US women win Grand Prix volleyball title
The U.S. women's volleyball team won its third straight title in the international FIVB World Grand Prix on Sunday with a sweep of China in three sets.
It was the fifth overall Grand Prix title for the Olympics-bound Americans, who defeated China 26-24, 25-21 27-25 in the final in Ningbo, China.
The U.S. team, ranked No. 1 in the world, won all 14 matches played during the 16-team tournament.
The Americans needed to beat China for the gold medal to conclude the round-robin final round after Brazil defeated Turkey 3-0. The Brazilians, also headed to the London Games, finished with the silver and Turkey the bronze.
''Our team played some wonderful volleyball over the course of these four weeks and to be able to win this event for the third time in a row is certainly special,'' U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon said. ''Our team works hard and they play together - it's a special group. As our focus now shifts toward London, we will continue with our plan and we hope to play our best volleyball of 2012 at the games.''
Megan Hodge, named the most valuable player of the tournament, had a match-high 17 points, while Danielle Scott-Arruda, the team captain, had 14 points with a match-high seven blocks.
McCutcheon is expected to name his London roster early this month. Scott-Arruda, 39, is attempting to make her fifth Olympic team.
The women have never won gold in indoor volleyball, which became an Olympic sport in 1964. In 2008, they won silver in Beijing, losing to Brazil in the final.
The Brazilian women are ranked No. 2 in the word, and as the defending champions they're considered among the favorites with the United States. They'll both play in the same pool in London along with China, Serbia, Turkey and Korea. Italy, Russia, Japan, Algeria, the Dominican Republic and host Britain make up the other six-team pool.
The top four teams to emerge out of each pool will advance to the quarterfinals. The medal matches at Earls Court are set for Aug. 11.
The United States will have a final tuneup for the London Games later this month, hosting three matches against Bulgaria in Southern California. The first will be at Anaheim's Canyon High School on July 14, and the other two at USC's Galen Center on July 16 and 18.