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Brazil and USA to play four-match series

Brazil and United States played in the gold medal match at the 2012 London Olympic Games
Colorado Springs, Colorado, July 2, 2014 – The USA Volleyball Cup will feature 10 Olympians as the No. 2 U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team hosts top-ranked Brazil in the four-match series with matches in Southern California and Hawaii.

The USA Volleyball Cup, a potential preview of the 2016 Olympic Games gold-medal match that will be played in Rio de Janeiro, opens on July 5 at UC Irvine’s Bren Center at 7 p.m. PT. The series shifts to the Galen Center on the University of Southern California campus at 5 p.m. PT on July 6. The teams will fly to Honolulu for matches on July 11 and July 12 at the University of Hawaii’s Stan Sheriff Center. Both matches are at 7 p.m. HT.

“Brazil is coming to battle USA, right in our back yard – what a phenomenal opportunity for our program and our fans, to go head to head with the top ranked team in the world,” U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said.

Team USA’s roster will have 17 different players listed on at least one of the four match rosters, including Olympians Foluke Akinradewo, Nicole Davis, Jordan Larson-Burbach and Courtney Thompson. Except for the two matches in Hawaii, Kiraly will deploy a different roster for each match.

Setters Alisha Glass and Thompson will be the two setters for all four matches, while liberos Davis and Kayla Banwarth will suit for all four matches. Outside hitters penciled into all four rosters are Larson-Burbach and Cassidy Lichtman. Middle blockers chosen for all four rosters are Rachael Adams and Lauren Gibbemeyer, while Kelly Murphy will suit for all four matches.

At UC Irvine, the outside hitters will be Larson-Burbach, Kristin Hildebrand, Hill and Lichtman. Middle blockers in the first match are Adams, Akinradewo, Gibbemeyer and Lauren Paolini. Alix Klineman  and Murphy will be the opposites in Irvine. The liberos are Banwarth and Davis, while the setters are Glass and Thompson.

At USC, outside hitters scheduled to compete are Larson-Burbach, Hildebrand, Lichtman and Kelsey Robinson. Middle blockers will be Adams, Tori Dixon, Gibbemeyer and Paolini. Klineman and Murphy will be the opposites on the July 6 roster. Glass and Thompson will be the setters, while Banwarth and Davis will be available as liberos in the match.

The 14-player roster for the two matches in Hawaii will have setters Glass and Thompson, as well as liberos Banwarth and Davis. The outside hitters are Larson-Burbach, Hill, Lichtman and Robinson. The middle blockers are Adams, Akinradewo, Dixon and Gibbemeyer. The opposites will be Nicole Fawcett and Murphy.

Brazil’s 16-player roster includes six players with Olympic Games experience, including two-time Olympic gold-medalists Fabiana Claudino and Thaisa Menezes at middle blocker, outside hitter Jaqueline Carvalho Endres (Jaque) and opposite Sheilla Castro. In addition, middle blocker Adenizia Silva and outside hitter Fernanda Rodrigues (Fe Garay) were part of the 2012 Olympic Games gold-medal time for Brazil.

Brazil’s head coach Jose Roberto Lages Guimaraes, or Zé Roberto, is the only person to coach a men’s and women’s volleyball team to Olympic Games gold. He led the Brazil men to gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games, followed by coaching the Brazil women to gold at the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Games.

The U.S. Women have lost to Brazil in the last two Olympics Games gold-medal matches in 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London). Surprisingly, the U.S. Women have never won a major volleyball gold medal in the program’s history (Olympic Games, FIVB World Championship, FIVB World Cup) whereas their male counterparts have won Olympic gold three times.

In the second year of the Olympic quadrennial, the American team is building toward Olympic qualification. Team USA was 25-6 in 2013 playing a young roster that netted 13 wins against teams among the top 10 in the world. Not only will they need to be their best to be one of the 12 teams to earn a spot into the Olympic Games once team qualifications start in 2015, but they will need to be their best in 2016 to overcome their arch rival, Brazil, who will play host to the 2016 Olympic Games.

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