Veterans, Youth Blending Together in Lincoln

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | June 03, 2019, 5:13 p.m. (ET)

Mikaela Foecke is one of a handful of young players leading the U.S. Women's National Team to a 5-1 record to start VNL
Mikaela Foecke, days after being married, returns to U.S. Women's National Team's Volleyball Nations League matches held June 4-6 in Lincoln, Nebraska

LINCOLN, Nebraska (June 3, 2019) – The U.S. Women’s National Team is in Lincoln, Nebraska, this week where it will attempt to create additional momentum on returning to the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals Round when it hosts Brazil, Germany and Korea June 4-6 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Team USA is the reigning VNL champions after winning the inaugural event in 2018.

The Americans open against Korea on June 4, followed by Germany on June 5 and Brazil on June 6. All three matches, with first serve at 7:30 p.m. CT, can be streamed live on www.flovolleyball.tv. The USA-Korea and USA-Brazil matches will also air live on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN).

Related: VNL Tickets in Lincoln | Info on Team USA VNL Matches in Lincoln (June 4-6)

Team USA is one of four teams holding a 5-1 record with 15 points through the first six VNL matches. The Americans used a young roster in the first two weeks of the VNL to solidify its ranking, even though eight of their players were playing in an FIVB competition for the first time. That group of FIVB newcomers remaining on the roster for the matches in Lincoln include setter Jordyn Poulter (Aurora, Illinois), opposite Jordan Thompson (Edina, Minnesota), outside hitter Mikaela Foecke (West Point, Iowa), middles Dana Rettke (Riverside, Illinois) and Chiaka Ogbogu (Coppell, Texas), and libero Mary Lake (Palm Springs, California).

Foecke played in the opening VNL week, but missed week two as she was married this past Saturday in her hometown of West Point, Iowa. She met up with Team USA on Sunday in time for its its second training session in Lincoln.

Team USA returns five core players from last year’s VNL championship squad into the mix for the first time this year in VNL. Olympic veterans and outside hitters Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) and Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California) will have a homecoming of sorts as University of Nebraska alums. Middles Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) and Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota) are from nearby Minnesota, while Olympic bronze medalist Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California) is back setting.

Lloyd said she is excited to be back with a group energized from a 5-1 start.

“This is my first week joining VNL and joining the group on the road,” Lloyd said. “It is a really young and exciting group of girls. I feel a lot of positive energy and excitement to just get this season started. We have had a great start so far with this VNL. We are hoping to continue that.”

Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana), who was among the veteran leaders on the young roster the first two weeks, feels Team USA has been able to showcase its overall depth in the first two weeks of the VNL.

“Having this young group, and to go 5-1 and to really turn some heads with so many new people,” Drews said. “We are really grateful for that depth. To see these new people come and do so well right away is really exciting for our program.”

Even with only three training sessions blending the returning veterans and the returning VNL roster from weeks one and two, Lloyd said this is a exciting time.

“We are learning each other as we start to play, which is exciting and challenging at the same time,” Lloyd said. “I think it is already a great vibe, and we feel good at where we are and how we will compete together.”

Brazil, ranked No. 4 in the world, is in fifth place in the 2019 VNL, but trail the pack leaders by only one loss. The South American powerhouse has losses to Poland and Dominican Republic. The U.S. dropped its only match of this year’s VNL to Dominican Republic after reeling off five consecutive wins.

Brazil’s roster, with an average age just under 27 years of age for this week, will have an upgrade this week as captain Natalia Pereira returns to action after sitting out the first two weeks. She is one of only three Brazilian players with Olympic experience competing in this year’s VNL.

Korea and Germany hold 1-5 records in the VNL. Like Brazil, Korea has upgraded its roster this week as its star captain Kim Yeon Koung makes her first appearance after missing the first two weeks. Korea’s average age is just over 24 years old. Germany’s roster averages under 24 years of age, and will have outside hitter Jennifer Geerties and middle Natalie Wilczek added to the roster this week.

VNL leader Turkey holds the tiebreaker over the United States for the top spot with a better setter ratio. Turkey is 15-4 in sets versus second-place Team USA’s 17-7 sets record. Ironically, Turkey and the USA played for gold in last year’s inaugural championship with the Americans winning a thrilling five-set match.

Closely following both USA and Turkey in the standings are Italy and Poland. Italy has the same set ratio as the U.S., but has a lower points ratio. Poland, which eighth in last year’s 16-team VNL, has markedly improved this season and is in fourth place.

U.S. Women's National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League Week #3 – Lincoln, Nebraska
# - Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
2 – Jordyn Poulter (S, 6-2, Illinois, Aurora, Colorado)
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)
9 – Madi Kingdon Rishel (OH, 6-1, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona)
10 – Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Hooper, Nebraska)
11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Purdue, Elkhart, Indiana)
12 – Jordan Thompson (OPP, 6-4, Cincinnati, Edina, Minnesota)
17 – Megan Courtney (L, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
18 – Mikaela Foecke (OH, 6-3, Nebraska, West Point, Iowa)
20 – Dana Rettke (M, 6-8, Wisconsin, Riverside, Illinois)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Manhattan Beach, California)
24 – Chiaka Ogbogu (M, 6-2, Texas, Coppell, Texas)
27 – Mary Lake (L, 5-7, BYU, Palm Springs, California)

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Luka Slabe, Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu

FIVB Volleyball Nations League Schedule - U.S. Women's National Team (All Times ET)
May 21: USA def. Belgium 25-23, 25-8, 25-22
May 22: USA def. Japan 25-21, 24-26, 25-21, 25-20
May 23: USA def. Bulgaria 25-20, 25-16, 25-21
May 28: USA def. Serbia 23-25, 25-16, 25-15, 25-21
May 29: USA def. Italy 25-22, 17-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-11
May 30: USA lost to Dominican Republic 25-10, 16-25, 25-19, 19-25, 15-11
June 4: USA vs. Korea (at Lincoln, Nebraska), 8:30 p.m.
June 5: USA vs. Germany (at Lincoln, Nebraska), 8:30 p.m.
June 6: USA vs. Brazil (at Lincoln, Nebraska), 8:30 p.m.
June 11: USA vs. Turkey (at Jiangmen, China), 4 a.m.
June 12: USA vs. Poland (at Jiangmen, China), 4 a.m.
June 13: USA vs. China (at Jiangmen, China), 8 a.m.
June 18: USA vs. Russia (at Ekaterinburg, Russia), 10 a.m.
June 19: USA vs. Netherlands (at Ekaterinburg, Russia), 7 a.m.
June 20: USA vs. Thailand (at Ekaterinburg, Russia), 7 a.m.

FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Round - at Nanjing, China
July 3-7: China plus top five other countries in preliminary round