Andrea Drews #11 of Team United States strikes against Irina Voronkova #16 of Team ROC and Irina Fetisova #14 during the Women's Preliminary - Pool B volleyball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan
The Volleyball Nations League is a 16-team league consisting of national teams. There are three weeks of pool play, after which eight teams (including the host, this year Turkey) advance to the quarterfinals. The rosters fluctuate with the availability and performance dictating which 14 from the 25-player pool will be selected for each week.
Opening the 2022 VNL on home soil is an opportunity to help raise the profile of the VNL in the U.S. while also building off the momentum from Tokyo, Drew said.
“In the volleyball world, it’s definitely a tournament that’s well-known,” said Drews, who has been part of every week’s roster in each of the past three seasons. “It’s just extensive. It typically spans three to five weeks, across different countries. So in the volleyball world, I think it’s really common and I think in other countries, they see it as like a big event. I think in America, volleyball in general, we’re still seeing volleyball on the rise.
“And I think having all three women’s programs — indoor, beach and sitting volleyball — take home golds last summer, I think this is a really critical time in our sport in our country where it’s getting that attention. Now it’s: How can we keep that attention, not just people who are tuning in for the Olympics, but how can we kind of make volleyball a little bit more known here?”
International travel is a big part of the VNL. After this week, the U.S. will travel to Quezon City, Philippines, for the second round June 15-19, then to Calgary, Alberta, for the third round June 29-July 4 before the finals in Turkey from July 13-17.
That kind of travel is nothing new for Drews after graduating from Purdue. Since 2016, Drews has played professionally for two teams in Puerto Rico, one in Italy, another in Turkey and the last two seasons in Japan. While she declined to reveal what her plans are for the next season, Drews said she has already notified JT Marvelous, her team in Japan, that she won’t be returning.
“In the past, it’s been much harder if we go straight from place to place,” Drews said, recalling a year in which they traveled from China to Turkey to Argentina and then to the U.S. “We were just week to week all over the place. Now, the season is much different. We get to go home for a week in between simply because our schedule allows it.”
Not every team will have that luxury, Drews noted. Different travel arrangements and border controls will keep certain teams on the road the entire time.
The extra time off will be put to good use by Drews. After all, she is a newlywed. Following the Tokyo Games, she and former Purdue baseball player Tanner Schumacher tied the knot.
“It was awesome,” Drews said. “We had about a month after the Olympics before the wedding to celebrate and it was a big month. It’s been a big year, a good year for the jewelry (laughs). But it was really sweet, and I had a few weeks post-wedding before I went to my season in Japan. And I think that’s always one of the challenges, long-distance relationships in the first few months of marriage. But he’s an awesome partner and supporter and he’s amazing at long distance and we’re just happy to be back. So then this summer, the travel is much easier so we’ll get to spend a lot more time together.”