COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 23, 2018) – After winning gold in both its 2018 tournaments and playing five competitive friendly exhibition matches this summer, the U.S. Women’s National Team has turned its full attention toward defending its FIVB World Championship title captured back in 2014.
The FIVB Women’s World Championship, played every four years in the second year of the Olympic quadrennial, is set for Sept. 29 to Oct. 20 in Japan. The Americans begin defense of their 2014 title in Kobe as they face Azerbaijan (Sept. 29), Trinidad & Tobago (Sept. 30), Korea (Oct. 2), Thailand (Oct. 3) and Russia (Oct. 4) in the first-round Pool C. The top four teams in Pool C advance to the second round (Oct. 7-11) in Osaka. The top three teams from the two second round pools move on to the third round held Oct. 14-16 in Nagoya, followed by the semifinals and medal matches on Oct. 19-20 in Yokohama.
The preliminary roster includes eight players with Olympic Games experience: Adams, Akinradewo (two Olympics), Hill, Larson (two Olympics), Lowe, Lloyd, Murphy and Robinson. Further, Dixon was part of the 2014 World Championship gold-medal team.
Team USA, ranked second in the world, is 26-4 during the 2018 season, and two of the losses were without the core veterans competing.
“So far in 2018, our program appears to be on a good path,” Kiraly said. “We’ve had some good results, lots of players and staff have made important contributions, but ultimately those things don’t give us even one extra point at the World Championship. We’re going to have to go out and fight our hardest, every single play, to earn 25 points before the other team does.”
The U.S. Women opened the 2018 season by winning the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League (rebranded event replacing the long-standing World Grand Prix) and the $1 million top prize. The U.S. went 17-2 in the tournament, including a 10-match win streak in the preliminary round (nine sweeps) that included wins over No. 1 China and No. 4 Brazil. In the Final 6 Round, the Americans defeated Turkey and Serbia to avenge both their prelim losses, then went on to defeat China in the semifinals and repeated a five-set win over Turkey in the gold-medal match. Bartsch-Hackley emerged as a star on the rise after earning the most valuable player of the VNL, while Tori Dixon was chosen best blocker.
The U.S. Women also won the Pan American Cup with a younger roster due to overlap in training and competition with the Volleyball Nations League. After a slow start in pool play that included a four-set opening win over Trinidad & Tobago followed by a five-set loss to Cuba, Team USA found its groove by sweeping Puerto Rico to conclude pool play before downing Colombia in the quarterfinals. The Americans topped then-undefeated Canada in the semifinals, then rallied from a two-set deficit to defeat host Dominican Republic in the title match. Carlini was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
Team USA won all four matches friendly exhibition matches with Brazil in a tour of Brazil in mid-August.
Although Team USA has had much success in 2018, Kiraly said there is room to improve and strengthen areas of its game heading into the World Championship.
“Leading up to World Championships, our training focus will be to improve some important aspects of our game, aspects that were not as strong as they needed to be during VNL,” Kiraly said.
While history reflects the U.S. Women won the most recent World Championship, the team enters this year’s World Championship not thinking of the past but with a clean slate.
“We are not defending anything,” Kiraly said. “We won the last World Championship, and that was nice, but that’s ancient history, and that result has no bearing on this year’s tournament. Now we are on the new and fresh process – along with many other strong teams that have high hopes – of attempting to win a totally separate tournament, the 2018 World Championship.”
The Americans captured the 2014 World Championship title in Italy, marking their first triple crown title (Olympic Games, FIVB World Championship, FIVB World Cup). However, Team USA has been among the favorites to win most tournaments in this century. The U.S. has medaled in each of the last three Olympic Games, winning silver in 2008 and 2012 before finishing with bronze in 2016. Team USA is the only women’s indoor volleyball team to have reached the podium in each of the last three Olympic Games.
U.S. Women’s National Team Preliminary Roster for FIVB World Championship
# – Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
1 – Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
5 – Rachael Adams (M, 6-2, Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
7 – Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, Wisconsin, Aurora, Illinois)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)
9 – Madi Kingdon Rishel (OH, 6-1, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona)
10 – Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Hooper, Nebraska)
11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Purdue, Elkhart, Indiana)
12 – Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, Florida, Wilmington, Illinois)
13 – Sarah Wilhite Parsons (OH, 6-2, Minnesota, Eden Prairie, Minnesota)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Champaign, Illinois)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Pepperdine, Portland, Oregon)
16 – Foluke Akinradewo (M, 6-3, Stanford, Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
17 – Megan Courtney (L, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
19 – Hannah Tapp (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
20 – Amanda Benson (L, 5-7, Oregon, Litchfield Park, Arizona)
21 – Simone Lee (OH, 6-1, Penn State, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin)
22 – Haleigh Washington (M, 6-3, Penn State, Colorado Springs, Colorado)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (L, 6-2, Nebraska, Manhattan Beach, California)
24 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, UCLA, Rancho Santa Fe, California)
25 – Chiaka Ogbobu (M, 6-2, Texas, Coppell, Texas)
Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Luka Slabe, Tama Miyashiro
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
Physiotherapist: Kara Kessans
Team Manager: Jimmy Stitz
Doctors: Dr. Christopher Lee and Lori Boyajian-O’Neill
Consultant Coaches: Marv Dunphy
Scout Coach: Giuseppe Vinci
Mental Performance Coach: Traci Statler