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“Winning machine” USA makes light work of securing two tickets to the FIVB World Championship

The US men's team picked up two wins against Bulgaria in FIVB Volleyball World League Pool B last weekend
Lausanne, Switzerland, May 28, 2014 - USA's two national teams have taken part in every FIVB World Championship for almost 50 years now, and they made short work of qualifying for the 2014 showdowns last weekend.

At the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, the clear favourites in both the men's and women's competition won without losing a single set, as expected. And that was despite many of the star players from the two US national teams being rested.

From the men's team, for example, top players like Matthew Anderson – who recently became Russian champion with Zenit Kazan – and Max Holt were watching from the sidelines. With David Lee, Reid Priddy and Sean Rooney on the court, however, there were at least three players who were part of the team that won the third and most recent Olympic gold medal for the US in Beijing in 2008.

The 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-15) win over Guatemala in the final was closer than expected, and the Central American team are still in with a chance of qualifying for the FIVB World Championship in the playoffs. “It was probably a little tougher than we expected. Teams are going to come in with nothing to lose and swing as hard as they can,” coach John Speraw commented. “We didn’t play our best volleyball, but we got the win so off to the world champs we go.”

In the women's competition, the US fielded a B-team including recent college graduates and a high school junior. It is unlikely that many of these talented young players will represent their country in the finals of the FIVB Women's World Championship from September 23 to October 12 in Italy. Nevertheless, the young team put their heart and soul into the match and, after starting nervously, beat Panama in straight sets 3-0 (25-18, 25-5, 25-5). US captain Kelly Reeves contributed 20 points, including eight aces from 22 serves. Their outclassed opponents will still hope to smash their way into the highlight of the season via the playoffs.

The US team was coached by 28-year-old David Hunt, not by current head coach Karch Kiraly. Hunt most recently worked as an assistant coach with Japan's men's team and was delighted to have paved the way for his more illustrious colleague Kiraly. “For the players, it was the culmination of eight to ten weeks training. I was just there for the tail end of it,” said Hunt: “This was the payoff.”  Commenting on events after the tournament, Hunt added: "Some will play overseas and Hayley Hodson will go back to California to finish high school.”

With the World Championship ticket in the bag, Karch Kiraly will once again take on the role of coaching the US women's national team with his best players. The World Grand Prix is part of preparations for their 15th appearance at the FIVB Women’s World Championship, where the US women have their sights firmly set on a medal.

In the history of world title showdowns, the US have won two silver and two bronze medals, finishing fourth in 2010. They also won silver medals at the Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012; the main goal this time around is to win the first ever gold medal for the US. In pool C of the World Championship, the team second in the world rankings will take on defending champions Russia, Thailand, the Netherlands, Kazakhstan and the playoff winner from the NORCECA federation.

At the FIVB Men’s World Championship, from August 30 to September 21 in Poland , the US men's team will take on Italy, Iran, France, Belgium and another team from the NORCECA federation in the opening rounds. The perfect preparation for this is the FIVB World League, which starts this weekend. The US men's team set off straight after qualifying. In Group B, the matches in Varna on Friday and Saturday open with the duel between the fourth-placed team in 2013, Bulgaria, and 2012 silver medallists USA.

"Everything we do, including the NORCECA qualification tournament and the World League, is about being ready for the World Championship," said US men's national team coach John Speraw, adding that the World League will be used to evaluate talent by mid-August, when the team is named for the World Championship.

It is also the 15th appearance at the world title showdowns for the US men's team. The gold medal from 1986 stands out among their successes. At the 2010 World Championship, the three-time Olympic Games winners only finished sixth; this time the fourth-placed team in the world rankings wants to be fighting for medals once again. Haiti's head coach Yves Larrieux is already warning the rest of the volleyball world to watch out for the two US teams: “We know already that the USA is a winning machine.”


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