Long Beach, U.S., June 28, 2011 – The United States will be hoping that there really is “no place like home” on July 1 and 2 when they face Puerto Rico in two FIVB Volleyball World League matches at the Walter Pyramid.
The US, the defending Olympic champions and world No.5, have played three World League weekends overseas and two more at U.S. locations away from their home base at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim, Calif.
Now they will play their final two matches approximately 20-30 minutes away from their home base.
“What I’m most excited about is that these will truly be home matches for us,” U.S. coach Alan Knipe said. “We don’t have to fly.”
The USA are hoping that they will have to make one more long flight from Long Beach to the World League Final Round on July 6-10 in Gdansk-Sopot, Poland.
The United States will go into the matches against Puerto Rico knowing what they need to do, as Brazil (8-2), the current Pool A leader, and Poland (6-4), who are tied with the U.S. for second place, will play their final two matches on June 29-30 in Katowice, Poland.
Poland, as the host country, are already assured a spot in the Final Round. The U.S. must hope that Brazil beat Poland at least once so that the USA finish alone in second place in the pool.
They must also hope that their points total, set ratio and points ratio make them one of the three best second-place teams. Currently, Cuba is the best second-place team in Pool D with 20 points. The United States, Poland, Bulgaria and Serbia all have 18 points.
But the United States must not become so focused on the race for the Final Round that they forget to prepare for Puerto Rico, ranked 16th in the world. Puerto Rico are 0-10 in Pool A so they have nothing to lose in going all-out against the United States.
“Puerto Rico is a good team and we need to be ready for them,” U.S. captain Reid Priddy said. “We need to continue to improve what we are doing on our side of the net.”
The United States are coming off a 3-1 upset of Brazil on June 25, but no major roster changes are planned. The U.S. won two World League matches in Puerto Rico by scores of 3-1 when Brian Thornton made his debut as a starting setter for the team.
Puerto Rico have been paced by Hector Soto, who is 12th among all World League scorers with 148 points on 142 kills, three blocks and three aces. Priddy leads the U.S. in scoring and is 10th overall with 152 points on 126 kills, 16 blocks and 10 aces.