Volleyball Set for Friendship Games
By Chanel Gleicher
In women’s volleyball the United States will have another chance to face international rival Ukraine during the 2011 Friendship Games, an invitational tournament hosted by USA Deaf Volleyball at Gallaudet University in July.
"This tournament is not an annual event. It may not happen again for another 30 or 40 years. Who knows?" said Lynn Ray Boren, the United States women's volleyball coach.
Boren wanted to challenge the U.S. teams by competing with the best in the world. In 2009 at the Taipei Deaflympics, the U.S. women's volleyball team defeated Japan in the semifinals, but lost to Ukraine, earning them a silver medal.
The U.S. men's volleyball team did not attend the Taipei Deaflympics for different reasons - including personal commitment and fundraising for them to compete as a full team. Now, they have a chance to fire back and show their strengths in this tournament. "They (men's volleyball team) are excited. This will be the first international experience for many of them. They are eager to get out on the court and show their immense ability," said Patrick O'Brien, speaking on behalf of the men's team.
This invitational tournament consists of teams from Ukraine, Japan, and Canada in the women’s division and the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Venezuela in the men’s division. The women’s division will provide the U.S. with another chance to compete against the top two nations in volleyball.
The tournament will feature a round robin format. After the round robin, the playoffs will determine based on the round robin record. The results of the tournament may show the world the possible standings for the 2012 Deaf World Championships in Bulgaria and the 22nd Summer Deaflympics in Athens, Greece.
For the past several months, U.S. volleyball players have been training on their own before competing this summer. Fortunately, for Boren as a Gallaudet University coach, most of his players used to and still play for his Gallaudet volleyball team.
Due to the unique nature of the U.S. team being based all over the country, the volleyball team will meet a week before the invitational to practice as a team. "The team bond will be created as the team practices together," Boren said.
The players chosen to play for the United States this summer are not included on the final roster for the 22nd Summer Deaflympics. Boren commented that the current women team is filled with 14 qualified athletes that know how to play.
With high expectations from Shana Lehmann and Kristina Burke, the core players of the team, Boren has emphasized his team that second place from Taipei was not enough and he expects the U.S. to get gold.
"Having said this, we look strong in some areas and in need of some further work in others. We look to be one of the youngest teams in the tournament, but our skill and desire will prove to demonstrate some exciting volleyball competition," O'Brien commented.
The U.S. men's volleyball team recently completed a training session where O'Brien noticed individual talents. Among those individuals that stood out were Danny Moreno, Steve Menegus, and Scott Diedrich. "Now, we need to see that individual talent evolve into a team," said O'Brien.
"The current USA National squad is by far the youngest that we have had in over ten years. Still they are also the most, individually, talented group that I have had in the last five years," concluded O'Brien, who looks forward for the result of the friendship games.