by Doug Beal, USA Volleyball CEO
The U.S. Women’s team finished off this event and the 2013 season in style by dominating a good Dominican Republic team 3-1 to clinch the Silver medal at the Grand Champions Cup. The set scores were 25-14, 25-16, 21-25 and 25-18!!!
The first two sets may have been the best the U.S. played in the tourney, as they completely controlled the play and were strong in all phases and from all players. It was great to see the team perform so well at the end and finish off this first year of the quad so well. The USA dominated the serve/receive battle, getting nine aces from five different players; while scoring 16 block points to 7 for Dominican Republic, also getting those blocks from all six starters.
This event is different than almost any other - it comes after most of the players have been with their pro club teams for some time and so they gather from all over the world to Japan, try to get back in synch and rhythm in about a week. Some players come in somewhat beat up and hurting, others may have played a great deal with their clubs, others very little. It’s a significant challenge for the team to try to quickly regain the smoothness and consistency they had been playing at during the middle of the international season. Couple that challenge with opening against Brazil (top ranked team in the world), and you can appreciate the achievement of our women to go 4-1, finish second, beat Russia, Japan, Thailand and Dominican Republic. With a few different plays late in sets 1 and 2 versus Brazil, that match takes on a completely different look and possible result.
The youth and depth and overall balance of this squad that Coach Kiraly and his staff have put together can’t help but make you feel optimistic for the result down the road. Nothing is easy and nothing is ever guaranteed, but the future surely looks quite bright from here and now.
Throughout the event the basic starting team was Glass setting, Murphy at opposite, Hildebrand and Larson-Burbach on the left and Gibbemeyer and Paolini in the middle, with Banwarth at libero. The USA used Hill, Hagglund and Lichtman in almost all matches as very effective serving and back row subs - all were very good and helped USA be a strong serving team (could be a real strength of this team by 2016)!! Jackson played much of three matches in the middle and shows terrific potential and up side after significant contributions in her first real international event. Fawcett did a great job to pick up the team during the two long five set wins over Russia and Thailand, giving us a much needed serving, blocking and attacking lift. Cassie Lichtman did a great job not only serving, but playing all around several times to stabilize the team, improve ball control and help key some big wins. No one in this event made better use of the full roster than the USA, no team had more contributors than the USA.
Tomorrow morning early the women and staff head to the airport and different points of return. A few coming back to the USA to continue to rehab, most going back to their clubs to continue or pick up the pro season in places like Poland, Brazil, Italy, Azerbaijan, Germany, Turkey and Japan!!
Really looking forward to the 2014 season that culminates with the World Championship in Italy in October!!!!!!!!!!!!
Great job by the USA WOMEN.