Four years ago at the Beijing Olympics, U.S. men's volleyball dominated the headlines after their gold-medal win over heavily-favored Brazil. The win was particularly poignant coming on the heels of the personal tragedy suffered by coach Hugh McCutcheon, whose father-in-law had been murdered in the city just two weeks before.
This time around, however, the story may well center around the U.S. women's volleyball team instead. McCutcheon was installed as head coach in 2008, just after the men's team won in Beijing. Since that time, the women's team has won several world championships, and is considered one of the teams to beat going into the London Olympics.
As the U.S. women's volleyball team prepares to begin competition in London, here's a look at some key facts and figures regarding this impressive group of athletes:
Official team name: U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team
Coach: Hugh McCutcheon
Where they train: Anaheim, California
How the U.S. team qualified: The U.S. women's volleyball team took second place in the 2011 FIVB World Cup, which qualified it for the Olympics. It also moved it into the No. 1 position in the world rankings, following as it did on the heels of back-to-back wins in the 2010 and 2011 FIVB World Grand Prix.
Year women's volleyball became an Olympic event: 1964. Both men's and women's volleyball were included in the Tokyo Olympics, marking the first time that the sport was included in the games. The U.S. women's team took fifth place that year.
Number of players on the court at once: Six per team
Maximum number of players allowed on a team's roster: 12
Number of times each team is allowed to touch the ball: Each team is allowed three touches (although not more than one touch by any single player) to get the ball back across the net.
Number of sets in a match: Five
Number of points per set at the Olympic level: 25 points each for the first four sets, 15 points for the fifth set.
Number of Olympic medals won: Three (two silver, one bronze)
Roster for 2012 U.S. Olympic women's volleyball team: Destinee Hooker, Lindsey Berg, Christa Harmotto, Megan Hodge, Nicole Davis, Foluke Akinradewo, Tayyiba Haneef-Park, Courtney Thompson, Tamari Miyashiro, Logan Tom, Jordan Larson, Danielle Scott-Arruda.
Number of women on the 2012 Olympic team that were on the 2008 Olympic team as well: Five
Players who are on the 2012 Olympic team that were also in Beijing: Davis, Berg, Tom, Scott-Arruda, and Haneef-Park.
First game and opponent in the London Olympics: Team USA will play South Korea on July 28.
Other fun facts: Volleyball players must be able to play in all positions, offensively as well as defensively, because they rotate clockwise after each serving opportunity. The one exception to this rule is a player known as the libero, who can stay in the same defensive position and is identified by a different colored jersey. Each team can only have one libero at a time on the court during play. Teams do not have to have a libero on the court.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer who began playing competitive volleyball in junior high school and now plays on an intramural team. She has cheered on Team USA during every Olympics since 1996.
- Sports & Recreation
- Beijing Olympics
- Hugh McCutcheon