Hildebrand Gets Unique Opportunity with USA-Brazil Rivalry

By Bill Kauffman | Aug. 03, 2013, 8:53 p.m. (ET)

Kristin Hildebrand interviewed by the Brazilian media during the FIVB World Grand Prix in Campinas, Brazil

Bill Kauffman, USA Volleyball Senior Manager of Communications, Phone: 719-228-6800, Email: bill.kauffman@usav.org
USAV Facebook - @USA_Volleyball

CAMPINAS, Brazil (Aug. 3, 2013) – The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team has established a unique rivalry with Brazil over the last two Olympic quadrennials and it will be renewed Sunday morning at 10 a.m. local time (6 a.m. PT) in Campinas, Brazil, as part of the opening weekend of the FIVB World Grand Prix.

While the U.S. has won the last three editions of the FIVB World Grand Prix and is ranked No. 1 in the world, second-ranked Brazil has claimed the gold medal at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games with the Americans finishing with the silver. However, the U.S. has won six of the last seven meetings with Brazil with the one loss coming last summer in London.

In its first two matches of the FIVB World Grand Prix, Brazil has played in front of an energized sellout crowd creating a festive environment for players and fans. Both squads have defeated Russia and Poland to open this year’s World Grand Prix, and Sunday’s winner will have the upper hand in trying to qualify for one of five non-host country spots into the Final Round later this month in Japan.

“Playing in Brazil is a pretty unique and special experience,” said U.S. captain Kristin Hildebrand. “Up until now, the only time I had 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.”

The U.S. has won 18 World Grand Prix matches in a row and is 41-4 overall during its three title seasons. Meanwhile, Brazil holds a tournament-best 191 all-time victories in the event heading into Sunday’s showdown with both teams holding 2-0 records in 2013.

Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, Hildebrand has a special connection to this weekend’s World Grand Prix host city and many of the players and coaches for Brazil. She signed a contract to play professionally for Campinas-based Volei Amil after spending the last season in the Turkish Volleyball League.

“Being able to come here to Campinas - which is where I will play professionally next season - and acquaint myself with the city, the fans and the staff is really quite extraordinary,” Hildebrand said. “And to be able to compete with my USA team against one of our biggest rivals, Brazil, in my future home arena is also pretty special. Everyone from Amil has been so kind and I am really excited for this upcoming season here in Campinas.”

Volei Amil is led by the legendary Brazilian Women’s National Team Head Coach Ze Roberto Guimares, who led his country to the last two Olympic Games gold medals.

“Signing a contract to play for Ze Roberto here in Campinas next season is an honor - and I am really looking forward to working with him and hopefully winning a championship here in Brazil,” Hildebrand said.

However, Hildebrand has not forgotten her loyalty back to her home country. While Ze Roberto may be a legend in Brazil, Hildebrand has the opportunity to train in the United States with the only player to win Olympic gold for both indoor and beach volleyball, Karch Kiraly. In his first year has head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, Kiraly has led the Americans to a 10-0 record including the Pan American Cup title, three straight wins over No. 3 ranked Japan, a win over sixth-ranked Russia and No. 15 Poland.

“Playing for Karch has been a remarkable experience so far,” Hildebrand said. “He is a wonderful teacher and leader - on and off the court. Going from playing for Karch, to play for Ze, and then back to Karch next summer is something that most players, including myself, would never dream of. They are two of the best -if not the very best- coaches in the world. What a privilege I have. It will be impossible not to continue improving.”

So at the conclusion of the international volleyball season, Hildebrand will have the experience of having Brazil fans cheer for her as part of the Volei Amil program.