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U.S. women’s volleyball prepares for series vs Japan


The U.S. women’s national volleyball team will play a three-game series with Japan this week in Southern California as part of the first USA Volleyball Cup, an effort to bring elite-level indoor volleyball to fans in the United States.

The U.S. women, ranked No. 1 in the world by the sport’s international federation, open the series with a match Wednesday at UC San Diego. On Friday, the teams will mean at Long Beach State, followed by the finale Saturday at JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano.

The U.S. roster will feature six Olympians, including veteran middle blocker Danielle Scott and libero Nicole Davis. Both were on the team that won silver medals at the past two Olympic Games.

Japan’s roster includes Saori Kimura, who helped the Japanese national team win the bronze medal at the London Olympics last summer.

“Japan is really one of the legendary programs in volleyball in general, and particularly in women’s volleyball,” U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. “We are honored and thrilled that they would make the trek and let us battle each other in a few matches.”

It is envisioned that the USA Volleyball Cup will grow into a series of future matches that would include the U.S. men’s national team and venues outside of Southern California.

“The USA women don’t get to play on U.S. soil very often,” Kiraly said. “We’re trying to change that and add some programs that might draw more interest to USA Volleyball, to women’s volleyball in general and the U.S. women’s national team in particular.”

Kiraly, an Olympic gold medalist in both indoor and beach volleyball, is in his first year as head coach of the U.S. women, taking over when Hugh McCutcheon left to become the women’s volleyball coach at Minnesota. Kiraly was an assistant to McCutcheon in London.

Kiraly’s debut with the team came last month, when the women won the 2013 Pan American Cup in Peru. So far, the United States is 5-0 on the season.

The series with Japan will serve as a tuneup for the FIVB World Grand Prix. The United States has won the annual international event for the past three years.

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