A Look Inside U.S. Women's VNL Opponents in Lincoln

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | May 04, 2018, 4:59 p.m. (ET)

Carli Lloyd (left) exchanges gifts with Italy's captain during the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix
U.S. setter Carli Lloyd (left) exchanges gifts and handshakes with the Italian captain during 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 4, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team will host three European squads to open the inaugural week of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League May 15-17 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Italy, Poland and Turkey offer different challenges for Team USA in the round-robin pool that begins five consecutive preliminary weeks totaling 15 matches for each team. The Americans begin the tournament against Poland on May 15, followed by Turkey on May 16 and Italy on May 17. All three U.S. matches are scheduled for 7 p.m. CT with the non-USA match at 5 p.m. CT.

Related: Tickets | Volleyball Nations League in Lincoln | U.S. Women’s Home Page

The Volleyball Nations League consists of 16 teams all vying for one of five spots in the Final Round along with host China. Following the five weeks of preliminary action, the final six teams will play June 27 to July 1 in Nanjing, China, with a top prize of one million dollars at stake for first place. Second place will earn $500,000, third place $300,000, fourth place $150,000, and fifth and sixth places $75,000 each. Unlike past tournaments, the purse for both the women’s and men’s VNL will be equal.

Last month teams submitted a 26-player preliminary roster for the VNL. By May 5, teams must trim the roster to 21 players for which becomes the pool of players teams can select from for each week of the preliminary round and Finals Round. Each team is required to submit their 14-player roster two days before the first match of each preliminary round week.

USA Capsule
The USA, ranked second in the world, will enter the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League with a mixed roster that blends experience and youth. The USA has seven returning Olympians from the bronze-medal winning squad at the 2016 Rio Games, including Jordan Larson and Foluke Akinradewo who also won silver at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Team USA finished the 2017 season with an 18-8 record in which many first- and second-year players saw success with expanded playing time. The U.S. did not play a single match in 2017 with all seven of its returning Olympians on the roster as many took time off early in the season. The Americans finished third at the season-ending FIVB World Grand Champions Cup with five Olympians on the roster. With only two Olympians on the roster, the USA finished fifth at the final FIVB World Grand Prix event.

Later this year the Americans will defend their FIVB World Championship crown won in 2014 in Italy. The USA opens the World Championship on Sept. 29 in Kobe, Japan. The finals are scheduled for Oct. 20 in Yokohama.

USA is the only women’s indoor team to have reached the podium in the last three Olympic Games, yet they have not reached the top step. In the second year of the Olympic quadrennial, the Americans are building up for the ultimate prize in 2020.

The Americans have an experienced preliminary roster with an average age of 25 and average international matches at 54. Akinradewo has played in 223 international matches, while Larson has 219. Five players have yet to play an international match at the senior level.

Below is USA’s 21-player roster for which are eligible for each week of the preliminary round and the Finals Round.

For a detailed season preview on the U.S. Women’s National Team, click here.

Italy Capsule
Italy has surged back into elite prominence following a disappointing ninth-place finish at the 2016 Olympics. Led by rising 19-year-old phenom Paola Egonu and eight Olympians, Italy finished second at the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix.

The Italians are ranked No. 7 in the world by the FIVB following their resurgence last year. Italy defeated the U.S. two out of three matches at the 2017 World Grand Prix with all three matches taking place in China.

Italy has eight Olympians on its 26-player preliminary roster led by two-time Olympian Serena Ortolani. She has the most international appearances on the Italian preliminary roster with 279 matches.

Since 1983, the Americans hold a 36-28 advantage over the Italians in the all-time series. After defeated Italy in the 2008 Olympic Games quarterfinals, the U.S. has won 10 of the last 15 matches. Italy did defeat Team USA in the 2014 FIVB World Championship Final Six pool play, but the Americans recovered to win three straight matches to capture the World Championship.

Italy won the FIVB World Championship in 2002, then just missed out on the World Championship podiums in 2006 and 2014. The Italians have won the FIVB World Cup in 2007 and 2017, along with the 2009 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup. Italy has also won a host of medals at the European Championships, including gold in 2007 and 2009.

Italy has been consistent participants in the Olympic Games since Sydney 2000 and three times made the quarterfinals in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

For more details on Italy, click here.

Poland Capsule
Poland, one of four challenger teams in the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League, is ranked No. 22 in the world by the FIVB.

Poland’s 26-player preliminary roster has an average age of 22 with the oldest player being 29-year-old Gabriela Polanska and the youngest being 17-year-old Oliwia Baluk. Polanska is the tallest player on the Turkish roster at 6-7.

Poland captured the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals Round Group 2 title. The Poles had reached the World Grand Prix Group 2 Finals in both 2015 and 2016, but lost in the title match. Before dropping to the second group of World Grand Prix, Poland had finished as high as sixth in 2007 and 2010 in Group One.

The Poles were once one of the top teams in the world, however. They took Olympic bronze medals in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. Poland won silver at the 1952 FIVB World Championship, followed by bronze in 1956 and 1962 in the same event.

More recently Poland finished ninth at the 2008 Olympics Games after a 40-year absence from the event. They won back-to-back gold medals at the European Championships in 2003 and 2005, followed by a bronze in 2009.

The U.S. has a 13-4 record against Poland since 1983 with 14 of the 17 matches taking place since 2003. The Americans have not faced Poland since defeating their European counterpart 3-0 during the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round in Brazil. Team USA has won nine of the last 10 matches going back to the 2005 season.

For more details on Poland, click here.

Turkey Capsule
Turkey is in its second season with Giovanni Guidetti as its head coach after he led Netherlands to a fourth-place finish at the 2016 Olympics. Guidetti is guiding a relatively young roster with an average age of 22.

Turkey is ranked No. 12 in the world by the FIVB based on an 11th-place finish at the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix, ninth at the 2014 FIVB World Championship and participation in the European qualification tournament into the 2016 Olympic Games.

Turkey missed out on participation in the 2016 Olympic Games after finishing ninth in its debut at the 2012 London Games. The squad has competed three times in the FIVB World Championship – their best ranking a sixth-place finish in 2010 followed by a ninth-place ranking in 2014.

Turkey has won two medals at the European Championships – a silver when they hosted the competition in 2003 and a bronze in 2011 when they beat Italy 3-2 for third place.

The U.S. holds a 13-3 record against Turkey since 1983, with all but two of the matches taking place since 2003. The Americans have won the last five meetings since 2014. Most recently, the U.S. captured a 3-1 win over Turkey during the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round.

For more details on Turkey, click here.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League
# - Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
1 – Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
4 – Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Nebraska, Cypress, California)
5 – Rachael Adams (M, 6-2, Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
7 – Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, Wisconsin, Aurora, Illinois)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)
9 – Madi Kingdon (OH, 6-1, Arizona, Hermosa Beach, California)
10 – Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Hooper, Nebraska)
11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Purdue, Elkhart, Indiana)
12 – Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, Florida, Wilmington, Illinois)
13 – Sarah Wilhite (OH, 6-1, Minnesota, Eden Prairie, Minnesota)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Champaign, Illinois)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Pepperdine, Portland, Oregon)
16 – Foluke Akinradewo (M, 6-3, Stanford, Plantation, Florida)
18 – Aiyana Whitney (OPP, 6-5, Penn State, Norwood, New Jersey)
20 – Amanda Benson (L, 5-7, Oregon, Litchfield, Park, Arizona)
22 – Molly McCage (MB, 6-3, Texas, Spring, Texas)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Manhattan Beach, California)
25 – Chiaka Ogbogu (OH, 6-2, Texas, Coppell, Texas)
27 – Caroline Knop (L, 5-8, Florida, Pasadena, California)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Luka Slabe, Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans
Team Manager: Jimmy Stitz

FIVB Volleyball Nations League (Women's) Schedule

Week 1 - May 15-17
Pool 1 (Ekaterinburg, Russia): Russia, Argentina, Netherlands, Thailand
Pool 2 (Ningbo, China): China, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Korea
Pool 3 (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA): USA, Italy, Poland, Turkey
Pool 4 (Barueri, Brazil): Brazil, Germany, Japan, Serbia

Week 2 - May 22-24
Pool 5 (Toyota, Japan): Japan, Belgium, Netherlands, USA
Pool 6 (Suwon, Korea): Korea, Germany, Italy, Russia
Pool 7 (Macau, China): China, Poland, Serbia, Thailand
Pool 8 (Ankara, Turkey): Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic

Week 3 - May 29-31
Pool 9 (Apeldoorn, Netherlands): Netherlands, Brazil, Korea, Poland
Pool 10 (Kraljevo, Serbia): Serbia, Belgium, Russia, Turkey
Pool 11 (Bangkok, Thailand): Thailand, Dominican Republic, Germany, USA
Pool 12 (Hong Kong): Argentina, China, Italy, Japan

Week 4 - June 5-7
Pool 13 (Rotterdam, Netherlands): Netherlands, Dominican Republic, Italy, Serbia
Pool 14 (Jiangmen, China): China, Brazil, Russia, USA
Pool 15 (Nakhon Ratchasrima, Thailand): Thailand, Japan, Korea, Turkey
Pool 16 (Bydgoszcz, Poland): Poland, Argentina, Belgium, Germany

Week 5 - June 12-14
Pool 17 (Stuttgart, Germany): Germany, China, Netherland, Turkey
Pool 18 (Walbrzych, Poland): Poland, Dominican Republic, Japan, Russia
Pool 19 (Eboli, Italy): Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Thailand
Pool 20 (Santa Fe, Argentina): Argentina, Korea, Serbia, USA