COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (July 12, 2017) – The U.S. Women’s National Team passed a major test last weekend in China as it opened the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round with a 3-0 record and victories over No. 1 China, No. 5 Russia and No. 8 Italy.
The Americans are now 11-0 on the season, which includes going undefeated at the Pan American Cup held in June. However, the true test was how the squad would hold up against some of the world’s best programs at the World Grand Prix with only two returning Olympians and nine players with one year or less of experience playing for Team USA.
The U.S. quieted some of the concerns for the youthful roster by beating Russia in a bumpy five-set match to start the tournament, then sweeping both Italy and defending Olympic Games champion China. Although all three of the U.S. opponents also utilized rosters heavy on young, non-Olympians, the round-robin group still represented some of the best programs in the world.
And the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Team USA, one of only two undefeated countries in the 12-team World Grand Prix Group 1, travels to Macau, China, for the second weekend of the premier annual international tournament. The Americans face No. 12 Turkey (1-2) on July 14 at 4 a.m. ET, followed by rematches against Italy (1-2) on July 15 at 2:30 a.m. ET and China (2-1) on July 16 at 3:30 a.m. ET.
TV Schedule for July 14-16
USA vs. Turkey – NBC Sports Network on July 14 at 6 a.m. ET
USA vs. Italy – Olympic Channel (formerly Universal HD) on July 15 at 2 p.m. ET
USA vs. China – Olympic Channel (formerly Universal HD) on July 16 at Noon ET
Last week Turkey lost to tournament-leader Serbia 3-0 and Brazil 3-2 around a four-set win over Belgium. Italy lost to both the U.S. and China last weekend before edging Russia in five sets. China beat Italy and Russia before falling to the U.S. to conclude last weekend’s group.
Fun Fact: Macau holds a special place in the U.S. Women’s National Team history as the team won the 2011 FIVB World Grand Prix title in the autonomous region on the south coast of China. Macau is known as the “Las Vegas of Asia” with its giant casinos and malls.
Moving along to the second weekend, U.S Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly has elected to keep the same 14-player roster intact for the matches in Macau. The setters include captain and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) and Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma). At opposite, Kiraly has selected 2016 Olympic Games bronze medalist Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) and Liz McMahon (Liberty Township, Ohio). Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona) and Justine Wong-Orantes (Cypress, California) will share libero.
Team USA outside hitters selected to compete in Macau are Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Maryville, Illinois), Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio), Madi Kingdon (Phoenix, Arizona) and Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie, Minnesota). The four middles selected for the USA roster in Macau all hail from Minnesota and are alumni of the University of Minnesota. Veterans Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) and Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) join twins Hannah Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota) and Paige Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota) at middle.
Fun Fact: Not only did Tori Dixon, Lauren Gibbemeyer, Hannah Tapp, Paige Tapp and Sarah Wilhite all play for the University of Minnesota, the five were trained through Northern Lights Volleyball Club in Burnsville, Minnesota, before heading off to college.
Murphy is the Americans’ leading scorer with 47 points, including 19-point performances against Russia and China. She ranks sixth overall in scoring in the World Grand Prix, as well as eighth in blocking with a 0.64 set average. Dixon, who tore her ACL in January 2016, made a successful return to FIVB action as she turned in 13 points against China and a team-best 10 points against Italy in two stats. Bartsch-Hackley has reached double-figure scoring the first three World Grand Prix matches with 37 total points, including 17 against Russia. She has compiled an 88.7 reception efficiency percent for third best in the tournament, while Benson is fourth in the category with an 82.1 efficiency percent.
Kingdon has racked up 30 points in the first three contests. Lloyd, who has started all three matches, has set Team USA to a .313 hitting efficiency. Gibbemeyer ranks ninth in blocking with a 0.64 blocking average.
Over the course of the first three World Grand Prix matches, the U.S. has out-blocked opponents 30-23 and held a 23-17 advantage in aces. The U.S. has three of the top six servers in the tournament with Bartsch-Hackley and Lloyd tied for third with 0.45 aces per set and Dixon with 0.36 aces per set.
The U.S. has won the FIVB World Grand Prix six times, with four of the titles coming in the last seven years (2010, 2011, 2012, 2015). In the last two editions, the Americans have won gold in 2015 and reached the gold-medal match in 2016 before losing to 11-time champion Brazil. The U.S. and Brazil have held dominance over the World Grand Prix as either the Americans or Brazilians have won the tournament 17 of the 24 editions and every year since 2008.
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB World Grand Prix Weekend #2
# – Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
1 – Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
4 – Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Nebraska, Cypress, California)
5 – Sarah Wilhite (OH, 6-1, Minnesota, Eden Prairie, Minnesota)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)
9 – Madi Kingdon (OH, 6-1, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona)
12 – Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, Florida, Wilmington, Illinois)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Maryville, Illinois)
17 – Megan Courtney (OH, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
19 – Hannah Tapp (M, 6-2, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
20 – Amanda Benson (L, 5-7, Oregon, Litchfield Park, Arizona)
21 – Paige Tapp (M, 6-1, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
23 – Liz McMahon (OPP, 6-6, Illinois, Liberty Township, Ohio)
Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Consultant Coach: Jon Newman-Gonchar
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans
Team Manager: Jimmy Stitz
2017 FIVB World Grand Prix Preliminary Round Standings
Place – Country – Record / Pts
1. Serbia – 3-0 / 9
2. USA – 3-0 / 8
3. Netherlands – 2-1 / 7
4. Dominican Republic – 2-1 / 6
5. Brazil – 2-1 / 5
6. China – 2-1 / 5
7. Japan – 2-1 / 4
8. Turkey – 1-2 / 4
9. Italy – 1-2/ 2
10. Russia – 0-3 / 3
11. Thailand – 0-3 / 1
12. Belgium – 0-3 / 0
2017 U.S. Women’s Schedule in FIVB World Grand Prix Preliminary Round
At Kunshan, China
July 7: USA def. Russia 22-25, 25-19, 25-27, 25-16, 15-11
July 8: USA def. Italy 25-21, 25-22, 25-19
July 9: USA def. China 25-22, 25-22, 25-21
At Macau, China
July 14: USA vs. Turkey, 4 a.m. ET (TV: NBC Sports Network at 6 a.m. ET on July 14)
July 15: USA vs. Italy, 2:30 a.m. ET (TV: Olympic Channel at 2 p.m. ET on July 15)
July 16: USA vs. China, 3:30 a.m. ET (TV: Olympic Channel at Noon ET on July 16)
At Cuiaba, Brazil
July 20: USA vs. Netherlands, 5:05 p.m. ET (TV: Live on Olympic Channel)
July 21: USA vs. Belgium, 5:05 p.m. (TV: Live on Olympic Channel)
July 23: USA vs Brazil, 9:10 a.m. ET (TV: Live on Olympic Channel)
FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round
At Nanjing, China
China plus top five other finishers from FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round