Four Olympic silver medalists and eight newcomers will comprise the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team that is in search of its first gold medal after winning silver at the past two Olympic Games.
Leading the team are London 2012 Olympic silver medalists Courtney Thompson at setter, outside hitter Jordan Larson and middles Foluke Akinradewo and Christa Dietzen. They will be joined by first-time Olympic nominees Rachael Adams at middle; outside hitters Kim Hill and Kelsey Robinson; opposites Karsta Lowe and Kelly Murphy; setters Alisha Glass and Carli Lloyd; and libero Kayla Banwarth.
Currently ranked No. 1 in the world, the U.S. women are on a roll heading into the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, having won six of their last eight tournaments, most recently falling one set short of defending their FIVB World Grand Prix title after taking silver to Olympic host Brazil.
Last year’s Grand Prix title is just one jewel in a crown crafted in the past two years under the direction of head coach Karch Kiraly. It began with a gold medal at the 2014 FIVB world championship, the first in 62 years for the United States. Ten of the 12 players on the Olympic roster contributed to that historic win.
The roll carried into 2015 with victories at the FIVB World Grand Prix in Omaha, Nebraska, the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, the Pan American Cup and the NORCECA Championship. The momentum carried into 2016 with a gold medal at the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament. The only tournament where the Americans did not reach the gold-medal match, the 2015 FIVB World Cup, still generated a bronze medal.
With an average age of 27 years, the U.S. team has a wealth of success that belies its youth. Thompson is the oldest member of the squad at age 31, while Lowe, at 23, is the youngest. She also has the shortest tenure with the national team (two years), but still it a key piece of the puzzle, having earned most valuable player honors at the 2015 Grand Prix as a rookie.
A gold-medal performance in Rio would make history for the United States in a couple of different ways. It would be the first gold for the women’s team after earning silvers at the past two Olympics to go with the silver won at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games and a bronze won in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain. Additionally, it would make Kiraly the first person to win Olympic volleyball gold as both a player and a coach. Kiraly already has made history as the first player to earn Olympic gold in both indoor (1984, 1988) and beach (1996) volleyball.