Who will find gold at the end of the Rainbow?

The Nagoya Rainbow Hall

NAGOYA, Japan (November 17, 2005) – The United States are top of the standings after two rounds of games, but the furthest thing from their minds is actually winning the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup.
“We came here with a goal, and that was to improve our level and play more consistently,” said the Americans’ Chinese head coach, Jenny Lang Ping, at a news conference on Thursday. We want to take this opportunity to give more experience to the team, and right now we have still not changed our goal. We have three hard matches to play and I will focus on each one and try to play as consistently as possible, and learn as much as possible from all the teams.”

The six teams are now in Nagoya, preparing to resume play on Friday at the Rainbow Hall after playing the first two rounds at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. USA and Brazil have a 2-0 win-loss record, and are followed by Japan and Poland on 1-1 and China and Korea on 0-2. On Friday, Korea will play China, followed by USA against Poland and Brazil against Japan. Brazil are shooting for a first World Grand Champions Cup for women, as well as a title double in Japan this year after winning the World Grand Prix Final Round at Sendai in July.

Despite opening with two wins, against defending champions China and European champions Poland, the South American champions are expecting a tough match against host Japan on Friday evening. “For us it’s always difficult to play against Japan because of the velocity of the balls and the defence. You think you have won the point but the ball comes back,” said head coach Jose Guimaraes. “We played against them three times before this tournament and we had difficulties in every match. I remember at the World Grand Prix in Tokyo we lost the first two sets, and then there was a 10-minute break for the TV show. I had a chance to talk to the girls in the locker room and we came back out and won 3-2. Thank God for the 10-minute break!”

The Brazilian duo of Sheilla Castro and Welissa “Sassa” Gonzaga lead the scorers with 40 points apiece, followed by Japan’s Kana Oyama with 37, and USA lefty Nancy Metcalf and Korean high-school student Kim Yeon-Koung, both with 35.
USA, ranked fifth in the world, will play seventh-ranked Japan in the 15th and last match of the series on Sunday evening, and USA coach Lang admits she will keep on learning. “The last time we played against Japan, in Thailand for the World Grand Prix, we had a hard time to block and on defence because they play fast combinations,” she said.
“We have to focus on everybody, not just on one or two players, and I think we will have a little bit of trouble because we do not run this fast. I think Japan is a great team.”

Good news for the organizers is that the 8,000-capacity Rainbow Hall has sold out all three nights as the teams chase the pot of gold of US$300,000 for the champions.

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