COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 18, 2019) – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois, Twitter, Instagram) and Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois) ) led Igor Gorgonzola Novara to a 25-18, 25-17, 14-25, 25-22 victory over Imoco Volley Conegliano with fellow U.S. Women’s National Team members Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon, Instagram) and Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California, Instagram) on May 18 to win the crown jewel of European pro volleyball – the European Champions League Super Finals title.
- The U.S. Women open their FIVB Volleyball Nations Title defense May 21-23 in Bulgaria.
- The U.S. Women host Brazil, Germany and South Korea in its home week of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League June 4-6 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
TRIVIA QUESTION: The U.S. Women’s National Team has three players with college eligibility on its opening week roster of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. When was the last time the U.S. had a player with remaining college eligibility compete in an FIVB event?
Novara claimed its first-ever European Champions League title in front of 9,046 spectators in Berlin for the all-Italian championship. Earlier this month Novara had lost to Conegliano in three straight matches in the best-of-five Italian Serie A1 championships.
Bartsch-Hackley, who was named to the Champions League Dream Team, notched 20 kills on 45 attacks as part of a 44 kill percent and .311 hitting efficiency. She chalked up eight of her kills in the final fourth set to clinch the victory. Bartsch-Hackley added a block for 21 points. Bartsch-Hackley also handled 40 of the team’s 76 receptions with a 53 positive percent. Carlini set Novara to a 39 kill percent as a team and added two individual kills on two swings, one block and one ace.
“It has been a lot of work,” Bartsch-Hackley said after the match. “They really kicked our butts in the Italian Championship. We worked extremely hard after that and I am just very proud of the team. They played extremely strong in the third set and I think if you have two really good teams, it is always going to happen. However, we were really confident and our mindset was to just keep pushing.”
Lowe, who was a sub in the first two sets before starting the final two sets at opposite, led Conegliano with 16 points. She tallied 12 kills on 33 swings and four blocks. Hill added 10 kills on 35 swings and was credited with a 65 positive reception percent on 20 chances.
Bartsch-Hackley and Carlini will share in Novara’s €400,000 prize for winning Champions League, while Conegliano gets €200,000.
Novara and Conegliano traded titles played against each other in a serious rivalry during the 2018-2019 season. Conegliano beat Novara to win the Italian Supercup earlier this year, but Novara claimed the Italian Cup title by beating Conegliano. Novara defeated Conegliano in four sets in the first head-to-head match of the Italian Serie A1 regular season, but Conegliano won the second head-to-head match of the Italian Serie A1 regular season in straight sets. Conegliano won all three matches of the Italian Serie A1 finals.
The European Champions League marks the conclusion of the pro league season. The four Americans competing in the finals will now get a short rest before returning to Anaheim to start training with Team USA and working to gain spots on the U.S. roster for the Volleyball Nations League. Although the U.S. has a 14-player roster already in Bulgaria for the first week of the VNL, several players including a core group of veterans remain back in Anaheim training.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Foluke Akinradewo was the last player with college eligibility to compete for Team USA in an FIVB-level event. She competed in the 2008 FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round. Ebony Nwanebu competed in the 2014 Montreux Volley Masters, a non-FIVB level event but above zonal competitions, between her freshman and sophomore seasons at University of Southern California.