3 U.S. Women Making VNL Season Debut in China

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | June 07, 2019, 4:29 p.m. (ET)

Annie Drews is Team USA's leading scorer through the first three weeks of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League
Annie Drews is Team USA's leading scorer through the first three weeks of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 7, 2019) – The U.S. Women’s National Team heads into the fourth week of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in third place with a 7-2 record and 21 points.

However, this week’s slate of opponents picks up in intensity as defending champion Team USA faces three of the top five teams in the 16-team, five-week preliminary round of the VNL in Jiangmen, China. The U.S. plays tournament-leader and 2018 VNL runner-up Turkey (8-1, 24 points) on June 11 followed by fifth-place Poland (7-2, 20 points) on June 12. Both matches are at 4 a.m. ET. The Americans conclude their fourth week against host and fourth-place place China (7-2, 20 points) on June 13 at 8 a.m. ET.

All three matches will be streamed on flovolleyball.tv.

U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly and his staff have chosen the following players for its fourth leg of the VNL.

Team USA’s roster includes three players (Bartsch-Hackley, Carlini and Lowe) making their 2019 debuts, missing the first three weeks of the VNL. All three competed in the European Champions League Super Finals on May 18 and took some time to recover from the long pro season. Further, Washington returns to the lineup after being absent in week three.

The U.S. went 5-1 over the course of the first two weeks of the season with eight players making their FIVB debuts in red, white and blue. Last week Team USA inserted five veterans into the roster and finished 2-1 in its homestand held in Lincoln, Nebraska. With its roster additions this week, the U.S. now has eight players with World Championship experience and four Olympians.

Team USA made just two changes to its roster all last VNL and went on to win the title with a thrilling five-set win over Turkey. However, U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Kiraly has elected to rest several of his veterans for various reasons in the first half of the VNL, and the young group taking their place have more than held their own.

“A big emphasis from point one of this season was no expectations,” Drews said. “We won last year, great. But we have a lot of new people who we are trying to get comfortable, so that is great as well. I can’t say we thought we would be one place or another. 7-2 is respectable and I am excited to build on that.”

Drews has led the American rotating lineup of starters in 2019 with 101 points (83 kills, 9 blocks, 9 aces) to rank 18th overall in the VNL. She also is third in Best Spiker with a 46.4 kill percent. With different starting combinations being used through the first nine matches, Team USA’s next highest scorer is Rettke with 71 points (51 kills, 14 blocks, 6 aces) for 45th overall. Ogbogu is the only other American in the top 50 in scoring with 68 points (54 kills, 9 blocks, 5 aces) for 47th place.

Other Team USA players among the top statistical categories is Courtney in third place for Best Diggers with 2.46 digs per USA sets play and at eighth in Best Receiver with a 35.6 efficiency.

Poland’s opposite Malwina Smarzek leads all scorers with 245 points – 44 more than the second-ranked scorer. She ranks sixth in Best Spiker with a 44.9 kill percent. Turkey’s outside hitter Ebrar Karakut leads her squad with 111 points. She also holds leads the Best Spiker list with a 53.3 kill percent. China’s middle Xinyue Yuan paces her country with 82 points.

As a squad, China has the best team kill percent at 45.1 percent, while Turkey follows in second place fractions of a point behind with a 45.1 percent. Turkey leads all teams in blocking with 3.79 blocks per set while the U.S. is third at 2.71 per set and Poland is fourth at 2.70 per set. Turkey is second in serving with a 2.00 aces per set average. China is ranked as the best backrow defensive team with 13.48 digs per set.

The top five teams from the 15-match preliminary round will compete in the VNL Final Six along with host China from July 3-7 with the winner receiving $1 million.

U.S. Women's National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League Week #4 – Jiangmen, China
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
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)
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)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Champaign, Illinois)
17 – Megan Courtney (L, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
22 – Haleigh Washington (M, 6-3, Penn State, Colorado Springs, Colorado)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Manhattan Beach, California)
24 – Chiaka Ogbogu (M, 6-2, Texas, Coppell, Texas)
25 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, UCLA, Rancho Santa Fe, California)
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 def. Korea 19-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-18
June 5: USA vs. Germany (at Lincoln, Nebraska), 8:30 p.m.
June 6: USA lost to Brazil 25-19, 25-17, 22-25, 25-20
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