“Jenny” Lang Ping of China, one of the most famous and respected individuals in the history of volleyball, begins her third year leading the U.S. women's national team.
Lang Ping led the U.S. to a 16-12 record in 2006 when using a full U.S. senior national team against international competition. The U.S. finished fourth at the 2006 Pan American Cup, which qualified the Americans for the 2007 World Grand Prix. Team USA finished seventh at the 2006 World Grand Prix and was in contention for the final round up to the last match of the preliminaries. The U.S., ranked seventh in the latest FIVB world rankings, finished ninth at the 2006 World Championships after competing in the strongest first two round groupings based on world rankings.
In her first year as head coach Lang Ping guided the USA Women’s National Volleyball Team to a record of 26-15. After a slow start to the season, the Americans earned medals in each of their final three events: including a gold medal at the FIVB World Championship Qualifying Tournament (at Puerto Rico); a gold medal at the NORCECA Championships (at Trinidad and Tobago); and a silver medal at the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup (at Japan). Team USA finished the year by winning 15 of its last 17 matches, including a stunning 3-0 win over 2004 Olympic gold medalist China at the Grand Champions Cup in November 2005.
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 volleyball players ever.
Lang Ping was a member of the Chinese women’s national team that won an Olympic gold medal over the United States 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 honored 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 honors. China also captured a silver medal at the 1998 World Championship, a bronze medal at the 1995 World Cup and a gold medal at the 1995 Asian Championships during her tenure. She resigned from her job as coach in early 1999.
Team USA opens the FIVB World Grand Prix with matches against top-ranked Russia, Poland and third-ranked China in Poland Aug. 3-5. The Americans face Kazakhstan, fifth-ranked Cuba and top-ranked Russia Aug. 10-12 in Russia during the second preliminary weekend. The U.S. concludes the preliminary round Aug. 17-19 at Macau against Netherlands, China and Cuba.
“The U.S. has a really strong schedule to play against, including the addition of Kazakhstan which took us to five sets at the World Championships in 2006,” said U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Lang Ping. “We will have to play top-ranked Russia and third-ranked China twice each including once in their home country. The U.S. will also face fifth-ranked Cuba twice. All 12 teams in the tournament are great teams and the tournament will be a great challenge for the U.S.
“This will be an important year for us as we work toward our goal of making the finals of the Grand Prix.”
A limited roster has been training in Colorado Springs since January, but only three of the players have any senior national team international experience. The team’s veterans return to the United States to train beginning in May and will work together to form a roster for the Pan American Cup in the middle of June.
“We will be having the players come back as soon as possible after their pro leagues are over,” Lang Ping said. “It will not be as much time as we would like to train as a team, but we have had many of our players training together the past two summers. We will use the World Grand Prix to build upon our teamwork and gain game experience in an effort to improve our overall team system.”
The U.S. will have the same top players from last year returning in 2007, including setter Robyn Ah Mow-Santos, outside hitter Tayyiba Haneef, opposite Nancy Metcalf and middle blockers Heather Bown and Danielle Scott. However, Lang Ping wants to continue exposing the younger athletes to the international competition in an effort to improve the team.
“We would like to give the younger players an opportunity to gain international experience and help the team,” she said. “We want as much balance as possible between veterans and young players without sacrificing overall improvement.”
Lang Ping and the U.S. understand the challenge of making it through the tough preliminary schedule, but have a goal to be playing in the final round at Ningbo, China.
“Ningbo is our goal, which means being in the top six after the preliminary rounds,” Lang Ping said. “We are a great team, and an improving team. We have talented and strong players. I see the Grand Prix as a good challenge for us as we try to win as much as possible.”
Outside of qualifying for the finals of the World Grand Prix in 2007, Team USA’s goals in the coming two years is qualification into the 2008 Olympics starting with 2007 World Cup qualification at the NORCECA Championships in September 2007.