Team USA accomplished its top season goal by qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Games at the FIVB World Cup held in November 2007 in Japan.
The Americans opened up the tournament with eight straight victories highlighted by a five-set rally over Brazil. After a stumble against Serbia to open the final stage in Nagoya, the U.S. rebounded to sweep host Japan to secure its ticket to Beijing in 2008.
After dropping a match to Italy in the tournament finale with the ultimate prize already in hand, the American players proudly wore their World Cup bronze medals upon leaving Japan.
The U.S. had claimed the silver medal at the NORCECA Continental Championship to earn a berth into the 2007 FIVB World Cup. Team USA swept Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico and Dominican Republic during pool play, then handled host Canada in three sets during the semifinals. Cuba outlasted the U.S. 22-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-23, 18-16 to win the gold medal.
Before the World Cup, Head Coach "Jenny" Lang Ping assembled a veteran roster for the FIVB World Grand Prix after evaluating the college players and relatively new players to the international scene.
However, the U.S. Women's National Team faced a daunting task to qualify for the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals through three weekends of preliminary action in three distinct locations: Rzeszow, Poland, Khabarovsk, Russia, and Macau, China.
Team USA finished seventh at the conclusion of the three World Grand Prix preliminary round weekends with a 5-4 record, just out of qualification for the Finals Round.
The American squad held destiny in its own hands up to the final day of preliminary matches, but lost to Netherlands in four sets in a match that guaranteed the winner a berth in the Final Round.
Americans hopes are high, though, ahead of Beijing. They've been close to Olympic gold before, winning silver in 1984 in Los Angeles and bronze at Barcelona 1992. But apart from gold in the 2001 World Grand Prix the USA have never claimed one of the "big" titles (They went close with silver at the 2002 World Championships).
Now may be the time to remedy this.
"Jenny" Lang Ping of China, one of the most famous and respected individuals in the history of volleyball, is in her fourth year leading the U.S. women's national team.
Known as the "Iron Hammer" during her playing days, Lang Ping, 44, was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame as a player on Oct. 18, 2002, culminating an incredible career that saw her establish herself as one of the finest female players ever.
Lang Ping was a member of the Chinese Women's National Team that won an Olympic gold medal at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, a World Championship crown in 1982 and World Cup titles in 1981 and 1985.
Revered by Chinese fans, Lang Ping has been honoured with her own postage stamp, had her wedding broadcast on Chinese national television and has stadiums named after her in China.
She later became a well-respected coach in multiple countries. From 1987-1989 and 1992-1993 Lang Ping was assistant coach at the University of New Mexico. From 1993-1995 she was the head coach of the Yaohan Professional World Superstar Team in Japan.
In 1995, Lang Ping became the Head Coach of the Chinese National Team and eventually guided the squad to the silver medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Later that year she earned FIVB Coach of the Year honours.
China also captured a silver medal at the 1998 World Championship and bronze at the 1995 World Cup during her tenure. She resigned from her job as coach in early 1999.
After leaving China's National Team program in 1999, Lang Ping was Head Coach for a number of championship teams in the Italian League.
Lang Ping is the only female Head Coach among the top 20 countries listed in the FIVB World Ranking. Lang Ping moves into the company of former Hungary Women's National Team Head Coach Gabriella Kotsis as female coaches to lead teams into multiple Olympics. Kotsis led Hungary during the golden era of Hungarian Volleyball, leading the country into three Olympic Games (1972, 1976, 1980).