The U.S. Women's Volleyball National Team, ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB, has had a lot of gold placed around its neck over the past 10 months.
While those have been enjoyable, historical moments in the program's history, they are in the past and the squad is continuing to build for the future with eyes on making more history.
Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo was named to the 14-member USA roster for the FIVB World Cup. Photo courtesy of USA Volleyball.
However, no tournament is any more important than the next as the Americans seek qualification into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games through the 2015 FIVB World Cup that commences Saturday in Japan.
The U.S. has never won gold at the FIVB World Cup, but the overall top priority in Japan will be to earn a ticket to Rio by finishing either first or second. Winning is always a priority for the squad, but the objective here is to make it into the Olympics -- a hard task in its own right with only 12 teams competing on the grandest stage every four years. And the team has not lost the fact winning gold at the Olympics -- the top objective every four years -- has alluded them despite winning three silver medals and a bronze in the last eight Olympic Games.
For the World Cup, U.S. head coach Karch Kiraly and his staff have trimmed their 20-player preliminary roster down to maximum 14-player travel roster with some incredibly tough decisions along the way. Among the final 14 is Stanford grad Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.), who earned a spot at middle blocker.
Outside hitters selected to the final roster are Megan Easy, Kim Hill, Jordan Larson-Burbach and Kelsey Robinson. At opposite are Nicole Fawcett and Karsta Lowe. Other middle blockers are Christa Dietzen Tori Dixon and Lauren Gibbemeyer while the setters are Alisha Glass and Molly Kreklow with the liberos being Kayla Banwarth and Natalie Hagglund.
Stanford grads Cassidy Lichtman and Kristin Hildebrand, who helped Team USA win the gold medal at the Pan American Games, were left off the squad.
In Argentina, incoming Stanford freshman Jordan Ewert of Deer Valley High in Antioch produced nine kills to help the USA Volleyball Boys' Youth National Team take down France, 26-24, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16, to remain undefeated in the 2015 FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship on Monday.
The U.S. (3-0) leads in Pool A with seven points. The team has automatically qualified for the round of 16, and will close out pool play on Tuesday night in a match against second-place Argentina (5 points, 2-0).
The BYNT's serving continued to be a weapon in its match versus France. The U.S. tallied 13 aces to France's three. Outside hitter TJ DeFalco earned six of his 24 total points through aces, along with 18 kills. His 24 points led all players. Setter Micah Ma'a notched four aces to go with three kills and three blocks for 10 total points.
On Sunday, Ewert produced 22 points with 19 kills, one block and two aces as the USA won its second match of pool play by taking down Belgium in five sets, 25-20, 17-25, 25-18, 21-25, 19-17.
In beach volleyball news, Stanford grad Kerri Walsh Jennings returns from injury heading into the remainder of the 2015 FIVB World Tour season when the Long Beach Grand Slam begins main draw action on Wednesday.
April Ross will reunite with Walsh Jennings, their second go-around after breaking for Walsh Jennings to heal her nagging shoulder injury. She suffered a dislocated right shoulder in July.
Walsh Jennings, 37, is a three-time Olympic gold medalist. She and Ross must compete in 12 events by June 12, 2016 in order to have a shot at making the Olympic team. The tandem currently is ranked 30th in the world.
Qualification points through the FIVB Top 15 rankings for the 2016 Olympics end June 13, 2016. Meaning that the next step for Americans to earn the U.S. a spot in the Games is by being in the Top 15 of the World Tour.