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Volleyball - 09. August 2013.

Pressure on in second week of World Grand Prix - Sykora

After the opening week of the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix, former USA libero Stacy Sykora recollects on the typical changes made by teams on the first week, and provides a preview of the weekend ahead.

“The opening weekend of the World Grand Prix is a very emotional time because it is the first major tournament since the last Olympic Games. Many teams have made significant changes in their coaching staff and players. This tournament shows teams what changes need to be made, and what other teams have changed. Many individuals will learn, not only about other teams and players, but about themselves as well.

“The first week showed us where teams are and their potential. I think now that the first week butterflies are out, this second week will be more intense and will have some amazing games to watch.

“This is a very long, intense, tough, and amazing tournament that can not be won with just six players.  It will take the entire team to win the World Grand Prix. Every single Grand Prix I have participated in, we were exhausted but still trained daily and played as well. Like I said previously, each team is looking to make changes and improve. So training sessions are vital and very intense. The Grand Prix is not just three days a week of playing for the athletes; it is 4-5 weeks of daily training, videos and meetings. We even have training in the morning of the competition day. This is why being the champion of the World Grand Prix is so sweet, so wonderful.

“USA's record-equalling winning streak which came to an end last week was impressive but considering we are at the start of an Olympic cycle I would just say that the USA team won two out of three games in the first week of the World Grand Prix and they hope to improve in the second week. The USA team is always looking to improve, like every other team. In the World Grand Prix 2010 that I participated in, we lost two out of three games in the first week and ended up winning the World Grand Prix that year. I do not think that the team is affected negatively. I believe that they are looking at it positively, making changes and growing as a team as we speak.

“Concerning last week's impressive performances, I obviously have to mention Katarzyna Skowronsa-Dolata's 41-point performance against Russia, which was simply amazing, especially against such a strong team as Russia. Katarzyna is an amazing player. I think she can score every single time she touches the ball. She is a veteran, she has experience, and she is a great volleyball player.

“Looking at this week’s pools, there are some very strong match ups. There will be some surprising defeats and some long fights to the finish. All of the five undefeated teams are in separate pools.  We will see if these teams will remain undefeated after this week of play, it will be difficult but possible. This second week is vital for some teams to stay alive in the race for the final week.”

Stacy Sykora first played for the US national team in 1999 and since then has gone on to become one of the most recognisable faces in international women's volleyball. She has played at three Olympic Games  where she finished fourth (2000), fifth (2004) and second (2008) and won a FIVB World Championship silver medal in 2002. She missed out on the London Olympics after suffering a near-fatal bus accident while playing for a Brazilian club in 2011. On July 31, 2013 Stacy officially announced her retirement from international volleyball. She now faces a new challenge in her career as coach with the USA Volleyball High Performance Program.

Read the VolleyWorld feature on Stacy Sykora here
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