Next year will be a big one for elite volleyball matches played in Nebraska.
Omaha has been selected to host the final round of the 2015 FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Grand Prix, which is the premier annual international women’s volleyball tournament run by the International Volleyball Federation.
“This is huge for USA Volleyball and Team USA,” U.S. women’s national volleyball team head coach Karch Kiraly said Thursday in a news release. “Outside of the Olympic Games in 1984 and 1996, this will be the first major FIVB event USA has ever hosted. So this is awesome to be on home soil for an event of this magnitude. We loved playing in (Ralston) last fall at the NORCECA Championship, and we look forward to hosting the best teams the world has to offer in 2015.”
It previously had been announced that Omaha will host the 2015 NCAA Tournament Final Four, which will take place Dec. 17-19.
The 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round will take place July 22-26 at the CenturyLink Center Omaha. The arena, which can seat 17,000 for volleyball, hosted the 2006 and 2008 Final Fours.
“We are pleased to be partnering with the Omaha Sports Commission to bring this very significant women’s volleyball event to the United States,” USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said. “We appreciate the confidence and support of the FIVB, and we hope this will lead to additional high-profile volleyball events on USA soil.”
It’s possible that a few former Husker players could be playing for the United States in Omaha. Jordan Larson and Kayla Banwarth were on the U.S. team last fall that played in Ralston, and each are candidates to make the 2016 Olympic team. Larson was on the 2012 Olympic team that won the silver medal.
Several other Huskers have trained with USA volleyball in the past year, including Kelsey Robinson, Lauren Cook and Gina Mancuso.
Tickets will go on sale this June. The price of admission will include three matches per day, with Team USA playing the late match on each of the five days.
The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, ranked second in the world behind Brazil, has won the FIVB World Grand Prix five times, including a record-tying three consecutive championships from 2010 to 2012. The United States has never hosted the prestigious Final Round, which has been held outside of Asia only twice in the previous 21 editions. In 1995, the United States hosted a preliminary round weekend of the FIVB World Grand Prix in Honolulu.
Kiraly said the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round will have special importance for all the teams that advance to Omaha. The event will take place about a month before the start of the first 2016 Olympic Games qualification event, the FIVB World Cup.
“Playing on our home soil will be so important for this tournament as it will serve as our last preparation before stepping onto the actual road to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games,” Kiraly said. “At the same time, the fans will be treated to watching all the best teams in the world competing at their best with the Rio Olympics only a year away.”
Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook helped bring the event to Nebraska, and will serve as honorary chairman for the World Grand Prix Final.
— Brent C. Wagner