For a United States team used to making the
podium at the World Grand Prix, a sixth-place finish in 2013 was out of
character. Since the end of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, they have never
been out of the top two places in the FIVB world rankings. They displaced
Brazil at No1 following their silver medal at the 2011 World Cup. The South
Americans regained top spot in September last year after they ended Team USA’s
three-season reign as World Grand Prix champions.
After an uncertain start to
the reign of coach Karch Kiraly, as evidenced by their disappointing 2013 World
Grand Prix performance, the team’s form has improved. They took the gold medal
at the NORCECA Continental Championship last September. The team’s silver at
the Grand Champions Cup in November then gave notice that they will again start
among the favourites at this year’s World Grand Prix.
Setter Alisha Glass, who won World Grand
Prix gold with the side in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 tournaments, remains their
key player. Her displays last season saw her named best indoor female athlete
by USA Volleyball. The United States’ quest for a sixth World Grand Prix
triumph gets under way with their Pool A opener against Russia.