COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. June 26, 2003 – The USA women’s national volleyball team departs Thursday for Saltillo, Mexico, to compete in the second annual Pan American Cup at the Coahuila Convention Center from June 30-July 5.
The tournament will serve as a qualifier for the 2004 FIVB World Grand Prix, the premier annual women’s competition that features many of the best teams in the world. The top four finishers, plus the best placed South American team if they finish outside of the top four at the Pan American Cup, qualify for next year’s Grand Prix.
The United States’ roster is quite different from the team that traveled to Switzerland and Russia for a pair of tournaments earlier this month, where they posted a record of 4-6 and finished fourth twice.
“This tournament will be my biggest challenge,” said Team USA Head Coach Toshi Yoshida, who guided the women to a gold medal at the 2001 World Grand Prix and a silver medal at the 2002 World Championships. “We have a very different team from the one we took to the World Championships due to injuries, illness and other distractions.
“Tayyiba (Haneef) and Heather (Bown) both have sprained ankles and will not be making the trip,” he revealed. “Keba (Phipps) is here training, but she’s not quite ready to play and will also not make the trip. Jen (Flynn) has quit the team and Danielle (Scott) has been sick. So I have had to modify our training schedule quite a bit in preparation for this important tournament.”
Scott, the Best Blocker at the 2002 World Championships and a two-time Olympian, will travel with the team. Other players on the roster that did not compete in Switzerland and Russia include: middle blocker Erin Aldrich; outside hitter Therese Crawford; outside hitter Tara Cross-Battle and setter Lizzy Fitzgerald.
But with veterans like Logan Tom, Stacy Sykora, Sarah Noriega and Nancy Metcalf, Yoshida will still be able to field a formidable team in Mexico.
“Luckily we only have to finish in the top four,” he added. “But it’s still going to be tough. We will have to work hard and we have to show our fighting spirit.”
The eight-team field for the Pan American Cup is broken into two pools. The United States, currently ranked No. 3 in the world, will be a member of Pool A and play a round-robin schedule against No. 5 Brazil, No. 14 Puerto Rico and No. 23 Canada. Pool B consists of No. 4 Cuba, No. 15 Dominican Republic, No. 22 Venezuela and No. 26 Mexico.
The tournament begins on Monday, June 30 with the United States playing Brazil. On Tuesday, July 1 Team USA will battle Puerto Rico, while on Wednesday, July 2 the Americans close out pool play against Canada.
The top team in each pool earns a day off on July 3 and automatically advances to the championship semifinals that take place on July 4. The No. 2 and No. 3 teams in each pool will play crossover matches on July 3 (No. 2A vs. No. 3 B; No. 2B vs. No. 3A), with the winners advancing to the championship semifinals and the losers squaring off for fifth place on July 4. The last place teams in each pool will play each other on July 3 in a battle for seventh place.