The United States women's national volleyball team, which features Stanford grads Foluke Akinradewo and Kristin Richards Hildebrand, will face the host country, Italy, and the two-time defending champion, Russia, in Pool G of the Final Round of the FIVB Women's World Championships in Milan, the FIVB announced Monday.
"It will be a one-two punch there … Italy on Wednesday and Russia on Thursday, American coach Karch Kiraly said. "Hopefully we can do something nice and, if we can, maybe it's nice to have that rest day on Friday."
The Americans (9-1 in opening rounds) meet the Italians (8-1) on Wednesday at Milan's 13,000-capacity Mediolanum Forum. Team USA meets Russia on Thursday.
"This is what we are all here for … these are the teams that are playing best in the world at this time," Kiraly said. "They've all earned the right to be here, so congratulations to all the teams. This is a beautiful time if you're a fan of volleyball. This is a great week to follow and it should be wonderful volleyball to watch."
Italy took the 2002 World title in five sets over Team USA. The host country won Pool E with a record of 8-1 overall, defeating China 3-1 on the final night of the second round.
Russia, the two-time defending World champions, had their 17-match World winning streak snapped by Team USA, then lost to Brazil and needed a win over Serbia to advance to the Final Round.
"We were ready for any combination," Kiraly said. "We had a really nice, hard battle against Russia. We'll expect another one of those; they're a really good team. Italy, we haven't got to see as much in this tournament. They have been on the other side, far away in body … so we'll get to know them; we must because we've got them in a couple of days."
Sacred Heart Prep grad Denise Sheldon is also in Italy in her role as team manager. She runs the High Performance program for USA volleyball.