LINCOLN, NE: With just one win away from qualifying for the Rio Olympics, Head Coach Karch Kiraly broke away from his regimented and pensive coaching style long enough to lightly inspire his U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team. His well-timed encouragement and smile were contagious, as his anxious players began to relax just in time for the third set – with a win guaranteeing a berth in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Kiraly, indisputably the world’s best indoor and beach volleyball player ever, guided his team to yet another pivotal victory on Saturday at the NORCECA Olympic Qualification tournament held in Lincoln, NE. In front of ten thousand enthusiastic fans in the Pinnacle Bank Arena, the women swept Dominican Republic, 25-19, 25-19, 25-18. “It’s truly an honor, a privilege, and a phenomenal opportunity to play on an American court,” said Kiraly who treasured this added advantage.
Yet, despite this partisan crowd, his command of the sport and coaching expertise were sufficient alone to lead this squad back to the Olympics spotlight. The three-time Olympics gold medalist, in both indoor and beach competition, has been honored with nearly every award imaginable – culminating with the International Volleyball Federation’s (FIVB) distinction as the greatest men’s volleyball player of the sport’s first century.
Since taking over the helm soon after the 2012 London Olympics, where Team USA won a silver medal, the 55-year-old has amassed a phenomenal 102-20 match-play record. Along the way, he has coached the squad to its first ever FIVB World Championship in 2014, and its current top ranking in the FIVB world standings.
Having missed out on a chance at the recent 2015 FIVB World Cup to qualify for these Summer Games in August, he and his staff were faced with the daunting task of readying the team in record time. Returning back to the U.S. from their overseas club teams, the women had only 10 days after Christmas to prepare. Rallying behind Kiraly’s unbounded positivity and unrivaled mentoring, the 14 players practiced with an unrelenting drive that was fostered by their close-knit camaraderie. Looking back on the victory, outside hitter Kelsey Robinson matter-of-factly said, “We jumped out quickly and executed the great plan we had in place” – a testament to Kiraly’s masterful strategizing.
Post-match, Kiraly let it all sink in, congratulating his staff and team, while posing for candid pictures. “What a fabulous atmosphere here, a huge crowd going crazy for USA,” Kiraly said. “It is a huge advantage and we were very fortunate to get to host this and book our ticket for Rio.”
Team USA is the one who is fortunate, because there is no one better to lead the U.S. Women’s Volleyball queens to an elusive Olympic gold in Rio de Janiero than the “King” himself.