Updated: May 18, 2014 at 8:28 pm
The U.s. women's indoor volleyball team will travel to the 2016 Brazil Olympics facing an intimidating challenge.
The American women will be seeking their first indoor volleyball gold. Meanwhile, the Brazilians will be chasing their third straight gold.
On their home court.
An insurmountable challenge?
Close to an insurmountable challenge?
On Sunday, a young American team destroyed Panama in three straight breezy sets in the finals of the FIVB World Championship NORCECA qualifying round at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center.
A few of the players on the winning U.S. team are contenders for spots on the 2016 Olympic team. These players are not frightened by the idea of playing the world's mightiest team in front of thousands of wildly loud fans in Brazil.
Libero Kristen Hahn is intrigued by the idea of invading Brazil and departing with a gold medal.
"We're really excited," said Hahn, who led Iowa State to a quarterfinal berth in the NCAA Tournament. "To play against Brazil on their home court, what better way to win a gold medal? It's something that really motivates us every day."
Bailey Webster, an outside hitter, agrees.
"I don't think it matters where it's at or who it is," said Webster, a former star at Texas. "We're fired up to win it and what better way than to win it than in Brazil? We didn't pick the place, but we're embracing the moment."
The U.S. women's volleyball team resides in an uncomfortable place. U.S. women flatten every team in sight in basketball. This situation is so lopsided that losers in the gold-medal game celebrate in defeat. The losers are thrilled they didn't lose by 50 points.
U.S. women rank as the world's best soccer team, although this perch is not as certain as their basketball brethren.
The volleyball team did not even win a medal at the Olympics until 1984, and that was at the heavily boycotted Los Angeles Games.
The gold drought was expected to end in London. The U.S. roared into the gold-medal game as the favorites, even though Brazil had won gold in 2008.
The Americans won the first game, 25-11, igniting hope in their fans.
But Brazil quickly squashed those hopes, sweeping the next three games to win the medal. Brazilian fans erupted in joy.
"We never lost sight of our objectives," Brazilian star Jaqueline Carvalho said. "And that was to win gold."
Hahn watched the 2012 game at her home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She remembers being impressed by the speed and skill of the Brazilians. She was dazzled by the gold medalists.
But she's not intimidated. She hopes to be part of the U.S. team that topples the champs.