Milan's Mediolanum Arena was the venue for the Italia 2014 World Championship gold medal match
Lausanne, Switzerland, September 11, 2018 – The USA will be the team to catch when the world’s leading volleyball teams compete for gold at the Japan 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship.
The tournament will run from September 29-October 20 across six cities in Japan. Whoever tops the podium in Yokohama will succeed the USA team that won gold at Italia 2014 and become the 18th women’s world champions since the tournament’s first edition in Moscow in 1952.
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In 2014 at a packed Mediolanum Arena in Milan Christa Harmotto Dietzen became the first USA captain to lift the World Championship trophy.
Karch Kiraly’s team has just defeated China 3-1 (27-25, 25-20, 16-25, 26-24) to ensure that the USA improved on their previous best which was silver at Japan 1967 and Germany 2002.
“We came here to make history and we made it,” Kiraly said at the finish of the gold medal match. “It was a tough battle. After we got a 2-0 lead we knew China would never give up.
“It was a battle to the end and they have some great young players, as do we. I hope that we will be playing against each other in the future. It is just good for the sport to have teams with such history performing at a high level.”
USA, China, Brazil and Italy reached the semifinals. Kiraly’s team beat London 2012 Olympic champions Brazil 3-0 (25-18, 29-27, 25-20), while China ended the hosts hopes of a home victory with a 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 30-28) win over Italy.
Brazil defeated Italy 3-2 (25-15, 25-13, 22-25, 22-25, 15-7) in the bronze medal match to guarantee their place on the podium for a third consecutive World Championship, before the Arena’s attention turned to the final.
USA took control by winning the first two sets, before China hit back to win the third. Kiraly’s team rediscovered their poise and rhythm though, and closed out the match in four sets, with outside hitter Kimberley Hill named tournament MVP.
“It feels really good, it's awesome,” Kiraly said. “I am so proud of these people I work with in this program every day.
“Kimberley Hill has improved tremendously. She is a world-class player in so many of her skills and she's only been with this team two years, two seasons. She can still get much better so we are excited about her future and her future with USA. This is a good start.”
If the USA retain their world title they will become the latest team to win back to back World Championships. Russia won gold in 2006 and 2010, Cuba topped the podium in 1994 and 1998, China doubled up in 1982 and 1986, and Japan claimed consecutive gold medals in 1962 and 1967 after the Soviet Union won the first three titles from 1952 to 1960.
China recovered from the defeat in Milan to win gold at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games with a 3-1 (19-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23) victory over Serbia.
A year later the East Europeans demonstrated why they will be among the contenders in Japan by following up Rio silver with victory at the 2017 European Championship.
The USA joined China and Serbia on the Rio 2016 podium with bronze, and this year they showed that they will be competitive as ever by repeating their World Championship victory over China in the semifinals of the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
The match finished 3-1 (25-23, 25-20, 18-25, 25-18) to show that while four years may have passed, the rivalry between USA and China will be as strong as ever when play begins in Japan.