U.S. Women Enjoying Playing at Home

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | June 19, 2016, 1:48 p.m. (ET)

LONG BEACH, California (June 19, 2016) – It has been 20 years since the U.S. Women’s National Team hosted a preliminary round phase of the FIVB World Grand Prix, but they are enjoying the current experience of playing on home soil in Long Beach, California, as part of the event’s Pool E.

The Americans last hosted preliminary weekends of the World Grand Prix in 1995 and 1996 in Honolulu. Although Team USA was the host of the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals in which it won gold in Omaha, Nebraska, this year’s event is even more special. The U.S. gets to play near its training host city, Anaheim, California, and where so many of the players are from or played collegiately.

U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said it is a “treat” to have the opportunity to play near the team’s home training site in Southern California.

“It is a great atmosphere - a special treat,” Kiraly said of playing at the Walter Pyramid on the Long Beach State University campus. “We do not play many tournament matches in the USA. Obviously we had a World Grand Prix Finals week last year in Omaha, but beyond that we have not played a Grand Prix phase since 1996 – after a 20-year break. It is not something we are used to. This was even a bigger adjustment as we have not played a tournament in Southern California, staying at home, making commutes and just having a different experience.”

Christa Dietzen (Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania) has enjoyed the experience of playing some of the best teams in the world on home soil in a tournament of such magnitude right before the Olympic Games.

“We are really excited to be here in Long Beach,” Dietzen said. “They are doing a great job at making this event great. USA Volleyball is promoting this event, everyone is promoting it well. We are really excited to be competing against some of the best teams in the world on our home turf. It is different for us as we are used to being on the road.”

Team USA is accustomed to playing almost exclusively on the road, so getting a chance to see friendly faces in the crowd and listening to fans cheering for and not against the USA is special.

“It is amazing,” U.S. opposite Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California) said. “This is an experience we don’t get a lot of. Just to look up in the crowds to see my family, my aunt and friends who live around here is amazing. To have that support system right here in the stands is great. We normally are playing overseas and I don’t know a single face in the crowd.”

Matt Garthoff, founder and organizer of the VOL-B-QUE, is hoping the support from the tailgate translates over to the team this evening. The squad arrived early for the match as the honored guests of the tailgate party in a special parade before entering the Walter Pyramid. Earlier in the day, the USA team took time following their training session to speak with all the organizers and volunteers for the VOL-B-QUE.

“I hope these players feel the love from the VOL-B-QUE crew,” Garthoff said. “It is the first time we have done this for the Women’s Team. I think between that fact and the fact it is Olympic year and we are six weeks or so from Rio, it is a perfect storm for us. I am hoping the players are blown away from the impact we make here in the Pyramid.”

Kiraly complimented Garthoff and his crew on making the VOL-B-QUE and subsequent match against Japan special for his players.

“The crowd was phenomenal thanks to a lot of people, especially Matt Garthoff and the VOL-B-QUE crew,” Kiraly said. “Our players got a chance to say hello to them at the huge volleyball tailgate party. I got a chance to say hello to them, and it was such a great day for volleyball.”