Weeks 1 & 2 of WGP were certainly a roller coaster. Coming off a phenomenal USA Cup and earning 4 wins against #1 Brazil set us up for a high that seemingly crashed down on us week 1 of Turkey. These types of weekends are excellent learning experiences for us. A bi-polar match against Russia, an adversity filled Turkey match with a full home crowd, and a 5 set thriller against Japan left us with a long plane ride to Sao Paolo and plenty of information to break down and study.
The team would respond much better in Brazil. A four set “revenge” win match Russia felt great and set us up for a 3-set sweep the next day against Korea. Sunday pitted us once again against rival Brazil, only to have us fall in 3 tough sets. As can often be the case, just a few simple plays stood between us and the victory.
As a college coach, it’s incredible to me how much more the “home court” advantage plays into the international scene v. the collegiate or high school game. The massive change in time zones, and toll of travel is for sure something the team must be disciplined and prepared for. Our trainer, Jill Wosmek, and Head Coach Karch Kiraly do an incredible job prepping for these scenarios. The elevation in the home team’s play, however, is undeniable, and a great challenge for USA team to rise above with a tough Thailand squad looming a few days away.
The speed of our offense continues to generate a lot of talk. Watching Brazil speed up considerably from USA Cup a few weeks back to where they are now in Grand Prix was an interesting observation. Our two countries play a very similar style of play, and I believe our analysis and study of one another will not only benefit one another but the game as well.
Be sure to root on Team USA in these final weeks of Grand Prix, as well as the fast approaching World Championships. Best of luck to all of us in our upcoming seasons.
Tom Black – USA Women’s Volleyball & Head Coach of LMU Women’s Volleyball