It’s rare that the U.S. women’s national volleyball team is able to play international matches on home soil, but when it happens, the team makes it count. The women of USA Volleyball qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in front of a packed house of American fans Saturday night in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Team USA won the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament, a three-day round-robin tournament, to become the fifth nation to qualify for the 12-team women’s tournament in Rio. Brazil earned an automatic qualification as host nation, China and Serbia qualified at the 2015 FIVB Women’s World Cup, and Russia qualified at the European qualifier earlier Saturday.
This was the second opportunity for the U.S. women to qualify. They just missed earning an Olympic berth at the Women’s World Cup by finishing in third place, while the top two teams earned their spots. Though they took the longer route to get to Rio, clinching their spot at home may have been sweeter.
With a 3-0 record, the U.S. women won the tournament, dropping only one set to Puerto Rico in Friday night’s match.
The U.S. was immediately off to a strong start in Lincoln, beating Canada 25-18, 25-18, 25-15 in a dominating sweep on Thursday. Nicole Fawcett led the U.S. against Canada, scoring 14 points. The second game, against Puerto Rico, presented an unexpected bump in the road; after winning the first set 25-14, the U.S. dropped the second set, 26-24. But it was smooth sailing from there, as the U.S. stormed back to take the next two sets, 25-12 and 25-14 for a 3-1 win. Foluke Akinradewo’s 15 points led the team against Puerto Rico.
In its final game against Dominican Republic, the U.S. won the Olympic berth in three straight sets of 25-19, 25-19, 25-18.
The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico will play in last-chance qualifiers later this year, while fourth-placed Canada is out of contention to qualify.
The U.S. women’s volleyball team won silver medals at the 1984, 2008 and 2012 Olympics, as well as bronze in 1992.