USAV Cup Providing Tests for Both USA, China

By Bill Kauffman | June 04, 2015, 6:24 a.m. (ET)

HONOLULU (June 4, 2015) – Being timid toward facing top competition has never been an issue with the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team. As the No. 1 ranked team in the world, Team USA continues that trend as it hosts No. 3 China in the third annual USA Volleyball Cup that starts this weekend in Honolulu.

The two teams meet on June 5-6 at the Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawaii campus in Honolulu. The four-match series shifts to California with contests on June 9 at UC Irvine and on June 12 Cal State University San Bernardino. All four matches will start at 7 p.m. local time. For ticket information, visit usavolleyballcup.com.

The Americans defeated the Chinese 3-1 in last year’s FIVB World Championship title match for their first-ever major triple crown victory. U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach believes competition brings out the best in his team.

Related: USA Volleyball Cup Tickets | FIVB World Grand Prix Finals in Omaha | U.S. Women's Team Page

“A big thank you to China for coming here,” Kiraly said. “They are a superb team and we are looking forward to some really good competition. We played last year in the finals of the World Championship. They scored 79 points, and we scored 79 points. It couldn’t have been any closer and I look forward to lots of back-and-forth in these four matches. They are great preparation.

The USA Volleyball Cup matches, while not part of an official tournament, serve a valuable purpose for Team USA.

“We have Olympic qualification starting in August, and these USA Volleyball Cup matches give us a chance for some really important preparation,” Kiraly said. “This is not a tournament, but we learn a ton from these matches. This is why we do this, to get tested by the very best across the net. We test them, they test us. We bring out the best in each other. That is exactly we are trying to do.”

Team USA has been successful in its two previous USA Volleyball Cup series with a 7-0 record. Team USA defeated now No. 4 Japan in all three matches in the inaugural tour in 2013. Last year the Americans won all four matches against then No. 1 Brazil, which included two victories in Honolulu.

Meanwhile, China is also gearing up for a crucial season the year before the Olympic Games. Jenny Lang Ping, the head coach for China and previously served as the U.S. Women’s National Team from 2005-2008, feels the USA Volleyball Cup will be beneficial to her young squad.

“We are very, very honored to be here and invited by USA Volleyball,” Lang Ping said. “Also, thank you to Karch. We have been working on this schedule for several times. He was very patient in scheduling this event with China. Our players were very, very happy to hear the news to have the opportunity to play in Hawaii, I think more than training. They know Hawaii is a beautiful vacation place in the world. They can play here, and visit here. Watch out Karch, we try to win one match this time. We try. And hopefully we can both qualify at World Cup (later this year).

Lang Ping sees some similarities in her current team from when she coached the U.S. Women, and hopes a similar scenario plays out within the next 10 years.

“I would like to congratulate Team USA winning World Championship last. This was the first World title for USA Volleyball. It was a great, great job to Karch Kiraly and all the players. Also, congratulations to Foluke (Akinradewo). I remember while I was coaching the USA Team, I recruited her to the National Team when she was 17 years old. After 10 years, she won the (World Championship) gold medal. Congratulations. I also have a player now with China who is 18 years. Hopefully after 10 years she can win the gold, too. That is my wish. We have a young team. We have eight players from last World Championship, and six young players joining our team this year.”

The U.S. has eight players on the USA Volleyball Cup roster in Hawaii who were part of the World Championship team. One player, Megan Easy, is returning to the team for the first time since getting married in 2013 and giving birth to her son in 2014. Kiraly pointed out his players are more than just a team, and gave credit to Easy for that as her son and mother-in-law are on the trip together.

“Today there was a whole different vibe on the bus,” Kiraly said. “We love having baby sounds on the bus. A big part of what we are trying to do is be a second family, a volleyball family, to try to bring out the best in each other and add up to more than a sum our parts. In some ways, it is literally becoming more than just a family, and that is a really cool thing.”

That family started to reconvene in April, but Kiraly has put together the pieces of 2015 one step at a time as some players were unable to return to the National Team program until as late as the final week of May.

“We have really gotten together, kind of since the whole month of May,” Kiraly said of his team’s floating return dates to Anaheim where the team trains. “Some of our players have only been with us since last week Monday. The preparation is always going on. Others have been with us since April.”

Kiraly is confident his team is ready to compete against one of the super powers of the world, albeit a young squad.

“We are building to play this World Class power, this great team, one of the great young teams that is going to get a lot better in the next few years,” Kiraly said. “They have a lot of exciting young players. We have some young players who are excited about. We both hope to be improving a lot and playing in important matches over the next two years.”

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster of USA Volleyball Cup Matches on June 5-6
# - 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 Hodge Easy (OH, 6-3, Durham, N.C., Penn State University)
12 – Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, Wilmington, Ill., University of Florida)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Portland, Ore., Pepperdine University)
16 – Foluke Akinradewo (MB, 6-3, Plantation, Fla., Stanford University)
18 – Molly Kreklow (S, 6-0, 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)
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
Athletic Trainer: Jill Wosmek