Interesting drama being played out in Korean League Championships. Destinee Hooker is the foreign star for IBK versus Nicole Fawcett for HiPass.
Although Nicole cannot be viewed as a direct Hooker replacement for the US NT as that honor falls on Kelly Murphy she is certainly one of the front runners for a spot on the Rio 16 squad. Nicole might be more accurately seen as a replacement for Haneef-Park.
Still the back story on this match is who can lead their team to the Korean gold. Hooker fans desperately want to see her back on the NT for Rio 16 so a win here would certainly pump up her “I am back” credentials.
For Nicole and HiPass a win says “look I’m just as big a hitter as Hooker” plus she has the advantage of being part of a very successful two person rotation that led the US to gold in Italy.
The battle for the two OPP spots in Rio16 probably doesn’t open up if the USNT wins both the Grand Prix and the World Cup this summer. Plus it seems clear now based on Hookers’ EST Volleyball camp schedule this summer that she would have no time to practice with the NT even if Karch invited her back.
It doesn’t seem possible at this point that a new player can break through at OPP for Rio16. Karch surely wants to win at the Grand Prix in Omaha, NB which means he might experiment at Montreux and Grand Prix prelims but he will certainly go with his Italy squad for the win and I would expect the same for the World Cup. If he gets the Grand Prix win then he will be only two wins short of Quad/Quad Gold (Grand Prix, World Championship, World Cup and Olympic golds in one quadrennial). A rare achievement that would certainly cement his reputation as the greatest US player/coach of all time and would validate his Quik Offense.
However if the USNT falls short in these two tournaments then the door for OPP’s Rio16 might open just a bit. It would take a new player to have a summer break out season like Robinson in 2014 and then a very successful Club season in Europe to have a chance. For Hooker probably only a return to Europe and a Club and CEV Champions League title would soften up Karch enough to invite her back in.
Certainly many interesting twists and turns are now in play for year three of the Rio16 Quad and the USNT.