in April. In addition to its silver-medal finish at the Final Four Intercontinental Cup, Team USA finished fourth at the Pan American Cup in Miami, while earning the gold medal at the FIVB World Championship Qualification Tournament – NORCECA Pool G at Orlando. It went overseas to Brazil, Chinese Taipei and Thailand in the three preliminary round weekends of the FIVB World Grand Prix, compiling a 3-6 record for ninth place.

“The World Grand Prix was obviously a challenging experience for our team, but in spite of the results, it was positive in a number of areas,” McCutcheon said. “We learned a lot and I think we’ve made significant improvements in the gym since our return. Now is the time to see if that progress made in the practice gym will transfer onto the match court. This team works hard and they are committed to improving every day. It’s a wonderful group to work with.”

Through the 2009 Final Four Intercontinental Cup, Metcalf is the USA’s leading scorer in 2009 with 220 points and a 3.93 points per set average. Scott-Arruda and Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.) have averaged 0.86 blocks per set during 2009. Bown averages 0.74 blocks, while Harmotto adds a 0.65 block average. Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) has a team-leading 21 service aces during the 2009 season, resulting in a 0.37 ace average. She also averages a team-leading 4.75 assists per set.

Among hitters with at least 10 sets played and 10 attack attempts in 2009, Collymore has a 55.0 kill percent on 60 attacks to lead the team. Other top kill percentages include Tayyiba Haneef-Park’s (Laguna Hills, Calif.) 52.8 percent, Harmotto’s 52.1 percent and Scott-Arruda’s 50.0. Davis has a team-leading 179 digs for the season, while Sykora has added 113. Davis averages 2.70 digs per set, while Sykora averages 2.47 digs per set.

U.S. Women’s National Team Preliminary Roster for 2009 NORCECA Continental Championship
# - Name (Pos, Ht, Hometown, College)
1 - Nicole Fawcett (OPP, 6-4, Zanesfield, Ohio, Penn State)
2 - Danielle Scott-Arruda (MB, 6-2, Baton Rouge, La., Long Beach State)
3 - Angie Pressey (OH, 5-8, Lake Mary, Fla., California-Berkeley)
4 - Lindsey Berg (S, 5-8, Honolulu, Hawaii, Minnesota)
5 - Stacy Sykora (L, 5-10, Burleson, Texas, Texas A&M)
6 - Nicole Davis (L, 5-6, Stockton, Calif., Southern California)
7 - Heather Bown (MB, 6-3, Yorba Linda, Calif., Hawaii)
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 - Elisha Thomas (MB, 6-3, Grass Valley, Calif., Long Beach State)
14 - Angie McGinnis (S, 5-11, Fraser, Mich., Florida)
15 - Logan Tom (OH, 6-1, Salt Lake City, Utah, Stanford)
16 - Christa Harmotto (MB, 6-2, Aliquippa, Pa., Penn State)
17 - Nellie Spicer (S, 5-10, Barrington, Ill., UCLA)
18 - Courtney Thompson (S, 5-7, Kent, Wash., Washington)
19 - Jane Collymore (OH, 5-11, Seattle, Wash., Florida)

Head Coach: Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand)
Assistant Coach: Karch Kiraly (San Clemente, Calif.), Tom Pestolesi (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
Technical Coordinator/Team Leader: Jamie Morrison (Dana Point, Calif.)
Athletic Trainer: Jill Wosmek (Silver Lake, Minn.)
Team Leader/Manager: Carl McGown

2009 NORCECA Continental Championship Schedule

Pool A: Canada, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago
Pool B: Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, United States

Pool A Round Robin
Sept. 22: Canada vs. Dominican Republic, 6 p.m. (Match 3)
Sept. 22: Puerto Rico vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 8 p.m. (Match 4)
Sept. 23: Dominican Republic vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 4 p.m. (Match 6)
Sept. 23: Canada vs. Puerto Rico, 8 p.m. (Match 8)
Sept. 24: Canada vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 2 p.m. (Match 9)
Sept. 24: Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic, 8 p.m. (Match 12)

Pool B Round Robin
Sept. 22: USA vs. Mexico, 2 p.m. (Match 1)
Sept. 22: Cuba vs. Costa Rica, 4 p.m. (Match 2)
Sept. 23: Costa Rica vs. Mexico, 2 p.m. (Match 5)
Sept. 23: USA vs. Cuba, 6 p.m. (Match 7)
Sept. 24: Cuba vs. Mexico, 4 p.m. (Match 10)
Sept. 24: USA vs. Costa Rica, 6 p.m. (Match 11)

Sept. 25: 2nd Pool B vs. 3rd Pool A, 6 p.m. (Match 13)
Sept. 25: 2nd Pool A vs. 3rd Pool B, 8 p.m. (Match 14)

Classification 5/8
Sept. 26: 4th Pool A vs. Loser Match 13 or 14, 2 p.m. (Match 15)
Sept. 26: 4th Pool B vs. Loser Match 13 or 14, 4 p.m. (Match 16)

Sept. 26: 1st Pool A vs. Winner Match 13 or 14, 6 p.m. (Match 17)
Sept. 26: 1st Pool B vs. Winner Match 13 or 14, 8 p.m. (Match 18)

Classification 7/8
Sept. 27: Loser Match 15 vs. Loser Match 16, 2 p.m. (Match 19)

Classification 5/6
Sept. 27: Winner Match 15 vs. Winner Match 16, 4 p.m. (Match 20)

Bronze-Medal Match
Sept. 27: Loser Match 17 vs. Loser Match 18, 6 p.m. (Match 21)

Gold-Medal Match
Sept. 27: Winner Match 17 vs. Winner Match 18, 8 p.m. (Match 22)