LONG BEACH, California (June 15, 2016) – The FIVB World Grand Prix returns to the United States for the second time in two years as the U.S. Women’s National Team hosts the Group 1 Pool E preliminary round June 17-19 at the Walter Pyramid on the Long Beach State University campus in California.
Team USA, ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB, hosts No. 11 Germany on June 17 at 7:10 p.m., followed by No. 5 Japan on June 18 at 7:10 p.m. and No. 10 Turkey on June 19 at 5:10 p.m. All times are Pacific Time.
The World Grand Prix is the premier annual international women’s volleyball tournament. This year it serves as the last major event for teams qualified to the 2016 Olympic Games to fine tune their systems. Both USA and Japan are among the 12 teams which will participate at the Rio Games in August.
The U.S. enters the second World Grand Prix preliminary round weekend with a 2-1 record and six standings points. The Americans swept Germany and Thailand last weekend in Ningbo, China, before falling to host and No. 2 China in four sets. In the process, China snapped Team USA’s 12-match win streak dating back to the 2015 FIVB World Cup.
The Americans, who will announce their roster for the Long Beach matches later this week, rank fourth in the 12-team World Grand Prix Group 1 behind China, Brazil and Russia who are all undefeated after the first three matches of the nine-match preliminary round. Turkey and Japan are ranked seventh and eighth, respectively. The top five teams after the nine preliminary round matches advance to the World Grand Prix Final Round along with host Thailand with competition set for July 6-10 in Bangkok.
Last week Team USA started 12 different players from its 14-player roster in at least one match last weekend in China. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) is the leading American scorer with 27 points and ranking 28th in scoring. She also ranks seventh in spiking with a 40.74 kill percent (22-54). Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida) has 24 points through the first weekend. Christa Dietzen (Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania) is the tournament’s second-best blocker with 1.00 per set. Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) is the tournament’s leading setter with 6.90 running sets average on 187 total set attempts. Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) ranks ninth in best receiver with a 31.25 efficiency percent.
Meanwhile, Japan and Turkey arrive in Long Beach both sporting 1-2 records and three standings points. Japan, which is qualified for the 2016 along with the U.S., opened the World Grand Prix with a sweep of Serbia before losing in straight sets to Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. Japan nearly rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to Olympics-bound Italy before losing in five sets.
Turkey began the 2016 World Grand Prix with a 3-0 win over Belgium before falling to Olympic qualified Netherlands in three sets. In the Pool C finale, the host Russians rallied to defeat Turkey in five sets.
Germany is 0-3 to start the World Grand Prix after losing to USA, China and Thailand last weekend in China. The young German squad won its first set of the tournament to open its match against Thailand, but were unable to come through for the win.
Turkey is led by Polen Uslupehlivan, who ranks second in scoring in the tournament with 60 points and sixth in spiking with a 41.18 kill percent through three matches. Hande Baladin has contributed 37 points for Turkey through the first weekend. Nursevil Aydinlar leads the tournament in aces with 10 and a 0.91 ace average per set.
Japan’s Sarina Koga ranks eighth in scoring in the World Grand Prix with 46 points, while Yukiko Ebata ranks 13th in scoring with 36 points. Kanami Tashiro holds a 0.45 ace average for fifth-best through three matches, while also ranking fourth in setting with 6.00 running sets average. Japan has three of the top eight diggers in the tournament led by sixth-ranked Mami Uhiseto’s 3.00 digs per set.
Germany’s Louisa Lippmann leads the European squad with 34 points in the first three matches, while teammate Lisa Izquierdo has scored 30 points and ranks 10th in spiking with a 38.24 kill percent. Wiebke Silge ranks fifth in blocking with 0.90 blocks per set. Lena Mollers ranks third in setting with 6.50 running sets average.
While Team USA hosted the World Grand Prix Final Round at Omaha, Nebraska, in 2015 and won its sixth title, the U.S. last hosted a preliminary round weekend 20 years ago. The Americans hosted segments of the event in 1995 and 1996 at Honolulu before being selected to host last year’s Final Round in Omaha. Team USA hosted Japan in both the 1995 and 1996 World Grand Prix stops in the U.S.
Team USA is attempting to win its seventh FIVB World Grand Prix in its 24th edition. The Americans have won the event four of the past six years (2010-2012, 2015) after winning it in 1995 and 2001. Japan is one of two countries to have competed in all 24 World Grand Prix events. The Japanese earned silver in the 2014 edition. Germany has bronze medals from 2002 and 2009 as its high-water mark in the World Grand Prix. Turkey earned the bronze in the 2012 event and is competing in just its sixth World Grand Prix.
Both the U.S. and Japan are familiar with the Walter Pyramid in recent years. Team USA hosted Japan in the second of three 2013 USA Volleyball Cup matches in the unique pyramid venue. The Americans scored a 25-17, 26-24, 18-25, 25-20 victory over the Japanese squad in the first year of the Olympic quadrennial.
Aside from the U.S. Women hosting Japan in 2013 at the Pyramid, USA Volleyball has had a history of successful events staged on the campus of Long Beach State University. This past May the U.S. Men hosted Japan in the second of two USA Volleyball Cup matches this year. In 2014 and 2015, the U.S. Men hosted Russia in a weekend of the FIVB World Grand Prix in Long Beach. Team USA won the 2012 NORCECA Men’s Olympic Qualifier here in Long Beach’s Walter Pyramid. The U.S. played Puerto Rico in a round of the 2011 World League in Long Beach. The Long Beach Arena was the site of the 1984 Olympic Games volleyball venue where the U.S. Men won gold and the U.S. Women won silver.