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U.S. Women Head to Russia Undefeated in WGP

By Bill Kauffman | July 08, 2015, 2:15 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 8, 2015) – The U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked No. 1 in the world, moves into the second preliminary weekend of the FIVB World Grand Prix as one of three undefeated teams and looks to build on that momentum heading into the Finals Round being held July 22-26 in Omaha, Neb.

The U.S. (3-0, 9 points), which has already qualified for the World Grand Prix Finals as host, continues its preliminary round schedule this weekend in Kalingrad, Russia. The Americans face No. 7 Russia (2-1, 6 points) on July 10, followed by a rematch with No. 11 Turkey (0-3, 0 points) on July 11 before concluding with No. 8 Serbia (0-3, 1 point) on July 12. All three matches can be watched live online at universalsports.com/olympics.

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. The top five teams through the preliminary round will join Team USA in the Finals. This year marks the first time that the U.S. will host the Finals in the 23-year history of the event.

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Unlike last year when it opened the FIVB World Grand Prix in Turkey with a 1-2 record and struggled to find its rhythm, Team USA has started the 2015 campaign 3-0.

“We are doing some nice things,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “I am really happy that we were able to play so many people this weekend and get to learn more about what is a very deep roster for USA.”

Related: FIVB World Grand Prix Finals Page | U.S. Women's Home Page | U.S. Women's Results

Kiraly is quick to point out that the team recognizes there is ample room to improve heading into the World Grand Prix Finals and ultimately the FIVB World Cup later this summer.

“We are generally happy with the three wins,” Kiraly said. “But we absolutely recognize that there some things we can get better at for next weekend and certainly with an eye toward the World Grand Prix Finals week and beyond that toward the first Olympic qualifier, the World Cup that starts in late August.”

Although rosters can change each week of the World Grand Prix, Kiraly and his staff have elected to utilize the same 14 players in Russia this coming weekend after a successful series of matches in Turkey. The outside hitters are Megan Easy (Durham, N.C.), Kim Hill (Portland, Ore.), Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.) and Krista Vansant (Redlands, Calif.). The opposites named to the team are Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) and Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.).

Middle blockers chosen to compete this weekend in Russia are Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.), Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.), Cursty Jackson (Los Angeles) and Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.). 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).

The U.S. showed its balance in Turkey with three different players leading the team in scoring. Robinson paced the U.S. in the opening match with 16 points against Italy on July 3, while Hill added 15 points in the win. Lowe, playing in her first season with Team USA, totaled 23 points in the Americans’ win over Turkey on July 4. Vansant, who earned her first FIVB start in her rookie season, contributed 22 points in a sweep of Belgium on July 5.

“We are incredibly fortunate and grateful for the deep level of talent we have in the USA,” Kiraly said.

Like Kiraly, the players understands the need to get better each day.

“A lot of it for us is what we need to do to get better tomorrow,” Thompson said in looking ahead to matches in Russia this weekend. “We are kind of one day at a time. I know there are three great teams (to play against in Russia) and three good opportunities to learn.”

Through the opening preliminary round weekend, Brazil and China are the only other teams which remain undefeated and hold early advantages for a ticket to the World Grand Prix Finals in Omaha. Others leading the hunt for a spot for the spots into the World Grand Prix Finals are Italy (2-1, 6 points), Russia (2-1, 6 points) and Japan (2-1, 6 points). The next group of teams which will need to pick up their game are Germany (1-2, 3 points), Belgium (1-2, 3 points) and Thailand (1-2, 2 points). After the first weekend, Serbia (0-3, 1 point), Turkey (0-3, 0 points) and Dominican Republic (0-3, 0 points) are winless and have a long uphill battle to reach Omaha.

After its three weekend matches in Russia next week, 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 and 2
# - 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
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 def. Italy 25-27, 25-21, 25-22, 25-23
July 4: USA def. Turkey 25-20, 17-25, 25-16, 25-21
July 5: USA def. Belgium 25-19, 25-20, 25-18

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

July 22: USA vs. TBA, 6 p.m. PT
July 23: USA vs. TBA, 6 p.m. PT
July 24: USA vs. TBA, 6 p.m. PT
July 25: USA vs. TBA, 6 p.m. PT
July 26: USA vs. TBA, 10 a.m. PT

FIVB World Grand Prix Group 1 Standings Through Weekend 1
1 - China (3-0, 9 points) – remaining matches: DOM, ITA, JPN, THA, JPN, USA
2 - Brazil (3-0, 9 points) – remaining matches: BEL, THA, GER, RUS, BEL, ITA
3 - USA (3-0, 9 points) – remaining matches: RUS, TUR, SRB, JPN, THA, CHN
4 - Italy (2-1, 6 points) – remaining matches: JPN, CHN, DOM, BEL, RUS, BRA
5 - Russia (2-1, 6 points) – remaining matches: USA, SRB, TUR, BRA, ITA, BEL
6 - Japan (2-1, 6 points) – remaining matches: ITA, DOM, CHN, USA, CHN, THA
7 - Germany (1-2, 3 points) – remaining matches: THA, BEL, BRA, DOM, TUR, SRB
8 - Belgium (1-2, 3 points) – remaining matches: BRA, GER, THA, ITA, BRA, RUS
9 - Thailand (1-2, 2 points) – remaining matches: GER, BRA, BEL, CHN, USA, JPN
10 - Serbia (0-3, 1 point) – remaining matches: TUR, RUS, USA, TUR, DOM, GER
11 - Turkey (0-3, 0 points) – remaining matches: SRB, USA, RUS, SRB, GER, DOM
12 - Dominican Republic (0-3, 0 points) – remaining matches: CHN, JPN, ITA, GER, SRB, TUR