SIOUX CITY | There will be more coverage ahead, rest assured, on Derek Miles and A.G. Krueger, two circulation area sports heroes who are both headed for their third Olympic Games.
Barring the unexpected, though, it’s disappointing to report that Nancy (Meendering) Metcalf, the former Hull Western Christian star, isn’t among the 12 women selected to represent a U.S. women’s volleyball team that could bring home our first gold medal ever in this sport from the upcoming London Games.
Just over two weeks ago, the 33-year-old Metcalf was starting all three sets in a championship match sweep of China, playing in front of a partisan crowd in Ningbo, China, at the FIVB World Grand Prix, women’s volleyball’s top annual international event.
A former three-time All-American and national player of the year at the University of Nebraska, Metcalf makes her home in Lincoln when she’s not crisscrossing the globe. When Dr. Seuss wrote, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,’’ he couldn’t have imagined the extraordinary travel log this young lady has compiled.
That doesn’t mean missing a chance at Olympic gold doesn’t represent a significant disappointment for this enormously dedicated athlete. Metcalf, after playing in the 2004 Olympics, missed the 2008 Games due to a variety of factors, thereby missing out as the American team equaled its best finish ever with a silver medal.
At the time, I mistakenly reported she was essentially retiring from the sport, which certainly turned out to be false. Indeed, the very next year, in 2009, she was named USA Volleyball’s Player of the year.
An opposite hitter, a position some tend to oversimplify as the “rightside hitter,’’ she was vying for one of just two slots on an Olympic roster that wound up having just five veterans and seven newcomers.
Coach Hugh McCutcheon, who led the U.S. men’s team to the gold medal in ’08, opted for Tayiba Haneef-Park, making her third Olympics in a row, and first-timer Destinee Hooker, a former University of Texas star.
The 6-foot 1-inch Metcalf essentially lost out to a pair of much taller women in Haneef-Park, a former Long Beach State athlete who is all of 6-7, and the 6-4 Hooker.
Three middle blockers, three outside hitters, two setters and two liberos completed the squad, which features 39-year-old middle blocker Danielle Scott-Arruda, another Long Beach state product who became the first U.S. volleyball player, male or female, to make an Olympic team for a fifth time.
Another of the new faces, as many of you have already learned, is 6-2 outside hitter Jordan Larson, an ex-Nebraska star out of Logan View High school in Hooper, Neb.
Metcalf and Nicole Fawcett are two more opposites who are listed among eight available replacement players McCutcheon could call upon in the event of injuries. So, that possibility is still out there for Nancy, who started play last Thursday in the Pan American Cup, which continues through Friday in Juarez, Mexico.
The U.S. has a completely different 12-player roster for this tournament, another of the annual stops on the USA Volleyball calendar.
McCutcheon, by the way, was part of a tragic story you may recall from those Beijing Games four years ago. On Aug. 9, 2008, just prior to the start of competition, his in-laws were attacked by a knife-wielding madman at Beijing’s Drum Tower. Todd Bachman, father of former Olympian Elisabeth Bachman, McCutcheon’s wife, was murdered and his wife, Barbara, sustained serious injuries before the attacker leaped to his death.
McCutcheon, a New Zealand native, missed the first three Olympic matches for his men’s team, but returned to help them win gold. It was just four months later that he took over the U.S. women’s program and he will reportedly step down after the Olympics to devote his attentions to coaching the University of Minnesota women’s team.