Jordan Larson-Burbach, who returns to the U.S. Women's National Team lineup for the World Grand Prix Hong Kong preliminary weekend and the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals in Omaha, passes with her former University of Nebraska teammate Kayla Banwarth looking on.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 14, 2015) – As the U.S. Women’s National Team is anxious to return to the United States to host the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals in Omaha July 22-26, the squad still has some business to accomplish this week in Hong Kong as four veterans return to the lineup.
Team USA, ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB, is one of three undefeated teams after the second preliminary round weekend after improving to 6-0 with 17 points following victories over Russia, Turkey and Serbia this past weekend in Russia. The Americans turn their attention facing No. 4 Japan on July 16, No. 12 Thailand on July 17 and No. 3 China on July 18 in Hong Kong. All three matches can be watch live online on Universal Sports 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 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. Brazil and China have already qualified for the Finals with both having 6-0 records and 18 points heading into the final preliminary round weekend, but the three final spots are still up for grabs.
U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly and his staff has elected to make changes to roster for the third preliminary round weekend after keeping it the same for the first two weekends.
The U.S. Women will have four changes to the roster for the weekend in Hong Kong as outside hitter Jordan Larson-Burbach (Hooper, Neb.), opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) and middle blockers Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.) and Christa Dietzen (Hopewell Township, Pa.) join the squad. The replace middle blockers Cursty Jackson (Los Angeles) and Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.), outside hitter Krista Vansant (Redlands, Calif.) and opposite Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) who are now in Toronto for the upcoming Pan American Games.
“We’re excited to have four big contributors from our strong 2014 World Championship campaign back with us this weekend in Hong Kong - especially since we have another fabulous lineup of opponents this weekend, including World Championship Finalist China,” Kiraly said.
Other outside hitters with Larson-Burbach are Megan Easy (Durham, N.C.), Kim Hill (Portland, Ore.) and Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.). Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) and Murphy will be the two opposites on the roster.
Akinradewo and Dietzen will share playing time at middle blocker with Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.) and Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.). Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn.) and Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) will continue as the setters, while the liberos remain Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) and Tama Miyashiro (Kaneohe, Hawaii).
The 14 U.S. players in Hong Kong this weekend will also represent Team USA at next week’s FIVB World Grand Prix Finals in Omaha. For Larson-Burbach, Banwarth and Robinson, it will serve as a small homecoming as all three played for University of Nebraska located 70 miles from Omaha. Further, Larson-Burbach grew up in a town about an hour from Omaha.
Both Thailand and Japan are battling for one of the final three World Grand Prix Finals round spots still available to won this weekend. Japan is currently in sixth place with a 3-3 record and 10 points and would be in the Finals if the preliminaries were to end today. Thailand is just outside of qualification, ranking seventh with a 3-3 record and eight points. With Japan and Thailand having to face both the USA and China this weekend along with a head-to-head match, a good weekend will be needed by both teams to advance to Omaha.
“First we play Japan, which displays a relentless fighting spirit in the effort they put into every contact - they never stop coming at you,” Kiraly said. “Then we’ll face Thailand, a team that also fights hard and runs a wide variety of offensive routes and plays, challenging the reading skills of our blockers.
Team USA and China are both qualified for the Finals, but the final preliminary round match could be an early showcase of the Finals. Earlier this year China traveled to Honolulu and Southern California to play the Americans in the four-match USA Volleyball Cup held June 5-12. The teams split the four-match series with several stars and newcomers getting plenty of action.
“We finish the weekend against China, a great team and a legendary program, and one that will only get better with their youth,” Kiraly said. “We expect every match to push us to our limit, which will only make our ‘limits’ grow - so we really look forward to the test.”
The USA-China series is developing into a friendly rival of young, talented squads. The U.S. defeated China 3-1 in last year’s FIVB World Championship gold-medal match – the Americans’ first-ever world title. China is coached by Jenny Lang Ping, who coached the U.S. to the 2008 Olympic Games silver medal in her native country.
2015 U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB World Grand Prix Week 3 and Finals Round
# - 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)
5 – Tama Miyashiro (L, 5-7, Kaneohe, Hawaii, University of Washington)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (MB, 6-2, St. Paul, Minn., University of Minnesota)
10 – Jordan Larson-Burbach (OH, 6-2, Hooper, Neb., University of Nebraska)
11 – Megan Easy (OH, 6-3, Durham, N.C., Penn State University)
12 – Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, Wilmington, Ill., University of Florida)
13 – Christa Dietzen (MB, 6-2, Hopewell Township, Pa., Penn State University)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Portland, Ore., Pepperdine University)
16 – Foluke Akinradewo (MB, 6-3, Plantation, Fla., Stanford University)
18 – Molly Kreklow (S, 5-9, Delano, Minn., University of Missouri)
21 – Tori Dixon (MB, 6-3, Burnsville, Minn., University of Minnesota)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Bartlett, Ill., University of Nebraska)
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 H – Hong Kong
July 16: USA vs. Japan, 3:30 a.m. PT
July 17: USA vs. Thailand, 3:30 a.m. PT
July 18: USA vs. China, 4:30 a.m. PT
FIVB World Grand Prix Finals
July 22-26 at Omaha, Nebraska
Top 5 teams from preliminary round plus host USA
FIVB World Grand Prix Group 1 Standings Through July 12
1 - China (6-0, 18 points) – remaining matches: THA, JPN, USA
2 - Brazil (6-0, 18 points) – remaining matches: RUS, BEL, ITA
3 - USA (6-0, 17 points) – remaining matches: JPN, THA, CHN
4 - Italy (4-2, 11 points) – remaining matches: BEL, RUS, BRA
5 - Russia (4-2, 11 points) – remaining matches: BRA, ITA, BEL
6 - Japan (3-3, 10 points) – remaining matches: USA, CHN, THA
7 - Thailand (3-3, 8 points) – remaining matches: CHN, USA, JPN
8 - Germany (2-4, 6 points) – remaining matches: DOM, TUR, SRB
9 - Serbia (1-5, 6 point) – remaining matches: TUR, DOM, GER
10 - Belgium (1-5, 3 points) – remaining matches: ITA, BRA, RUS
11 - Turkey (0-6, 0 points) – remaining matches: SRB, GER, DOM
12 - Dominican Republic (0-6, 0 points) – remaining matches: GER, SRB, TUR