ANAHEIM, Calif. (July 22, 2019) – Chiaka Ogbogu is living a dream this summer in just her second year with the U.S. Women’s National Team, and it only gets better this summer as she and her teammates seek qualification into the 2020 Olympic Games on home soil during the Tokyo Women’s Volleyball Qualification Tournamant Aug. 2-4 in Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana.
Ogbogu, playing in her first FIVB-level competition this summer, helped Team USA capture the prestigious annual FIVB Volleyball Nations League title with an overall 16-3 record. The Americans defeated Brazil twice in the span of three days, including a rally from two sets down in the gold-medal match to claim the $1 million top prize.
Ogbogu, a middle hailing from Coppell, Texas, who played for Texas Advantage Volleyball before going off to star at the University of Texas, started 12 of the 19 Volleyball Nations League matches and played in a total of 50 sets in her middle position. She converted 56 kill percent of her 177 swings with a .463 hitting efficiency (100-18-177), both Team USA highs for players with at least two starts in the VNL. Additionally, she averaged 2.96 points with 2.00 kills, 0.72 blocks and 0.24 aces per set during the VNL.
In her rookie season in 2018, Ogbogu helped Team USA win gold at the 2018 Pan American Cup and started to grab the USA coaching staff’s attention with her play. However, she never envisioned becoming such a standout on the international stage in just her second year with the national team.
“It is almost like a dream come true,” Ogbogu said. “I never thought I would be in this position this early in my career. Originally, going on the VNL, I didn’t know how many weeks I would be with the group. So just the fact that I basically got to be with the group every single possible week was amazing, not only for just me being there but just to learn. I got to play with all of these players that I’ve grown up watching. It’s kind of like an out-of-body experience just like admiring and respecting this group.”
Obviously, success in the VNL was not only limited to Ogbogu, who was one of eight American players who were playing in their first FIVB-level event at the 2019 VNL. Team USA showcased a roster that exhibited both youth and veteran leadership. U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly used 15 different starting lineups in the 15 preliminary round matches before the VNL Finals. Each player, when given the chance to shine, came through.
“I think the girls have talked about it a lot,” Ogbogu said regarding the depth that has been on display for Team USA in 2019. “It is a big relief having that person, in your position especially, but all across the board, be able to come in and completely change the game or impact the game in some way. I love it. I think, with that, you never have a doubt in anyone. You know if one person is struggling, there’s always another person there to carry the load. It’s nice.”
With the VNL behind them, the U.S. attention has turned to the Tokyo Women’s Volleyball Qualification Tournament where the winners of the six four-team round-robin pools earn a berth to the 2020 Olympic Games. Team USA, ranked No. 3 in the world, will host Argentina, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan based on the serpentine system of the world’s top 24 ranked teams.
Although she has never been to Shreveport-Bossier City, Ogbogu can’t wait to compete in the northwest region of Louisiana. Being her hometown’s only a three-hour drive, she expects to have loads of family and friends cheering on Team USA including her boyfriend who has ties to the area.
“I have not (been to Shreveport), but my boyfriend actually went to Centenary, which is in Shreveport, his freshman year of college,” Ogbogu said. “So he is pumped to go back. He is so excited.”
Tokyo Women’s Volleyball Qualification Tournament Schedule
- Aug. 2: USA vs. Kazakhstan, 6 p.m. CT on NBCSN
- Aug. 3: USA vs. Bulgaria, 5 p.m. CT on Olympic Channel
- Aug. 4: USA vs. Argentina, 1 p.m. CT on NBC
Knowing full well the importance of the Olympic qualifier in Shreveport-Bossier City, Ogbogu admits she has some butterflies in the stomach.
“I never thought I would be in this position so early on,” Ogbogu said.” I think it is good butterflies. Just the fact that we get to go out there in front of a home crowd, which we rarely get to do, with a chance to qualify for the Olympics is the coolest feeling.”
Ogbogu recognizes the chance to compete in the Olympic qualifier, representing the USA on such a scale, has impacted her commitment to wearing the red, white and blue.
“I think more so being in this tournament and traveling all over the world I have a newfound sense of pride for America,” Ogbogu said. “I think it means just having the freedom to be yourself and I know a lot of countries can’t all say that. I think it is beautiful that we can be ourselves, but also have so much diversity in this group and are able to come together for one common goal.”
Ogbogu has learned a lot in her sophomore season with Team USA, and not all is about the technical aspects of the game.
“I think the biggest thing (I have learned) is having the mindset of a professional,” Ogbogu said. “With that being said, I think you kind of need amnesia when you play. You can’t hold on to things as long because the game is moving a lot faster and your opportunities are slimming down. You have to be able to move on to the next thing and never be too high or too low and just kind of ride that steady wave. So that’s something that I have definitely been working on this summer.”
When the USA has its first serve against Kazakhstan on Aug. 2 to start its path toward 2020 Olympic qualification in Shreveport-Bossier City, Ogbogu will be ready with an added sense of pride.
“I think I’m just going to have like an immense sense of pride, not only working for a bid for Tokyo, but being able to do that in our home country is so special,” Ogbogu said. “I’m just glad an American city won the bid for this tournament and I’m just excited to get out there and be in front of friends and family and just play hard for that bid.”