2017 USA VOLLEYBALL CUP – Women’s
In the next couple of days we will be once again, just like in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, be gifted with one of the best things volleyball itself as a sport has to offer its fans: an epic match up between two teams in what most consider to the sport’s biggest rivalry.
Brazil and USA’s female volleyball squads have a long history of epic games behind them, like 2008’s and 2012’s Olympic finals, both won by the Brazilian side. As a matter of fact, before Team USA’s bronze medal campaign in Rio, in which saw Brazil be eliminated outside of medal contention, Brazil had knocked out the Americans from four straight Olympic games.
This time, the stakes are a bit lower, though, but still very exciting, as the USA Volleyball Cup is right around the corner. It will be two-match exhibition series, with games on Aug. 27 (4 pm PT) and Aug. 29 (7:30 pm PT) at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena. This will be U.S. Women’s National Team’s second-to-last competition before professional leagues around the world begin, and will act as a preparation for September’s World Grand Champions Cup in Japan against China, Russia, Brazil, Japan and South Korea.
What to expect from Brazil:
After an early elimination at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where the Brazilian team was heavily favored to win the gold medal at its home soil, José Roberto Guimarães started to put forth his roster renewal plans. Brazil has 15 active Olympic champions playing in its domestic league. Of those, nine are retired from the national team. The remaining six are out of the team for various reason, ranging from sabbaticals to pregnancies, and nobody knows if they will ever be back.
The problem in this is that the fans are not yet accustomed to not seeing Sheilla Castro, Fabiana Claudino, Fabiana Oliveira, Mariane Steinbrecher, and Paula Pequeno, all active players at their clubs, not playing for the national team. Also, they are much less accustomed to not seeing the national team be dominant, as the team has shown signs of weariness in the past. Even 2017’s Grand Prix win left some doubts to the fans, as it was won not in a dominant fashion, but had to see the starts align for it to happen.
Having lost most of its attention drawing players, the Brazilian female squad misses the presence of a familiar face that can connect with the casual public, polishing the team’s identity. More importantly, it needs winning, and winning convincingly. Although they will be facing a much better team on paper, the USAV Cup is a good place to start working on those two variables. Even though it beat Team USA recently in the Grand Prix, they are the underdogs for this tournament.
What to expect from Team USA:
Expect the girls to come out hard and come out swinging. First, because of the rivalry. Second, because they have a much better team and they know it. Thirdly, they need to avenge the Men’s squad that got thoroughly beat up by Brazil in the Men’s USAV Cup. Note: They will be in attendance to cheer them on.
Team USA has played most of its summer without their stars and the vast majority of last year’s Olympic bronze medal squad, relying instead in a roster full of college standouts. This will change for the USAV cup, as they bring out the big guns in Rachael Adams, Foluke Akinradewo, Kim Hill, and 2016 USA Volleyball Player of the Year Jordan Larson. It will be the first time since Rio Olympic Games that The Big Four will be in uniform for the American Squad. That, of course, makes this team a whole different story than what we have seen of since the beginning of the year, specially in the 2017 FIVB’s World Grand Prix. Expect the returnees to be hungry.
However, not everything is perfect for Team USA, as Kelly Murphy, a pivotal part of the squad’s FIVB World Grand Prix campaign, has taken a break from volleyball to return to the University of Florida and finish her undergraduate degree. Expect the team to miss her tenacity, but her absence is not enough to make Team USA less favorites for the upcoming matches.
We expect both games to be competitive and exciting, and barring extreme disorganization from US player from not having player together for so long, we expect two Team USA wins.