LONG BEACH, California (June 16, 2016) – The FIVB World Grand Prix will showcase four of the world’s top volleyball countries in Pool E being contested this weekend in Long Beach, California, as the U.S. Women's National Team has a rare chance to play on USA soil under two months from the Olympmic Games.
The group has four of the top 11 teams in the world including No. 1 United States hosting No. 5 Japan, No. 10 Turkey and No. 11 Germany. With the Olympic Games less than 50 days away, the USA and Japan are using this second preliminary round weekend of the World Grand Prix to further evaluate their rosters to help formulate the 12 players who go to Brazil in August.
“Every point we play we have to empty the tank on, both in terms of World Grand Prix playing and in terms of playing our style of play and system,” Team USA Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “But also in terms of helping us figure out the difficult process toward 12 players who will go to Rio.”
Japan Head Coach Masayoshi Manabe is happy to compete in Long Beach for the second weekend of the World Grand Prix. He said the Japan coaching staff expects to take a long look at its younger players this weekend.
“We appreciate coming here to play in the World Grand Prix for the second week, and we are happy to be here,” Manabe said. “We are going against some great teams, but we will use our youngest players and do our best.”
The Turkish squad will also utilize a young squad this weekend in Long Beach. Unlike Japan and the USA who are qualified for the Olympics, the European team is preparing the next generation of Turkish players so they can arrive back in the Olympics in 2020. Turkey Head Coach Ferhat Akbas said the team has a great opportunity to improve in this year’s World Grand Prix.
“For the Turkish National Team we are really honored and happy to come to Los Angeles and play against really strong teams,” Turkey Head Coach Ferhat Akbas said. “We are a young team, a new generation now. We have to focus on the good volleyball as we did last week in the first leg of the tournament. We play Germany a lot in many, many matches in Europe with continental games, and I am very happy to play overseas against very strong teams such as USA and Japan. So we will play against different cultural volleyball and have a good experience.”
Related: Watch the FIVB World Grand Prix
Germany sees the chance to play against powers such as USA, Japan and Turkey as a chance to develop its younger players. They have already played USA once in this World Grand Prix, a 3-0 loss to the Americans last week in China.
“We are really honored to have these strong opponents here in this group – the United States again after playing them last week, Turkey as one of the strongest teams in Europe and of course Japan as one of the two strongest teams in Asia,” Germany Head Coach Felix Koslowski said. “For my team, it is a really big challenge like last weekend to play high level teams like this with international experience. We will enjoy every match that we can play here and are really happy that we can take this experience match by match.”
Kiraly knows how much an impact tournaments such as the World Grand Prix has on the development of younger players who get a chance to play against the best teams in the world. Team USA has gone through similar situations, including the first two years of the current Olympic quadrennial as its tournament rosters were tilted toward the younger athletes without international experience.
“We know, because we have had very young players, how quickly they can develop,” Kiraly said. “So we expect Germany to improve every single day, every single week. And of course, Turkey being one of the top teams in Europe and Japan being one of the legendary programs in volleyball. This is an honor to have three such strong programs here.”
Kiraly said it is special for Team USA to play in the United States, so close to its training headquarters located just 15 minutes away. While the USA was honored to host the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals in Omaha, Nebraska, last summer, it has been a rare occasion that the Americans have an opportunity to play a tournament on home soil. So hosting this leg of the World Grand Prix has extra meaning for the team.
“It certainly is an honor and privilege to get to play in the USA,” Kiraly said. “We do a lot of traveling, so it is honor to play against three really good teams here. This is the first time since I have been in the program that we have actually played a tournament like World Grand Prix in Southern California where we are based with our official host city in Anaheim,” Kiraly said. “It is great to play just 15 minutes away from home.”