U.S. Women Make Lineup Shift for VNL Week 2

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | May 21, 2018, 8:26 a.m. (ET)

Carli Lloyd sets Foluke Akinradewo
Carli Lloyd sets Foluke Akinradewo during the opening week of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League

LINCOLN, Neb. (May 21, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team enters the second week of the newly christened 16-team FIVB Volleyball Nations League in third place with a 2-1 record, but will face three vastly different opponents this week in Toyota, Japan.

The Americans face host Japan on May 22 at 6 a.m. ET, followed by The Netherlands on May 23 at 2:30 a.m. ET and Belgium on May 24 at 2:30 a.m. ET. U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly feels the second week epitomizes the current international game.

“We are going to play three more great teams in Japan, three more great challenges,” Kiraly said. “Japan plays a very a different style from the Netherlands and Belgium. That is one of the beautiful things about international women’s volleyball. From team to team, country to country there is an incredibly different style. We have to make adjustments from one match to the next.”

Team USA opened its Volleyball Nations League schedule at home in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Americans outlasted Poland 3-1 to start its campaign. The U.S. lost to Turkey, ranked second in the Volleyball Nations League standings after the first week, in a five-set thriller in which the Americans trailed in 0-2 in sets and had a swing to go up 15-14 in the tiebreaker before losing. Team USA rebounded strong in its final match in Lincoln, sweeping a young Italian squad.

Kiraly made a decisive move in the third match. He shifted Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) from her typical outside hitter role into the starting libero spot to help shore up the first touch on offense.

“We had been having some trouble in our service reception and we wanted to stabilize in that department,” Kiraly said after the match with Italy. “I think we did pretty well at that. The Italians were doing a really nice job of bringing some smoke at us – hitting some really hard jump spin serves and we don’t see that a lot in our gym because we are so much jump floats. It took our passers a little while to adjust and eventually they controlled those hard serves in the way we needed to.”

The U.S. lineup against Italy and the success of Robinson at libero has prompted Kiraly to adjust his 14-player roster competing in Japan. Robinson has officially moved into one of the two libero positions along with Justine Wong-Orantes (Cypress, California). Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie, Minnesota), who got married on May 4, has been added for week two at outside hitter and replaces libero Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona). The rest of the roster will carry over from week one.

Each team can change its roster each week so long as the athletes were on named to the 21-player roster in early May.

Japan is in 12th place after the first three of 15 preliminary round matches as they went 1-2 last week. The Japanese absorbed a 3-0 loss to Serbia and a four-set loss to Brazil before handling Germany a 3-1 loss. The Germans had stunned Brazil 3-0 in the opening match.

Netherlands sits atop the Volleyball Nations League standings with a 3-0 record and is the only team to pull in all nine points last week. The Dutch, with former U.S. Women’s National Team assistant coach Jamie Morrison in his second year as head coach, defeated Thailand, Argentina and Russia last week. Netherlands lost just one set along the way – a first-set loss to Argentina.

Belgium, 2-1 after the opening week, swept Korea to start the tournament before being swept by China. Belgium finished its first round by edging Dominican Republic in five sets.

The Volleyball Nations League utilizes a five-week preliminary round robin schedule where all 16 teams play each other. The Volleyball Nations League Final Round will have host China joining the top five teams from the preliminary standings.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League May 22-24
# - 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)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)
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)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (L, 6-2, Nebraska, Manhattan Beach, 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

Women’s FIVB Volleyball Nations League Schedule

U.S. Women’s Schedule for FIVB Volleyball Nations League Preliminary Round
May 15: USA def. Poland 28-26, 25-22, 22-25, 25-15 (at Lincoln, Nebraska)
May 16: USA lost to Turkey 28-26, 25-19, 20-25, 24-26, 16-14 (at Lincoln, Nebraska)
May 17: USA def. Italy 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 (at Lincoln, Nebraska)
May 22: USA vs. Japan, 6 a.m. ET (at Toyota, Japan)
May 23: USA vs. Netherlands, 2:30 a.m. ET (at Toyota, Japan)
May 24: USA vs. Belgium, 2:30 a.m. ET (at Toyota, Japan)
May 29: USA vs. Germany, 4 a.m. ET (at Bangkok, Thailand)
May 30: USA vs. Dominican Republic, 4 a.m. ET (at Bangkok, Thailand)
May 31: USA vs. Thailand, 7 a.m. ET (at Bangkok, Thailand)
June 5: USA vs. Russia, TBA (at Jiangmen, China)
June 6: USA vs. Brazil, TBA (at Jiangmen, China)
June 7: USA vs. China, TBA (at Jiangmen, China)
June 12: USA vs. Serbia, TBA (at Santa Fe, Argentina)
June 13: USA vs. Korea, TBA (at Santa Fe, Argentina)
June 14: USA vs. Argentina, TBA (at Santa Fe, Argentina)

June 27-July 1: FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Round (Host China + Top 5 Teams)
At Nanjing, China