U.S. Women Head into Final VNL Prelim Week

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | June 15, 2019, 12:01 p.m. (ET)

Annie Drews attacking versus Poland
Annie Drews is the leading Team USA scorer in the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 15, 2019) – The U.S. Women’s National Team moved two steps closer this past week to earning a berth into the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Six and a chance to defend its title.

The Americans, ranked third in the world, are 9-3 overall with 27 points in the VNL. The U.S. plays its fifth and final preliminary round week in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Team USA will challenge host Russia (3-9, 10 points) on June 18 at 10 a.m. ET, Netherlands (4-8, 13 points) on June 19 at 7 a.m. ET and Thailand (4-8, 13 points) on June 20 at 7 a.m. ET. All U.S. matches in the VNL matches are being streamed on flovolleyball.tv.

The top five teams plus China advance to the VNL Final Six July 3-7 in Nanjing, China. Currently, the top five teams are bunched together with only one loss separating the group. Italy leads the 16-team league with a 10-2 record and 31 points, while Turkey is also 10-2 with 29 points. Brazil, USA and China are all 9-3. The race for the sixth and final spot will likely come down to Japan (7-5), Poland (7-5), Belgium (6-6) and Dominican Republic (6-6). Serbia and Germany, both at 5-7, have outside chances to advance with the right scenarios.

Key Final Preliminary Round Matches:

  • Italy (10-2, 31 points): vs. Brazil (6/18), at Turkey (6/19), vs. Belgium (6/20)
  • Turkey (10-2, 29 points): vs. Belgium (6/18), vs. Italy (6/19), vs. Brazil (6/20)
  • Brazil (9-3, 28 points): vs. Italy (6/18), vs. Belgium (6/20), at Turkey (6/20)
  • USA (9-3, 27 points): at Russia (6/18), vs. Netherlands (6/19), vs. Thailand (6/20)
  • China (9-3, 26 points): vs. Germany (6/18), vs. Bulgaria (6/19), vs. Serbia (6/20)
  • Japan (7-5, 21 points): vs. Poland (6/18), vs. Korea (6/19), vs. Dominican Republic (6/20)
  • Poland (7-5, 21 points): vs. Japan (6/18), vs. Dominican Republic (6/19), vs. Korea (6/20)
  • Belgium (6-6, 17 points): at Turkey (6/18), vs. Brazil (6/19), vs. Italy (6/20)
  • Dominican Republic (6-6, 15 points): at Korea (6/18), vs. Poland (6/19), vs. Japan (6/20)

Team USA’s opponents this week have struggled in the second annual VNL. Russia has already been eliminated from the Final Six race, while both Netherlands and Thailand are on the brink of elimination.

U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly and his staff have altered the roster slightly from week four. Mikaela Foecke has returned to the roster, replacing libero Mary Lake. The second libero alongside Megan Courtney will change match-to-match.

After a disappointing three-set loss to Turkey to open its fourth week, the Americans rebounded with a four-set win over Poland. Team USA played its best all-round match to conclude last week with a stunning sweep over host China.

As Kiraly has shifted the starting lineups throughout the tournament, no American ranks among the top 15 in scoring. Drews leads the team with 133 points (115 kills, 8 blocks, 10 aces) for 16th overall in the tournament. Ogbogu has collected 100 points (69 kills, 20 blocks, 11 aces) for 35th overall. No other American is in the top 50 scoring with Thompson ranking 59th with 75 points and Dana Rettke (Riverside, Illinois), who is inactive this week, with 72 points.

Drews ranks fourth in attacking with a 47.1 kill percent (115-244). No other American qualifies for the Best Attacker category based on minimum attempts. Ogbogu ranks as the top U.S. blocker and server with 0.44 blocks per U.S. sets played, along with 0.24 aces per set. Drews holds a 0.22 ace average. Courtney ranks 15th in the VNL with 2.02 digs per U.S. set played despite missing all three matches this past week.

U.S. Women's National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League Week #5 – Ekaterinburg, Russia
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)
18 – Mikaela Foecke (OH, 6-3, Nebraska, West Point, Iowa)
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)

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 lost to Turkey 25-15, 25-17, 27-25
June 12: USA def. Poland 21-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-11
June 13: USA def. China 25-17, 25-22, 25-21
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