It has been four weeks since the United States women’s volleyball team left Lincoln after playing three matches to start the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, and the Americans have only lost once in 12 matches in the tournament since leaving and moving on to Japan, Thailand, China and Argentina.
By doing all that winning, the Americans won the preliminary round of the tournament with a 13-2 record. Team USA was the only one of the 16 teams to win 13 matches.
After losing against Turkey in its second match in Lincoln, the United States won 10 straight matches before suffering its only other loss against Serbia.
So the Americans have advanced to the final round, which will be June 27 to July 1 in Nanjing, China. The team will return to California for the off-week. The format for the final round will be pool play, followed by semifinals and finals. The top two teams in the two pools advance to the semifinals.
The U.S. didn’t get a great draw for the finals though, being placed in a pool with Serbia and Turkey, the only teams the Americans lost against in the prelims. The other pool includes Brazil, Netherland and host China.
The U.S. players and coaches have given themselves a chance for a big payday by reaching the finals. First place is worth $1 million for the team to share, while even third brings $300,000.
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Former Nebraska volleyball players Jordan Larson, Kelsey Robinson and Justine Wong-Orantes have been on the U.S. roster for all five weeks of the tournament. After beginning the tournament as an outside hitter, Robinson has shifted to being the team’s starting libero, replacing Wong-Orantes.
During three matches played in Lincoln in the middle of May the Americans played in front of crowds of about 5,000 fans each night.
When the national team was in Lincoln, the Nebraska volleyball team players and coaches took in some of the action. For someone who enjoys volleyball like Nebraska coach John Cook, the opportunity to get to watch practices and matches in Lincoln was great.
Cook did not know what to expect because sometimes it feels like the players are going through the motions in some matches that aren’t in one of the major tournaments, but he didn’t feel that way this time.
“I was really impressed,” Cook said. “The level of play got better over the three days. The atmosphere was great, and the USA players loved it. I just thought it was a super event, and it was a blast to be around it for a week.”
It was also special for Cook because there were three ex-Huskers on the U.S. team.
Many people don’t realize that the national team plays at least 30 matches each year, but the three matches in Lincoln are the only ones played in the United States this year.
“So for our three girls to be able to play here I think was awesome,” Cook said.
There is a chance this new annual tournament could be back to Lincoln in the future, because as one of the 12 core teams in the tournament the U.S. will host one round of matches each year. Cook said he’ll do what he can to get the tournament back in Lincoln.