COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (July 18, 2017) – After winning its first four matches at the FIVB World Grand Prix, the U.S. Women’s National Team dropped two hard-fought five set matches to Italy and China at Macau last weekend. As a result, the Americans head into the third and final preliminary round weekend with a 4-2 record and stand in third place among the 12 teams in World Grand Prix Group 1.

The U.S. made the long trek from Macau, China, to Cuiaba, Brazil, for matches against The Netherlands on July 20 at 4:10 p.m. ET, followed by Belgium on July 21 at 4:10 p.m. ET. The Americans conclude the preliminary round against defending World Grand Prix champions and host Brazil at 9:10 a.m. ET on July 23. All three matches are scheduled air live on NBC affiliate The Olympic Channel (formerly Universal HD).

TV Schedule for July 20-23
July 20: USA vs. Netherlands – live on Olympic Channel (formerly Universal HD) at 4:10 p.m. ET
July 21: USA vs. Belgium – live Olympic Channel (formerly Universal HD) at 4:10 p.m. ET
July 23: USA vs. Brazil – live Olympic Channel (formerly Universal HD) at 9:10 a.m. ET

Serbia and Netherlands are at the top of the standings with 5-1 records and 15 points. The U.S. is one of four teams with a 4-2 record in the World Grand Prix, but has a three-point lead in the standings over Italy and China based on losing both sets in five. Japan also has a 4-2 record, but in sixth place with three victories have been extended to five sets and not gaining any points for their losses.

At the conclusion of the nine-match preliminary round, the top five teams in the standings will join host China for the FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round set for Aug. 2-6 in Nanjing, China. If China is in the preliminary round top five, the sixth-place team joins the elite field.

The Netherlands, 5-1 in the tournament with 15 points, is ranked second in the standings though with an identical record as leaders Serbia. The USA-Netherlands match is a reunion of sorts as former U.S. Women’s National Team assistant coach Jamie Morrison now serves as head coach for the Dutch. Netherlands’ only loss was a five-set heartbreaker to Japan in the third match of the tournament. The Dutch have not played a team in the top five of the current standings with sixth-place Japan being the highest team.

Belgium is winless in six matches in this year’s World Grand Prix, but two of its losses have come to the top two teams – Serbia and Netherlands. Belgium’s other four losses have come at the hands of teams ranked from seventh to 11th place. The European side did extend Dominican Republic to five sets in its most recent outing on July 16.

Brazil is in unfamiliar territory with a 3-3 and in seventh place record heading into the final weekend of the World Grand Prix. The Brazilians have traded 3-0 wins against leader Serbia, but dropped matches to Thailand (1-5) and Japan (4-2) to conclude last weekend’s matches in Japan.

Moving along to the third weekend, U.S Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly has elected to keep the same 14-player roster intact that has been used for the first six matches. 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 Brazil 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 Brazil 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.

Bartsch-Hackley and Murphy rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in scoring through the first six matches with 95 and 94 points. Bartsch-Hackley leads all World Grand Prix players in serving with 0.56 aces per set. Kingdon ranks 10th overall in scoring with 85 points, and is second in kill percent at 47.0. Murphy is third in kill percent at 45.2. Wong-Orantes has 1.96 digs per set for seventh-best in the World Grand Prix.

With three matches remaining in the preliminary round, every result becomes more important. Among the teams in contention for the Finals Round, Italy (4-2) faces Turkey, Dominican Republic and host Thailand – all teams ranked in the bottom two-thirds for the standings. China (4-2) faces leader Serbia, sixth-place Japan and ninth-place Russia, while Japan (4-2) challenges Serbia, fifth-place China, and Russia. Brazil, which is one win out of the top five, has third-place USA, second-place Netherlands and last-place Belgium.

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.

2017 U.S. Women’s Schedule in FIVB World Grand Prix Preliminary Round

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
Country – Record / Pts
1. Serbia – 5-1 / 15
2. Netherlands – 5-1 / 15
3. USA – 4-2 / 13
4. Italy – 4-2 / 10
5. China – 4-2 / 10
6. Japan – 4-2 / 9
7. Brazil – 3-3 / 9
8. Dominican Republic – 3-3 / 9
9. Russia – 2-4 / 9
10. Thailand – 1-5 / 4
11. Turkey – 1-5 / 4
12. Belgium – 0-6 / 1

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 def. Turkey 25-21, 24-26, 25-19, 25-12
July 15: USA lost to Italy 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 13-25, 15-13
July 16: USA lost to China 25-27, 25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 15-11

At Cuiaba, Brazil
July 20: USA vs. Netherlands, 4:10 p.m. ET
July 21: USA vs. Belgium, 4:10 p.m. ET
July 23: USA vs Brazil, 9:10 a.m. ET

FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round
At Nanjing, China
Aug. 2-6
China plus top five other finishers from FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round