COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 18, 2008) – The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team will utilize a young roster dotted with veteran leadership for the opening preliminary weekend of the 2008 FIVB World Grand Prix, which begins this weekend in Japan, China and Italy.
Team USA faces Turkey on June 20 at 3 p.m. (midnight Mountain Time), Kazakhstan on June 21 at 3 p.m. (midnight Mountain Time) and host Japan on June 22 at 6 p.m. (3 a.m. Mountain Time) at Kobe, Japan. Also this weekend, China hosts Brazil, Germany and Thailand at Ningbo. Italy hosts Cuba, Poland and Dominican Republic at Alassio.
The U.S. 12-player roster for the opening weekend at Japan will feature a core of veterans, alongside younger players. Middle blocker Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.) is gearing up for a possible fourth Olympics and middle blocker Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif.) has appeared in two Olympic Games, while setter Lindsey Berg (Honolulu) and Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) were on the 2004 Olympic Games roster. In addition, libero Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.), middle blocker Jennifer Joines (Milpitas, Calif.) and outside hitter Kim Glass (Lancaster, Pa.) were on the FIVB World Cup roster that qualified Team USA into the 2008 Olympic Games.
Younger American players on the opening weekend roster include outside hitter/opposite Cynthia Barboza (Long Beach, Calif.) and middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.), who will be collegiate seniors at Stanford University this coming fall. The roster is rounded out by outside hitters Kim Willoughby (Napoleonville, La.) and Kristin Richards (Orem, Utah), along with setter Angie McGinnis (Fraser, Mich.).
The U.S. has won the World Grand Prix in 1995 and 2001, along with bronze medals in 2003 and 2004. Brazil has won the most World Grand Prix gold medals with six championships. Netherlands, which ended Brazil’s three-year reign as tournament champion in 2007, failed to qualify for the 2008 tournament.
Team USA holds a 5-1 record versus Turkey since 1983, including a four-set victory in the last meeting on Nov. 16, 2006, at the FIVB World Championship. Turkey, which did not qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games, is making its first appearance in the FIVB World Grand Prix. The U.S. will meet Turkey also in the third preliminary round weekend on July 5 at Chinese Taipei.
The U.S. has won both its meetings versus Kazakhstan, including a four-set victory during last year’s World Grand Prix on Aug. 12. Kazakhstan qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games as the top Asian country in the World Olympic Qualification Tournament, despite losing five of seven matches. Kazakhstan placed 10th at last year’s World Grand Prix, its first appearance in the annual event.
Team USA and Japan have had a storied history. The teams have played each other 202 times since 1983 with Japan holding a 111-91 edge. Japan qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament. Japan, one of three teams to have competed in all 16 Grand Prix events, finished ninth at last year’s event.
Team USA travels to Wroclaw, Poland, to play three matches at the Centennial Hall as part of Group E on June 27-29. The U.S. challenges Thailand on June 27 at 8 p.m. Poland Time to start the weekend. The Americans play NORCECA rival Dominican Republic on June 28 at 5:30 p.m. Poland Time before wrapping up the weekend against host Poland at 3 p.m. Poland Time.
The U.S. concludes the preliminary round matches in Group H at Hsinchuang Gym in Taipei, Chinese Taipei. Team USA takes on Poland for the second time in the tournament on July 4 at 3 p.m., followed by a rematch with Turkey on July 5 at 3 p.m. The Americans conclude the preliminary round against Italy, gold medalist at the FIVB World Cup, on July 6 at 5 p.m.
The FIVB World Grand Prix finals, a round-robin format of the top five teams from the preliminary round plus host Japan, will be played July 9-13 at Yokohoma, Japan. The overall ranking in the preliminary rounds is decided by the total number of World Grand Prix Points (GPP) gained by the teams in the preliminary matches. A team will earn two GPPs for a win, one for a loss and none if they forfeit the match.
Rosters can be changed prior to the start of each weekend of the World Grand Prix. Teams qualified for the Olympic Games will be using the World Grand Prix as a tool to evaluate players and making final roster decisions.
Team USA recently completed a three-match, 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Exhibition for Volleyball series with top-ranked Brazil last week. The U.S. lost the opening match in five sets on June 11 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, but the Americans flipped the score on June 13 at the same location. Brazil concluded the exhibition series with a 4-1 victory (predetermined to go five sets) at the Air Force Academy on June 14. Team USA suited up 16 different players for the series with the younger players getting tested by Brazil.
The 2008 World Grand Prix has the top four teams in the world participating. Brazil, which won the 2007 FIVB World Cup silver medal, leads the FIVB World Ranking, followed by second-ranked Italy and third-ranked Cuba. The U.S. ranks fourth in the world, while 2008 Olympic Games host China ranks sixth. Japan, the 2008 World Grand Prix final round host, is ranked eighth and Poland is slotted in the ninth position. Dominican Republic is ranked 14th in the world, Germany positioned in 15th and Kazakhstan placed in the 16th spot. Rounding out the World Grand Prix field are 18th-ranked Thailand and 22nd-ranked Turkey.
Team USA will face an average world ranking of 13.22 during the three-week preliminary rounds. The Americans will face only one team – Italy – ranked among the top seven teams in the current world ranking during the preliminary rounds.