U.S. Women Open FIVB World Grand Prix in Turkey

By Bill Kauffman | July 02, 2015, 4:29 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 2, 2015) – The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team will begins its four-week FIVB World Grand Prix schedule in Turkey this weekend with a roster that includes six players who won gold at last year’s FIVB World Championship and three Olympians.

Team USA, ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB, opens the World Grand Prix in Ankara, Turkey, with matches against No. 5 Italy on July 3 at 6 a.m. PT, No. 11 Turkey on July 4 at 9 a.m. PT and No. 13 Belgium on July 5 at 6 a.m. PT in Pool C matches.

The World Grand Prix is the premier annual international women’s volleyball tournament with the top 12 teams competing in nine preliminary matches to qualify for the six-team, round-robin Finals which will be held July 22-26 in Omaha, Neb.. This year marks the first time that the U.S. will host the Finals in the 23-year history of the event.

Related: World Grand Prix Finals Ticket | USA Volleyball Cup | USA Wins Pan Am Cup

U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly and his staff have selected 14 players that includes four outside hitters, four middle blockers, two setters, two opposites and two liberos. The outside hitters selected to the opening weekend roster are Megan Easy (Durham, N.C.), Kim Hill (Portland, Ore.), Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.) and Krista Vansant (Redlands, Calif.). Middle blockers chosen to compete this weekend in Turkey are for this roster are Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.), Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.), Cursty Jackson (Los Angeles) and Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.).

The opposites named to the team are Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) and Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.). The staff has selected setters Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) and Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.), while the liberos are Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) and Tama Miyashiro (Kaneohe, Hawaii).

Banwarth, Dixon, Fawcett, Hill, Robinson and Thompson all helped Team USA win the program’s first-ever gold medal at the FIVB World Championship, including a four-set win over No. 3 China in the title match.

Easy, the 2012 FIVB World Grand Prix most valuable player and a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, is returning to the team after missing 2014 following the birth of her first child and most of the 2013 following her marriage to Omar Easy. During the USA Volleyball Cup, she totaled 15 kills, four blocks and an ace against China.

Two Americans will be making their senior-level FIVB tournament debuts. Lowe made a good impression in her first international appearances playing against China in the USA Volleyball Cup earlier this month, scoring 44 points in four matches with three starts. Her debut match resulted in a match-high 16 points with 14 kills on 25 attacks. Vansant was named the most valuable player at the Pan American Cup – her first competition with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

Following the three matches in Turkey, Team USA travels to Kalingard, Russia, for the second weekend with matches against No. 7 Russia on July 10, No. 11 Turkey on July 11 and No. 8 Serbia on July 12. The U.S. concludes the preliminary round in Hong Kong with matches against No. 4 Japan on July 16, No. 12 Thailand on July 17 and versus No. 3 China on July 18.

Team USA has won the FIVB World Grand Prix five times in the previous 22 editions. However, Brazil has won the last two titles in 2013 and 2014 after the U.S. had won the previous three World Grand Prix titles. Overall, Brazil has won a record 10 World Grand Prix titles.

2015 U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB World Grand Prix Week 1
# - Name (Position, Ht, Hometown, College)
2 – Kayla Banwarth (L, 5-10, Dubuque, Iowa, University of Nebraska)
3 – Courtney Thompson (S, 5-8, Kent, Wash., University of Washington)
4 – Lauren Paolini (MB, 6-4, Ann Arbor, Mich., University of Texas)>
5 – Tama Miyashiro (L, 5-7, Kaneohe, Hawaii, University of Washington)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (MB, 6-2, St. Paul, Minn., University of Minnesota)
11 – Megan Easy (OH, 6-3, Durham, N.C., Penn State University)
14 – Nicole Fawcett (OPP, 6-4, Zanesfield, Ohio, Penn State University)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Portland, Ore., Pepperdine University)
18 – Molly Kreklow (S, 5-9, Delano, Minn., University of Missouri)
20 – Cursty Jackson (MB, 6-2, Los Angeles, Calif., University of Arizona)
21 – Tori Dixon (MB, 6-3, Burnsville, Minn., University of Minnesota)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Bartlett, Ill., University of Nebraska)
24 – Krista Vansant (OH, 6-2, Redlands, Calif., University of Washington)
25 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., UCLA)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Jamie Morrison and Tom Black
Technical Coordinator: Joe Trinsey
Team Manager: Rob Browning
Athletic Trainer: Jill Wosmek
0 Team Doctors: Dr. William Briner, Jr., and Lori Boyajian-O’Neill

2015 FIVB World Grand Prix Preliminary Round Schedule for Team USA

Pool C – Ankara, Turkey
July 3: USA vs. Italy, 6 a.m. PT
July 4: USA vs. Turkey, 9 a.m. PT
July 5: USA vs. Belgium, 6 a.m. PT

Pool F – Kalingrad, Russia
July 10: USA vs. Russia, 10:10 a.m. PT
July 11: USA vs. Turkey, 7:40 a.m. PT
July 12: USA vs. Serbia, 7:40 a.m. PT

Pool – Hong Kong
July 16: USA vs. Japan, 3:30 a.m.
July 17: USA vs. Thailand, 3:30 a.m.
July 18: USA vs. China, 4:30 a.m.

FIVB World Grand Prix Finals
July 22-26 at Omaha, Nebraska
Top 5 teams from preliminary round plus host USA