Women's beach volleyball was very good to the United States at the 2012 London Olympics. The all-American gold-medal match between Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh and April Ross/Jennifer Kessy was everything USA Volleyball could have wanted, but in other areas there was disappointment.
The men's indoor volleyball team couldn't defend its gold medal, losing to Italy in the quarterfinals. The reigning men's beach team of Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser also fell victim to Italy in an upset in the first elimination round. The other beach team, Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal, had the top ranking on the FIVB tour heading into the Olympics but also failed to medal.
Then there was the U.S. women's team, looking to win its first gold medal after a 7-0 start in London pitted them against Brazil in the final. The Americans dominated the first set 25-11 but lost the next three, going home with the silver.
Rio 2016 is a long time from now, but there are many things that will need to be addressed as the United States tries to reload. Brazil is rabid about volleyball and will be looking to go 4-for-4 in the events on home soil.
Here are five pressing needs for USA Volleyball in the meantime.
At 6'9" with impeccable setting skills and a ferocious block, Phil "The Thin Beast" Dalhausser has been the most physically dominant beach player in the world for the past five years. His rise was due in large part to his partner, Todd "The Professor" Rogers.
Rogers has acted as the team's coach and took Dalhausser under his wing, knowing that he had all the tools to reach greatness. They've done that, but Rogers is a 38-year-old family man with retirement almost certainly on the horizon. The team will play in a few domestic events on the newly resurrected AVP Tour, but there's no way Rogers will be playing in Rio.
That, of course, leaves a lot of American beach players going to bed at night dreaming of who the 32-year-old Dalhausser will pick up as a partner once Rogers retires. Will it be proven two-time Olympian Sean Rosenthal? Or perhaps the uber-athletic Nick Lucena, Phil's partner before Rogers?
Many names will be thrown around, but ultimately Dalhausser will make the pick when the time comes. Whoever he picks will need to find a rhythm with the big guy to get him a podium chance in Rio.
A setter drives the offense, and Lindsey Berg has been at the wheel since the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The 2011 team MVP is aging and slowing down, however, and the program needs to name a new leader to be the starter and gain experience.
There are currently three other setters on the roster: Nellie Spicer, Courtney Thompson and Alisha Glass. All three have seen international action, and Glass is a nice option. The 6-footer is the youngest of the trio at age 24 and started four of five final round matches at last year's FIVB World Grand Prix.
Libero Rich Lambourne would be 41 in Rio.
The stars of the U.S. men's team are old. Many would be over 40 in Rio, so it's time for the program to find a younger core to build upon. Players like Reid Priddy, Rich Lambourne and Clay Stanley have all played in their last Olympics, and there needs to be up-and-comers that step into the leadership roles. The roster will look a lot different in four years, and it's time to get the new wave as much experience as possible.
The most decorated player in the history of volleyball has been an assistant for Hugh McCutcheon and the women's team for the past three years, and it's been the most successful era in the team's history. With McCutcheon moving on to focus on his duties at the University of Minnesota, it's time for Kiraly to step in and take over the program.
As a player, he won two indoor gold medals (1984 and 1988) and a gold medal on the beach in 1996. He's the perfect fit to lead the team and stir up excitement for the program, which will feature a still-developing star in Destinee Hooker at the Rio Olympics.
Her decision to keep playing without Misty May-Treanor points to a possible run at Rio for Kerri Walsh, who would turn 38 during those Olympics. Considering the birth of two children didn't seem to slow her down at all, she could do it again with the right partner.
"I have more in me. Hopefully they'll see me in Rio as well," she said to USA Today in July, referring to her sons. "But I want them to see us win a gold medal here first."
Pairing with the likes of April Ross would be a good move, while the return of the AVP might see the development of some excellent younger women who could play for the United States. The versatility of Ross would pair nicely with Walsh's dominance at the net.