ANAHEIM, California (May 17, 2016) – The U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB, is well-known for how fast it runs its offense compared to the rest of the world. However, that crisp timing and connection were put on hold this winter as all its hitters and setters were playing abroad in pro club leagues on three different continents with three vastly different playing styles.
Now that the pro league season has concluded. Team USA has channeled all its efforts to regain that offensive edge. The squad officially resumed training on May 2 at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim – host city for the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams – with some players getting a head start in late April and others back in the gym just over a week ago. In that short time period the bonds between setter and hitter have been rekindled and the entire squad is glad to be back together as they prepare to play in the Olympic Games in Rio later this summer.
“I have been back three weeks,” U.S. Women’s setter Courtney Thompson (Kent, Washington) said. “It is always fun coming home. I loved Brazil this past year, but there is something special about being in our gym with our group of girls in here. We love it. We are playing fast, having fun, working hard. We are just really excited about what is next for this team.”
Thompson said even Brazilian club Rexona-ADES, which won the Brazil Superliga this spring, cannot match the speed of the American offense.
“I would say two of the hitters were pretty fast in Brazil, but consistently as a team, not really. I think this is pretty unique with what we run here in the USA – not many teams in the world run this fast.”
The transition for Thompson back into the USA gym for this year has been an easier task than in past years.
“We ran close (to the USA’s speed) in Brazil,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t like it was for me in Switzerland the year before. That was really tough coming back. I think for me this has been the easiest transition year coming back, and I am really thankful for that.”
Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida) said that while it has been a little rougher coming back into the USA gym this season due to the high ball system her Swiss team Volero Zurich runs, the transition has been smooth in her three weeks in the USA gym.
“Team USA runs a lot faster (than in Switzerland),” Akinradewo said. “I remember the first week that (assistant coach) Jamie Morrison was like ‘take a deep breath, it is going to be a little rough for a while,’ and it has been a little rough. It just takes a little while to get used to our speed.”
After essentially seven months living and playing abroad with the exception of a three-week period in late December and early January as Team USA trained in Anaheim and captured the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament to earn a ticket to the 2016 Olympics, Akinradewo is happy for the transition back to the USA training regimen.
“This has been a seamless transition,” Akinradewo said. “I was really excited to come back in the USA gym. Everyone works really, really hard in this gym. I remember my first week and I was in awe just with how many rallies we had going and how much effort that there was and how people were throwing themselves to the floor. It is a great competitive environment to be in.”
Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Illinois), who returned to the Team USA gym just a little over a week ago after earning the Italian League playoff most valuable player award and helping Conegliano to the gold medal, is excited to be back in Anaheim.
“It is always just such a fun environment to get back to,” Robinson said. “We are diving for balls going all out, and rallies are lasting two minutes long. It is really fun and competitive to be back here.”
Robinson has been fortunate in her transition from club to National Team this spring as she had the luxury of playing with three other Team USA members in Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan), Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Megan Easy (Boston, Massachusetts).
“It has been an easier transition than in the past just because I have been playing with Americans and with Alisha setting me,” Robinson said. “The connection with Alisha and myself was the exact same playing in Italy as it is here.”
The U.S. Women have less than a month to be ready to be in defense of its FIVB World Grand Prix crown. The Americans open the preliminary round with a weekend series against Germany, Thailand and China June 10-12 in Ningbo, China. Team USA then hosts a second weekend preliminary series June 17-19 in Long Beach, California, with Germany, Japan and Turkey coming to play. The U.S. wraps up the preliminary round June 26-28 at Hong Kong with matches against Germany, Netherlands and China.
The top five teams in the nine-match preliminary round join host Thailand for the World Grand Prix Finals July 6-10 in Bangkok.