USA notes: Women win Pan Am Cup, Kelly Murphy interview, men advance

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The USA celebrates winning the Pan Am Cup

This is a busy time for USA Volleyball. The women’s national team won the championship Sunday in the Pan American Cup in Peru.

The USA men’s national team got off to a rocky start, but qualified for the final round of the FIVB World League. They play again July 4-7 in Brazil.

The USA men’s junior national team is currently playing in the FIVB Men’s U21 World Championship and on Sunday lost to Russia to fall to 0-3.

More on all of those teams follow, but first VBM visited recently with Kelly Murphy, a 2016 Olympian who is back in the training center in Anaheim. While she was not put on the Pan Am Cup roster, Murphy is one of the few seasoned veterans in the gym in the first year of the quadrennial.

Kelly Murphy role has transitioned to veteran leader on the 2017 women’s national team/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

“So far, it’s been a lot of fun,” said the opposite who is from Joliet, Ill., and the University of Florida. “We have a lot of new people in the gym, as opposed to the last four years, so we’re all getting to know each other and how each other plays. It’s a fun process, learning new things about new players, and I think we have a lot of potential.

Murphy admitted to having a new role because of her experience.

“Well, being one of the only returning people in the gym right now, it’s a little weird for me to be considered the older person, so I’m trying to get outside myself a little bit and help some of the younger players when I can, and it’s been challenging, but I think it’s a good challenge. I’m happy about it.”

The USA, of course, rallied from the disappointment of losing in the Olympics semifinals in Rio to win the bronze medal.

“I was so happy to even be able to go to Rio that I think, looking back on it, it was such a positive experience,” Murphy said. “Obviously, we wanted to win the gold medal, so that aspect of the experience was disappointing. We didn’t accomplish the goal that we went down there to accomplish, but to bounce back and fight for a bronze medal showed a lot about who we are as a group and I’m excited to keep pushing towards that goal and hopefully achieve it in 2020.”

Murphy, who led the USA women in scoring in 2013 and ’14, said coach Karch Kiraly is pushing the team to be faster. Kiraly, in turn, said that Murphy is an important part of the USA training environment.

“People love playing with Kelly Murphy, with good reason,” Kiraly said. “She is so even and so poised and has such a calm presence about her. Sometimes she might not be looking at you but she listens really intently, she’s really engaged and still trying to get better.

“We love having her in this program. She’s a real quality person. She went through a tough 2015, where she missed lots of travel rosters. She had an early injury to come back from — she pulled a groin — but she fought back very fiercely and did well, so well that she earned the right to be a starter in Rio.”

The 6-foot-2 Murphy, like so many of the newcomers, started with the national team herself in May 2013, the first year of the last quad.

Accordingly, she knows what the new players are going through.

“I would say, ‘Just stay patient’. It’s going to be frustrating. Most of them were dominant in college and had great careers, but it’s almost as if you’re starting over, playing against people that have been playing almost as long as they’ve been alive. So most of them aren’t going to come out and be the star right away, so that’s frustrating. Keep doing what you’re doing, and focus on getting better every day, and the success will come.

“Know that there will be a lot of ups and downs, and know that you’ll be OK with that.”

Kiraly praised Murphy’s mechanics and hustle.

“She’s a great model for hard work and transition,” Kiraly said. “Coming down from a block and turning and running and being available as a hitter as the ball comes up on our side, our opposites really enjoy learning from her, as well they should. She’s a good visual model for them.”

Micha Hancock was named MVP of the Pan Am Cup

Hancock leads USA women: A relatively internationally inexperienced and young group of Americans beat the Dominican Republic 25-16, 19-25, 25-20, 25-23. Former Penn State star setter Micha Hancock was named the MVP, while former Arizona standout Madi Kingdon led in the title match with 21 points on 16 kills on 44 swings, three blocks and two aces.

Earlier in the tournament, the USA beat Venezuela, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Argentina in pool play. Saturday, the Americans beat Peru in the semifinals 25-14, 25-17, 27-25.

Click here for the complete USA Volleyball news release, which includes the roster and full results.

USA men ready for finals: Coach John Speraw’s young team struggled early with losses to Serbia, Canada and Belgium in matches in Serbia.

But a trip to France saw the Americans beat Italy and Russia before losing to France. Then they went to Poland, beat Iran, lost to Russia in five and then beat the home team. Then they waited for the last match of the day, which saw Argentina beat Bulgaria. Bulgaria’s loss meant the United States (4-5) finished sixth in pool play, advancing it to the finals July 4-8 in Curitiba, Brazil.

Click here for the complete USA Volleyball news release from the Poland match, which includes the roster and full results.

USA juniors struggle: They lost to Russia on Sunday 25-20, 25-21, 25-22 but play Tuesday against Italy, on Wednesday against the Czech Republic and Thursday versus Egypt.

“When you look at the rosters of every team that we’ve faced so far in this tournament, every single one of their players are professional players making a lot of money,” said USA coach Jay Hosack, head coach at George Mason. “Our guys are still in college and learning the game at a high level. For us to be in the matches and fight the way we’re fighting shows the determination of our kids to get better and work harder every day.”

Click here for the complete USA Volleyball news release from the Russia match, which includes the roster and full results.

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