Omaha, USA, July 16, 2015 - 120 years after William G. Morgan invented the sport of volleyball in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the United States are looking forward to hosting the final round of the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix for the first time. The best six teams in the competition will play in Omaha, Nebraska from July 22-26.
“This is a very important event for US volleyball,” said successful coach Karch Kiraly. The players, including Kelsey Robinson, are also looking forward to the event and hope to inspire more people to follow and become involved in volleyball in the USA: “That will be huge, to get a fan base going and people interested in USA Volleyball.” The latest figures say approximately 50 million people in the USA occasionally play volleyball. Volleyball is also one of the most popular sports in schools and universities.
In recent decades, the US national teams have been among the best in the world. The men’s national team won Olympic gold on three occasions (1984, 1988 and 2008) and the World Championship title once (1986). The ladies won their first World Championship title in 2014 after claiming two silvers and two bronzes. They finished runners-up at the last two Olympic Games, and the goal for next year’s summer games in Rio is to win gold for the first time.
They also have their sights set firmly on the title in the final round of the 23rd FIVB World Grand Prix, which they will play in front of their fans in Omaha. With five titles to their name, the United States are the second most successful country in the 22 editions of the annual showdown between the top women's teams in the world. Only record winners and defending champions Brazil have more titles (10).
Between 2010 and 2012, the US team completed the only hat-trick of successive titles in the history of the event. However, this was followed by disappointing sixth and seventh places in the next two editions of the FIVB World Grand Prix and the US team are out to make amends. Following impressive displays in the preliminary round, the early signs are good.
The US women’s team are riding on a wave of success, which has a lot to do with coach Karch Kiraly. He took over the role in 2012. At the time many players, like star Jordan-Quinn Larson-Burbach, were unsatisfied. “We had a lot of talent, but never really had a test,” she once said in an interview. “We kind of rolled over teams, and when somebody decided to push back we weren’t ready. And when that somebody pushed back, it happened to be the gold-medal match.”
“We’ve created an environment where everybody is allowed to be themselves, and be what they need to be to be their best. We’re really taking care of each other and finding ways to win, even when things are maybe not going the best.”
Pulling on the US vest and representing their country is also the greatest honour there is for the USA players. “Every time the national anthem plays, there’s a chill factor,” said Larson-Burbach. “It’s an honour and I’m grateful to represent my country. It’s about thanking all the men and women who serve our country for what they do, so I can do my job.”