Facing only three of the world’s top 24 teams at the 2019 FIVB Women’s Volleyball Intercontinental Olympic Qualification Tournament, Team USA will leave No. 1 in the group, and that’s as good as gold in this case, considering it comes with a berth to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The U.S. women’s volleyball team became the sixth U.S. team to qualify for the Games by virtue of clinching first place in Pool C at the qualifying tournament held on home soil in Bossier City, Louisiana. The Americans officially clinched qualification with their 3-0 win over Argentina on Sunday.
Team USA was the top-ranked nation in Pool C at No. 3, followed by No. 11 Argentina, No. 16 Bulgaria and No. 23 Kazakhstan. The top finisher in each of six pools – all happening simultaneously in different countries this weekend – advance directly to the Games while the rest of the world has to wait for their continental qualifiers in early 2020. Japan qualified as the host country, while Brazil, China and Russia have also won their respective pools.
The only team to go a perfect 3-0 in Pool C, the U.S. earned the top spot in defeating Argentina. The U.S. had been 8-0 against Argentina at major world level competitions without dropping a single set, and the formula held true in Louisiana. The Argentinians got out to a fast start and kept the first set close at 25-22, but ultimately fell off the pace and dropped the next two 25-17 and 25-13.
The U.S. faced its greatest challenge in its second game against Bulgaria. Coming off a 3-1 defeat of Argentina, the Bulgarians pushed the U.S. to the limit, forcing the Americans into a comeback 3-2 victory.
In its first game, the U.S. defeated Kazakhstan, 3-0.
The U.S. women are in a fine run of form, having won the FIVB Volleyball Nations League title last month for the second year in a row. All but one of the players on the 14-person roster in Louisiana played on the VNL Finals team, and there were three Olympic medalists in Kim Hill, Jordan Larson and Kelsey Robinson.
Team USA has medaled in the last three women’s volleyball tournaments at the Olympic Games, winning silver medals in 2008 and 2012 and bringing home the bronze medal in 2016, and is the only nation to do so. But the U.S. women are still looking for that elusive first Olympic gold medal. Volleyball made its Olympic debut at the previous Tokyo Games, in 1964.
The U.S. men will hope to duplicate the result of their compatriots at the FIVB Men’s Volleyball Intercontinental Olympic Qualification Tournament, which begins Aug. 9 in the Netherlands. The men are coming off a Nations League Final appearance themselves, where they claimed silver and improved from their 2018 bronze. The U.S. men have won three Olympic gold medals but are seeking their first since 2008.
The five other U.S. teams already guaranteed to be competing in Tokyo are women’s basketball, men’s rugby sevens, women’s rugby sevens, women’s softball and women’s water polo.