U.S. Women Aim for 7th World Grand Prix Title

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | July 31, 2017, 10:24 a.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 31, 2017) – The U.S. Women’s National Team has reached the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals (Final Six) for the third time in as many years and will aim for its seventh title in the event that takes place Aug. 2-6 in Nanjing, China. The World Grand Prix, in its 25th year, is the premier annual international women’s volleyball tournament.

Team USA, which finished second in the nine-match preliminary round to gain one of the five spots in the Final Six to play alongside host China, will face preliminary round leader Serbia (7-2, 22 points) on Aug. 2 followed by fifth-place Italy (6-3, 16 points) on Aug. 3. Both matches will air live on The Olympic Channel at 3 a.m. ET.

The opposite side of the pool includes China (5-4, 13 points), third-place Brazil (6-3, 18 points) and fourth-place Netherlands (6-3, 17 points). All six pool play matches will air live on The Olympic Channel, while the semifinals on Aug. 5 and the medal matches on Aug. 6 will air later in the day on The Olympic Channel.

The World Grand Prix Finals awards first place with $600,000, followed by $300,000 for second place, $200,000 for third place, $100,000 for fourth place, and $50,000 for fifth and sixth place.

The U.S. concluded the World Grand Prix preliminary round with a 6-3 record and 19 points. Brazil, the reigning World Grand Prix champions and holder of a record 11 event titles, finished third ahead of fourth-place Netherlands, while Italy was fifth in the preliminary round. Brazil was in a must-win situation over the United States on the final day of the preliminary round to even qualify among the Final Six. While Japan finished sixth ahead of China, the host Chinese advance as host of the Final Round. All five teams from second place to sixth place in the final preliminary standings ended with 6-3 records, one win behind leader Serbia.

Team USA has faced four of the other competitors in the World Grand Prix Final Six during the preliminary phase, only missing the opportunity to play Serbia. The Americans held a 3-3 record against the Final Six teams during the preliminary round. They split a pair of matches with both Italy and China, defeated Netherlands and lost to Brazil.

FIVB World Grand Prix Final Six Field Against Each Other

  • Serbia (2-1 vs. Field, 7-2 Overall): defeated Brazil (3-0), lost to Brazil (3-0), defeated China (3-1)
  • USA (3-3 vs. Field, 6-3 Overall): defeated Italy (3-0), defeated China (3-0), lost to Italy (3-2), lost to China (3-2), defeated Netherlands (3-1), lost to Brazil (3-1)
  • Brazil (3-1 vs. Field, 6-3 Overall): lost to Serbia (3-0), defeated Serbia (3-0), defeated Netherlands (3-1), defeated USA (3-1)
  • Netherlands (0-2 vs. Field, 6-3 Overall): lost to USA (3-1), lost to Brazil (3-1)
  • Italy (2-2 vs. Field, 6-3 Overall): lost to China (3-1), lost to USA (3-0); defeated China (3-0); defeated USA (3-2)
  • China (2-3 vs. Field, 5-4 Overall): defeated Italy (3-1), lost to USA (3-0), lost to Italy (3-0), defeated USA (3-2), lost to Serbia (3-1)

FUN FACT 1: The U.S. is the only team to not have suffered a loss in the preliminary round to a country that did not make it to the Final Six.

U.S Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly has elected to make one change to the team’s 14-player roster that remained the same throughout the three weekends of the preliminary round. The setters include captain and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) and Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma). At opposite, Kiraly has selected 2016 Olympic Games bronze medalist Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) and has called in Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana) in place of Liz McMahon (Liberty Township, Ohio). Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona) and Justine Wong-Orantes (Cypress, California) will share libero.

Team USA outside hitters selected to compete in China are Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Maryville, Illinois), Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio), Madi Kingdon (Phoenix, Arizona) and Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie, Minnesota). The four middles selected for the USA roster in China all hail from Minnesota and are alumni of the University of Minnesota. Veterans Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) and Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) join twins Hannah Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota) and Paige Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota) at middle.

FUN FACT 2: China has proven to be good for Team USA during recent World Grand Prix Final Rounds. The U.S. has won the last three Finals Rounds held in cities within China or autonomous cities of China. The Americans captured the 2010 and 2012 titles in Ningbo sandwiched around Macau in 2011. Team USA also won the 2001 title in Macau after winning the 1995 event in Shanghai. The Americans’ only other World Grand Prix title came in 2015 as they hosted the event in Omaha, becoming the first host country to ever win the World Grand Prix.

BY THE STATS
Through the nine-match preliminary round schedule, Murphy was the Americans’ leading scorer with 133 points for sixth place overall. Kingdon ranked 11th with 126 points, followed Bartsch-Hackley one spot behind with 118 points despite not playing the last two matches against Belgium and Brazil. Murphy and Kingdon were third and fourth, respectively in best spiker with kill efficiencies of 44.75 and 44.31.

Gibbemeyer led the U.S. blocking with 0.54 per set, or ninth overall. Bartsch-Hackley produced 0.46 aces per set for second in the preliminaries, while Dixon was 10th with a 0.27 ace average. Lloyd ranked seventh in setting with 4.68 running sets per set despite sharing the setting duties with Hancock mostly in the double sub. Wong-Orantes averaged for 2.57 digs per set for fourth best in the preliminary round.

FUN FACT 3: China has been part of all 25 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals Round. Brazil has reached the World Grand Prix Final Round every year since missing out in 2003.

Out of the 14-player U.S. roster, only four players have experience in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals. Murphy is set to compete in her fourth FIVB World Grand Prix Finals Round. After being a part of the 2013 squad that reached the Final Six, she helped the U.S. win gold in 2015 and silver in 2016. Dixon and Gibbemeyer were part of the 2015 World Grand Prix gold-medal team. Lloyd was the backup setter during the 2016 World Grand Prix silver-medal team.

FUN FACT 4: The 2016 Olympic Games medalists are all represented in the 2017 World Grand Prix Final Six. China won gold at last year’s Olympics, while Serbia finished second, the Americans third and Netherlands fourth. Brazil finished in a tie for fifth at the Olympics. Italy earned ninth place in Rio.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB World Grand Prix Finals
# - Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
1 – Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
4 – Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Nebraska, Cypress, California)
5 – Sarah Wilhite (OH, 6-1, Minnesota, Eden Prairie, Minnesota)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)
9 – Madi Kingdon (OH, 6-1, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona)
11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Elkhart, Indiana, Purdue)
12 – Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, Florida, Wilmington, Illinois)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Maryville, Illinois)
17 – Megan Courtney (OH, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
19 – Hannah Tapp (M, 6-2, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
20 – Amanda Benson (L, 5-7, Oregon, Litchfield Park, Arizona)
21 – Paige Tapp (M, 6-1, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Consultant Coach: Jon Newman-Gonchar
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans
Doctor: Dr. William Briner
Team Manager: Jimmy Stitz

FIVB World Grand Prix Finals Round Schedule
Aug. 2: USA vs. Serbia, 3 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel live)
Aug. 2: Brazil vs. China, 7:30 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel live)
Aug. 3: USA vs. Italy, 3 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel live)
Aug. 3: Brazil vs. Netherlands, 7:30 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel live)
Aug. 4: Serbia vs. Italy, 3 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel live)
Aug. 4: China vs. Netherlands, 7:30 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel live)
Aug. 5: Semifinal 1, 3 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel at 1 p.m. ET)
Aug. 5: Semifinal 2, 8 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel at 3 p.m. ET)
Aug. 6: Bronze-Medal Match, 3 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel at 1 p.m. ET)
Aug. 6: Gold-Medal Match, 8 a.m. ET (aired on Olympic Channel at 3 p.m. ET)