U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly mentioned that the FIVB Grand Champions Cup presents a unique challenge to all six teams participating in the event as it is well after the normal National Team season. For most athletes in the competition, they have been in their professional club leagues around the world since late September.
“We have to quickly re-assemble and hope the teamwork that we were working so hard to build in this summer season of 2013, that we can remember all that quickly and get back to playing USA Volleyball,” Kiraly said. He went on to say that most teams will have just 7-10 days of training prior to the first match on Nov. 12.
For this season-ending event, Kiraly has selected four outside hitters, four middle blockers, two setters, two opposites and two liberos to fill out the 14-player roster for the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup. Outside hitters are Kristin Hildebrand (Orem, Utah), Kim Hill (Portland, Ore.), Jordan Larson-Burbach (Hooper, Neb.) and Cassidy Lichtman (Poway, Calif.). The middle blockers on the roster are Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.), Christa Harmotto (Hopewell Township, Pa.), Cursty Jackson (Los Angeles) and Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.). The opposites are Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) and Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.). The setters are Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) and Jenna Hagglund (West Chester, Ohio). The liberos are Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) and Tamari Miyashiro (Kaneohe, Hawaii). All but Larson-Burbach and Jackson were part of the FIVB World Grand Champions Final Round squad that competed in Sapporo, Japan, and finished in sixth place.
Each team can only suit 12 players for each match, but the roster composition can change each day as long as the players were submitted on the 14-player competition roster.
The FIVB Grand Champions Cup features continental winners United States (NORCECA), Thailand (Asia), Russia (Europe), Brazil (South America), along with wildcard Dominican Republic and host Japan. The tournament uses a round-robin format with each team playing five matches over the course of six days. The first stage will be held Nov. 12-13 at the Nagoya Nippongaishi Hall, which seats 10,000 fans. After a travel day on Nov. 14, the teams resume action Nov. 15-17 at the 5,000-seat Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, which was used during the 1964 Olympic Games and completely remodeled in the early 1990s.
The U.S. opens the season-ending tournament on Nov. 12 versus No. 1 Brazil. The two teams also met on opening day of the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round in Sapporo, Japan, in August. Team USA will face Japan on Nov. 13 and will try to improve to 6-0 against its Asian rival this year. After the travel day, the Americans challenge Russia on Nov. 15. Team USA defeated Russia 3-1 on the opening day of the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix. The U.S. plays Thailand on Nov. 16 in the first meeting of the two teams in 2013. The Americans conclude the World Grand Champions Cup on Nov. 17 against Dominican Republic. The U.S. is 2-0 against Dominican Republic in 2013, with both victories coming in gold-medal matches (Pan American Cup and NORCECA Continental Championship).
“Now we have qualified to play in World Grand Champions and get five more really quality matches with a very young group,” Kiraly said. “We are really excited about how much experience a lot of very new players got this season, or players who had been with the team but had not really played … real world competitions like World Grand Prix or Grand Champions Cup. It has been a great year of opportunity and experience, and we look to build on that over the next three years.”
The U.S., currently 21-5 this season, has invested in its youth in 2013. Team USA has had 21 players play at least three sets of action in 2013, but a core group of 10 athletes have competed in at least 50 percent of the sets. During the first four events of the season, 1,083 of USA’s 1,240 kills (87.3 percent) were credited to athletes who have not played in the Olympic Games. Yet, the Americans are 10-5 against teams ranked in the top 10 in the world.
“Overall I am very pleased how 2013 has progressed,” Kiraly said. “I wasn’t sure, didn’t have a lot of expectations in terms of all the new talent we brought in. Just a couple examples among many are Kelly Murphy and Kim Hill, who had never spent any time in USA gym. They got their start in late April and early May of 2013, and through most of World Grand Prix were starters for the USA playing against the rest of the best the world has to offer. That is a quick transition to make, and not an easy one to make. And yet USA had a lot of good success.”
Team USA is ranked second in the world as of the latest rankings released by the FIVB on Oct. 7. Brazil overtook the Americans as the top-ranked team in the world after the conclusion of the FIVB World Grand Prix and continues as the No. 1 team. Japan is ranked No. 3, followed by Russia at No. 6, Dominican Republic at No. 8, Thailand at No. 12.
The FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Grand Champions Cup has had a different winner for each of its five previous editions with Cuba (1993), Russia (1997), China (2001), Brazil (2005) and Italy (2009) all claiming the title. The U.S. captured the silver medal in the 2005 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup in its only podium finish in the five previous editions. The Americans finished fifth in the inaugural event in 1993 and fifth in the 2001 edition. Team USA did not qualify for the event in 1997 or 2009.
The U.S. Women qualified for the World Grand Champions Cup by winning the Visit Omaha NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship, which was held Sept. 16-21. Team USA defeated Mexico and Cuba in pool play, Canada in the semifinal round and No. 8 Dominican Republic in the championship match.
Find more FIVB Women’s Grand Championship Cup updates on:
Facebook: FIVB Volleyball
YouTube: FIVB Volleyball
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