COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 31, 2013) – The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team enters the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix as the No. 1 ranked team in the world and three-time defending champion of the premier international volleyball tournament for women. However, the American players and coaching staff are not resting on the laurels of the past successes for a chance at making history as 2013 brings about new rosters, opponents and circumstances in the first year of an Olympic quadrennial.
“I am not thinking too much about it too much,” said U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly in reference to the past FIVB World Grand Prix titles won by Team USA. “We have a number of new faces, so it is hard to know what to expect with brand new USA people like Kim Hill, Rachael Adams, Kelly Murphy, Jenna Hagglund and others. It is great to have some fresh faces and get them some playing time. But it also makes it a little hard to predict how we are going to do.”
The FIVB World Grand Prix utilizes a grueling format that includes a three-weekend preliminary round schedule with four teams competing in five different cities each weekend from Aug. 2-18. The FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round will take place Aug. 28-Sept. 1 in Sapporo, Japan, with the top five countries from the preliminary round plus Japan as the host country. Japan has hosted the FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round four previous times, the most recent being in 2009.
The U.S. has won the last three FIVB World Grand Prix events and has won five titles overall (1995, 2001, 2010, 2011, 2012). The Americans will be attempting to win an unprecedented four straight titles as Brazil won three times from 2004-2006.
Team USA faces a challenging 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix schedule, both in terms of opponents and travel as the team will make a complete trip around the world with action in both hemispheres. The U.S. opens with No. 6 Russia on Aug. 2 in Campinas, Brazil, followed by No. 15 Poland on Aug. 3 and host No. 2 Brazil on Aug. 4 in Pool A.
“Here in Brazil, we have a really tough pool and we have our work cut out for us,” Kiraly said. “Russia is one of the world’s great teams. Poland plays some really strong volleyball. They beat us a couple years ago when they hosted a leg of World Grand Prix, and we barely beat them later that year in the Final Round of the World Grand Prix. Poland is always very dangerous, and they were contending for an Olympic berth in the European zone. And of course, we have our work cut out for us playing Brazil on Brazilian soil. I think it is a great way to start out the World Grand Prix. I will guarantee you our athletes and our program will face some adversity this weekend. We like that. Nobody is going to do anything big on the world stage without facing down some adversity.”
“Playing in Brazil is a pretty unique and special experience,” said U.S. captain Kristin Hildebrand. “Up until now, the only time I have played in Brazil was in 2009 at the World Grand Prix in Rio De Janeiro. And to this day, it is one of the most memorable matches I have ever played in. Brazilians are passionate about volleyball - and as a result of that, the fan base is incredible wherever you go. It is going to be a pretty fun atmosphere on Sunday.”
After the opening weekend in Brazil, the Americans then travel to Belgrade, Serbia, for Pool F to play No. 14 Algeria on Aug. 9, No. 19 Netherlands on Aug. 10 and host No. 9 Serbia on Aug. 11. The U.S. travels to Sendai, Japan, for the final preliminary round weekend to play No. 24 Czech Republic on Aug. 16, host No. 3 Japan on Aug. 17 and No. 43 Bulgaria on Aug. 18 in Pool M action. Overall, four of Team USA’s matches are against countries in the top 10 with overall opponent world ranking of 15.0.
Kiraly, in his first year leading the program after serving as an assistant coach from 2009 to 2012, will be making his head coaching debut in an FIVB event. From the team’s 22-player preliminary roster submitted in June, Kiraly can select 14-players for each preliminary round weekend and designate 12 players for each match.
Olympians on the preliminary roster include five-time Olympian Danielle Scott (Baton Rouge, La.) and two-time Olympian Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.), who both won silver medals at the past two Olympic Games. Joining them on the roster are 2012 Olympic silver medalists Christa Harmotto (Hopewell Township, Pa.), Tama Miyashiro (Kaneohe, Hawaii) and Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.).
The Americans’ World Grand Prix preliminary roster includes Thompson, Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) and Jenna Hagglund (West Chester, Ohio). The liberos are Davis, Miyashiro and Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa). The opposites are Alaina Bergsma (Chandler, Ariz.), Juliann Faucette (San Diego), Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) and Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.).
The outside hitters are Kristin Hildebrand (Orem, Utah), Kim Hill (Portland, Ore.), Regan Hood (Carrollton, Texas), Alix Klineman (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Cassidy Lichtman (Poway, Calif.) and Sonja Newcombe (Lake Arrowhead, Calif.). The middle blockers are Harmotto, Scott, Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio), Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.), Cursty Jackson (Los Angeles) and Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.).
“The composition of this team is different than the teams in the past that won the Grand Prix, but I am absolutely confident that this team can compete for the gold medal. We have been training really hard, and I am really excited to see how that hard work pays off as we make our way through this tournament.”
For the opening weekend in Brazil, Kiraly has selected setters Glass and Hagglund, liberos Banwarth and Miyashiro, opposites Fawcett and Murphy, outside hitters Hildebrand, Hill, Hood and Lichtman, and middle blockers Adams, Harmotto, Gibbemeyer and Paolini.
“We have been working hard and training a big group,” Kiraly said. “We keep close to 30 athletes in the gym. The toughest thing is trying to narrow that group down to the athletes who travel to World Grand Prix. But training went well. We got after it. We are excited with the group we have here.”
The U.S. recently hosted No. 3 Japan in the USA Volleyball Cup and won all three matches in the series held in Southern California. Kiraly feels that experience will benefit Team USA in a variety of ways, including future events hosted in the United States.
“I think it was fantastic to be able to get lots of USA athletes out on the court out in front of large and spirited crowds and play a world-class team in Japan,” Kiraly said. “It was a really good experience. If anything, it was probably better preparation for the NORCECA Championship than for World Grand Prix because we are expecting some nice crowds, and we are not used to big, enthusiastic American crowds. So it was great for two reasons: to get used to a large home crowd and get lots of people some meaningful playing time against a quality opponent. One of the big focuses for 2013 or every year after the Olympics is a great time to give some new faces some experience so that the USA Volleyball Cup fit the bill.”
“The USA Volleyball Cup with Japan was a really good opportunity for us to play one of the best teams in the world in front of big crowds, giving us experience to perform in high pressure situations,” Hildebrand said. “We are going to play a lot of great teams in some really crazy atmospheres over the next few weeks, and I believe that our matches with Japan will have prepared us well.”
Following the USA Volleyball Cup, Team USA not only continued its training at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim, Calif., but also became mentors for the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team (GYNT) that was sharing the same gym as it prepared for the FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship.
“Training has been going well,” Kiraly said. “We got a couple weeks in at the American Sports Centers after we finished with Japan. The U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team was still around for that week following the USAV Cup. It was great to share the gym with those athletes. A lot of our athletes stopped by and said hello and had some really meaningful things to say to the ladies as they headed off to Thailand. That team also beat Brazil as they worked through pool play. So our athletes got a little extra experience at mentoring and sharing some of their stories.”
Since 2010, the U.S. has captured every FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round gold medal and recorded a 38-4 record in the event over the last three years. In 2012, the Americans used a Final Round roster with seven of the 12 Olympians – yet without the likes of 2012 Olympic Games starters Destinee Hooker (San Antonio, Texas) at opposite, outside hitters Logan Tom (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Jordan Larson (Hooper, Neb.), middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.) and setter Lindsey Berg (Honolulu) – and went undefeated against many countries using a full Olympic Games roster.
FIVB World Grand Prix Roster
# - Name (Position, Height, Spike Touch, Block Touch, Hometown, College)
1 - # Alisha Glass (S, 6-0, 10-0, 9-10, Leland, Mich., Penn State University)
2 - Danielle Scott (MB, 6-2, 10-8, 9-11, Baton Rouge, La., Long Beach State University)
3 - Courtney Thompson (S, 5-8, 9-0, 8-8, Kent, Wash., University of Washington)
4 - Sonja Newcombe (OH, 6-1, 10-0, 9-10, Lake Arrowhead, Calif., University of Oregon)
5 - # Tamari Miyashiro (L, 5-7, 9-4, 8-9, Kaneohe, Hawaii, University of Washington)
6 - Nicole Davis (L, 5-4, 9-4, 8-9, Stockton, Calif., University of Southern California)
7 - # Cassidy Lichtman (OH, 6-1, 9-10, 9-2, Poway, Calif., Stanford University)
8 - # Lauren Gibbemeyer (MB, 6-2, 10-1, 9-7, St. Paul, Minn., University of Minnesota)
9 - Alix Klineman (OH, 6-5, 10-7, 9-8, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Stanford University)
10 - # Kristin Hildebrand (OH, 6-1, 9-10, 9-4, Orem, Utah, Stanford University)
11 - Alaina Bergsma (OPP, 6-3, 10-4, 9-10, Chandler, Ariz., University of Oregon)
12 - # Kayla Banwarth (L, 5-10, 9-8, 9-3, Dubuque, Iowa, University of Nebraska)
13 - # Christa Harmotto (MB, 6-2, 10-7, 9-10, Hopewell Township, Pa., Penn State University)
14 - # Nicole Fawcett (OPP, 6-4, 10-2, 9-7, Zanesfield, Ohio, Penn State University)
15 - # Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, 10-4, 10-1, Wilmington, Ill., University of Florida)
16 - # Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, 10-6, 10-2, Portland, Ore., Pepperdine University)
17 - # Lauren Paolini (MB, 6-4, 10-5, 9-10, Ann Arbor, Mich., University of Texas)
18 - # Regan Hood (OH, 6-2, 10-3, 10-0, Dallas, Texas, LSU)
19 - Juliann Faucette (OPP, 6-2, 10-6. 10-1, San Diego, Calif., University of Texas)
20 - # Jenna Hagglund (S, 5-10, 9-7, 9-6, West Chester, Ohio, University of Washington)
21 - Cursty Jackson (MB, 6-2, 10-6, 10-2, Los Angeles, Calif., University of Arizona)
22 - # Rachael Adams (MB, 6-2, 10-5, 10-1, Cincinnati, Ohio, University of Texas)
# - Selected for Week 1 Roster
Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Reed Sunahara, Tom Black (Weeks 1 & 2), Cecile Reynaud (Week 3 & Final Round)
Technical Coordinator: Joe Trinsey
Athletic Trainer: Jill Wosmek
Team Leader: Cecile Reynaud (Weeks 1 & 2), Kenny Sullivan (Week 3 & Final Round)
2013 FIVB World Grand Prix Schedule (all match times local)
Pool A – Campinas, Brazil
Aug. 2: United States vs. Russia, 4:30 p.m.
Aug. 2: Brazil vs. Poland, 7 p.m.
Aug. 3: Brazil vs. Russia, 10 a.m.
Aug. 3: United States vs. Poland, 12:30 p.m.
Aug. 4: Brazil vs. United States, 10 a.m.
Aug. 4: Russia vs. Poland, 12:30 p.m.
Pool B – San Domingo, Dominican Republic
Aug. 2: Puerto Rico vs. Czech Republic, 5 p.m.
Aug. 2: Dominican Republic vs. Serbia, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 3: Serbia vs. Czech Republic, 2:30 p.m.
Aug. 3: Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico, 5 p.m.
Aug. 4: Serbia vs. Puerto Rico, 2:30 p.m.
Aug. 4: Dominican Republic vs. Czech Republic, 5 p.m.
Pool C – Ankara, Turkey
Aug. 2: Turkey vs. Algeria, 2 p.m.
Aug. 2: Thailand vs. Japan, 5 p.m.
Aug. 3: Algeria vs. Japan, 2 p.m.
Aug. 3: Turkey vs. Thailand, 5 p.m.
Aug. 4: Thailand vs. Algeria, 2 p.m.
Aug. 4: Turkey vs. Japan, 5 p.m.
Pool D – Macau, China
Aug. 2: Cuba vs. Netherlands, 5 p.m.
Aug. 2: China vs. Bulgaria, 8:30 p.m.
Aug. 3: Bulgaria vs. Netherlands, 2:30 p.m.
Aug. 3: China vs. Cuba, 5 p.m.
Aug. 4: Bulgaria vs. Cuba, 1 p.m.
Aug. 4: China vs. Netherlands, 3:30 p.m.
Pool E – Montichiari, Italy
Aug. 2: Germany vs. Kazakhstan, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 2: Italy vs. Argentina, 8:30 p.m.
Aug. 3: Germany vs. Argentina, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 3: Italy vs. Kazakhstan, 8:30 p.m.
Aug. 4: Argentina vs. Kazakhstan, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 4: Italy vs. Germany, 8:45 p.m.
Pool F – Belgrade, Serbia
Aug. 9: Serbia vs. Netherlands, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 9: United States vs. Algeria, 8:15 p.m.
Aug. 10: Algeria vs. Serbia, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 10: United States vs. Netherlands, 8:15 p.m.
Aug. 11: Netherlands vs. Algeria, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 11: United States vs. Serbia, 8:15 p.m.
Pool G – Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
Aug. 9: Dominican Republic vs. Brazil, 5 p.m.
Aug. 9: Puerto Rico vs. Bulgaria, 8 p.m.
Aug. 10: Brazil vs. Bulgaria, 5 p.m.
Aug. 10: Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico, 8 p.m.
Aug. 11: Bulgaria vs. Dominican Republic, 2 p.m.
Aug. 11: Puerto Rico vs. Brazil, 5 p.m.
Pool H – Plock, Poland
Aug. 9: Germany vs. Japan, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 9: Poland vs. Kazakhstan, 8 p.m.
Aug. 10: Japan vs. Kazakhstan, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 10: Poland vs. Germany, 8 p.m.
Aug. 11: Kazakhstan vs. Germany, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 11: Poland vs. Japan, 8 p.m.
Pool I – Hong Kong, China
Aug. 9: Turkey vs. Argentina, 6 p.m.
Aug. 9: China vs. Czech Republic, 8:30 p.m.
Aug. 10: Turkey vs. Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m.
Aug. 10: China vs. Argentina, 3:45 p.m.
Aug. 11: Argentina vs. Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m.
Aug. 11: China vs. Turkey, 3:45 p.m.
Pool J – Ekaterinburg, Russia
Aug. 9: Italy vs. Russia, 5 p.m.
Aug. 9: Cuba vs. Thailand, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 10: Thailand vs. Russia, 5 p.m.
Aug. 10: Cuba vs. Italy, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 11: Russia vs. Cuba, 5 p.m.
Aug. 11: Italy vs. Thailand, 7:30 p.m.
Pool K – Almaty, Kazakhstan
Aug. 16: Cuba vs. Brazil, 3 p.m.
Aug. 16: Kazakhstan vs. Netherlands, 6 p.m.
Aug. 17: Brazil vs. Netherlands, 3 p.m.
Aug. 17: Kazakhstan vs. Cuba, 6 p.m.
Aug. 18: Cuba vs. Netherlands, 3 p.m.
Aug. 18: Kazakhstan vs. Brazil, 6 p.m.
Pool L – Bangkok, Thailand
Aug. 16: Thailand vs. Puerto Rico, 4 p.m.
Aug. 16: Germany vs. Russia, 6:30 p.m.
Aug. 17: Russia vs. Puerto Rico, 2 p.m.
Aug. 17: Thailand vs. Germany, 4:30 p.m.
Aug. 18: Puerto Rico vs. Germany, 2 p.m.
Aug. 18: Russia vs. Thailand, 4:30 p.m.
Pool M – Sendai, Japan
Aug. 16: United States vs. Czech Republic, 3:30 p.m.
Aug. 16: Japan vs. Bulgaria, 6:15 p.m.
Aug. 17: Japan vs. United States, 12:30 p.m.
Aug. 17: Czech Republic vs. Bulgaria, 3:30 p.m.
Aug. 18: Japan vs. Czech Republic, 12:30 p.m.
Aug. 18: United States vs. Bulgaria, 3:30 p.m.
Pool N – Wuhan, China
Aug. 16: Serbia vs. Poland, 4 p.m.
Aug. 16: China vs. Argentina, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 17: Argentina vs. Serbia, 4 p.m.
Aug. 17: China vs. Poland, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 18: Poland vs. Argentina, 4 p.m.
Aug. 18: China vs. Serbia, 7:30 p.m.
Pool O – Kaohsiung City, Chinese Taipei
Aug. 16: Italy vs. Algeria, 3 p.m.
Aug. 16: Turkey vs. Dominican Republic, 6 p.m.
Aug. 17: Algeria vs. Turkey, 3 p.m.
Aug. 17: Italy vs. Dominican Republic, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 18: Dominican Republic vs. Algeria, 3 p.m.
Aug. 18: Italy vs. Turkey, 5:30 p.m.