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U.S. women’s volleyball team clinches Rio Olympic berth

The U.S. women’s volleyball team is going to Rio, where it will try to win the program’s first Olympic gold medal in August.

The U.S., the top-ranked team in the world and reigning World champion, completed a sweep of a four-team, round-robin North American Olympic qualifying tournament in Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday.

The Americans beat seventh-ranked Dominican Republic 25-19, 25-19, 25-18 after defeating Canada and Puerto Rico the previous two nights.

“Our main is objective is we want to let it rip,” U.S. coach Karch Kiraly, an Olympic indoor and beach gold medalist, said on NBCSN. “We don’t want to play it safe.”

The path to Olympic gold only gets tougher.

The U.S. will likely have to go through two-time reigning Olympic champion Brazil to take gold at the Rio Games. It did just that at the World Championship in Milan, Italy, in 2014.

But the U.S. lost its final game at the Olympics in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 all to Brazil, including the last two Olympic finals.

“The headwinds will be great in Rio,” Kiraly said after winning the 2014 World title. “Brazil will have the home-court advantage. We love headwinds. Bring ’em on.”

The 14-player U.S. roster this week included five Olympians, led by USA Volleyball Player of the Year and outside hitter Jordan Larson. The potential first-time Olympians included outside hitter Kim Hill, MVP of the 2014 World Championship.

The U.S. Olympic team of 12 players will be named later this year.

MORE VOLLEYBALL: U.S. men qualify for Rio

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