Libero Nicole Davis To Join USA Volleyball Team

Jan. 15, 2004

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Training for the 2004 Olympic Games resumed on Thursday, Jan. 15, for the world's No. 2-ranked USA women's national volleyball team.

With a ticket to Athens, Greece, safely secured thanks to a bronze-medal finish at last year's World Cup, head coach Toshi Yoshida can now focus on preparing his team for an Olympic medal run later this summer.

Four players-Cynthia Barboza (Long Beach, Calif.), Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.), Jennifer Joines (Milpitas, Calif.) and Ogonna Nnamani (Normal, Ill.)-have joined the national team to begin training for that arduous journey that will hopefully lead the United States to the top of the podium in August.

'They will definitely bring up the level of our training,' Yoshida said of the newcomers. 'I hope they can show us their ability to play at this level. I told them today: 'Our goal is to go for the gold; you have to be good enough.' I have high expectations for them.'

Barboza, Joines and Nnamani were members of the USA women's national training team that earned the bronze medal at the 2003 Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic last summer. Davis was a member of the USA Volleyball A2 program that trained in Lake Placid, N.Y., last summer.

Barboza, a 6-foot outside hitter, is a 16-year-old junior at Long Beach Wilson High School who is widely considered one of the best high school players in the United States. She is a veteran of the USA Volleyball youth and junior national team programs and she will keep up with her schooling via the internet and tutors while she is in Colorado Springs. She will join the team on Jan. 24.

'Some players need a long time to bring up their level of play, some don't,' said Yoshida. 'Cynthia is a natural. She is good enough. Of course, she just needs experience. We know this is only the start for her.'

Davis, a 5-6 libero for the University of Southern California, concluded her stellar career with an incredible showing in the NCAA tournament. Davis, who averaged 4.2 digs per game during the regular season, averaged 5.2 digs per game during the postseason as the Trojans won their second-consecutive national championship and finished the year with a perfect 35-0 record. She recorded a career-high 31 digs twice during the season, including a four-set win over UCLA in the regional finals.

'Nicole has been playing very well for USC,' said Yoshida. 'It is worth it to bring her here to see what she can do. Even though (USA libero) Sarah Drury is playing well and getting better, we need the competition.'

Joines, a 6-3 middle blocker for the University of the Pacific, became the first four-time AVCA All-American in the school's history last month. She recorded a .340 hitting percentage with 5.63 kills, 2.09 digs and 1.20 blocks per game as a senior en route to earning Big West Conference Player of the Year honors.

'Jennifer has been with us (during the summer) for the last couple of years,' said Yoshida. 'She knows a lot of things about our skills and systems.'

Nnamani, a 6-1 junior outside hitter for Stanford, earned her third-straight AVCA All-America award in December as she averaged 6.06 points per game in 2003. She set a school record with 627 kills this past season as part of a 5.45 kill average. Nnamani hit .309 on the year with 2.31 digs and 0.63 blocks per game.

'Ogonna is a left-side pass-hitter, although she did not pass a lot last season at Stanford,' admits Yoshida. 'She is a talented attacker, and I am going to improve her skills as a passer.'

In addition to Barboza, Davis, Joines and Nnamani, Yoshida also has a very talented group of returning players to work with in the gym at the United States Olympic Training Center.

Three-time Olympian (1992, 1996 and 2000) Tara Cross-Battle (Houston, Texas) and 2000 Olympians Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Sarah Noriega (Ulysses, Kan.) are the most experienced of the bunch, which also includes: Wiz Bachman (Lakeville, Minn.), Lindsey Berg (Honolulu, Hawaii), Greichaly Cepero-Febres (Dorado, Puerto Rico), Sarah Drury (Louisville, Ky.), Tayyiba Haneef (Laguna Hills), Brittany Hochevar (Fowler, Colo.), Tracy Stalls (Arvada, Colo.) and Elisha Thomas (Grass Valley, Calif.).

The remainder of the national team is currently playing professionally overseas. Heather Bown (Volley Modena), Nancy Metcalf (Despar Perugia), Danielle Scott (Pallavolo Chieri), Stacy Sykora (Volley Modena) and Logan Tom (Monte Schiavo Jesi) are all playing in Italy, while Keba Phipps is playing for MRV/Minas in Brazil.

'I hope we can have everyone back and in the gym by the second week of May,' said Yoshida.

Before those players return, however, Yoshida must endure one of the most difficult aspects of being a coach: he has to cut 'three or four players' from the roster of players training in Colorado Springs 'at the beginning of May.'

'I have to evaluate which players can be with us after May,' Yoshida admits. 'We don't have a lot of time, and the players don't either. I have three-and-a-half months to make them as good as they can be, and then I have to decide who will stay and who will go. I have to make the right decisions.'

Courtesy of USA Volleyball

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