ANAHEIM, Calif. (June 15, 2017) – The U.S. Women’s National Team has announced its 14-player roster for the 12-country Pan American Cup being staged June 17-25 in Peru.
The Pan Am Cup is in its 16th year as teams from NORCECA (North America, Central America and Caribbean) and South America confederations compete for the title. The Americans have won the event three of the past five years with mainly a younger roster to gain international experience. The Pan Am Cup has two six-team preliminary round pools that will play a full round-round schedule.
The U.S. are aiming for its fifth Pan Am Cup title, breaking a logjam with Cuba and Dominican Republic as teams with a tournament-best four titles in the previous 15 editions of the events. Dominican Republic has won two of the last three events.
The American squad will consist of two setters, two liberos, two opposites, five outside hitters and four middles. The setters include captain Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma) and Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois). The liberos will be Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona) and Justine Wong-Orantes (Cypress, California). The opposites are Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana) and Liz McMahon (Liberty Township, Ohio).
The outside hitters selected for the Pan Am Cup are Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Maryville, Illinois), Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio), Madi Kingdon (Phoenix, Arizona) and Sonja Newcombe (Lake Arrowhead, California). The middles are Rhamat Alhassan (Glenarden, Maryland), Molly McCage (Texas), Paige Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota) and Amber Rolfzen (Papillion, Nebraska). In total, six of the players – Carlini, Hancock, Courtney, Kingdon, Alhassan and Wong-Orantes – competed in the 2016 Pan Am Cup when the U.S. won bronze.
Team USA is part of Group A with matches against Venezuela on June 17, Colombia on June 18, Puerto Rico on June 19, Mexico on June 20 and Argentina on June 21. Group B includes Canada, Chile, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru and Trinidad & Tobago. After an off day on June 22, the quarterfinal round will take the second- and third-place teams from both groups and play crossover matches to determine which two teams will advance to the June 24 semifinals to join the respective pool winners. The tournament concludes on June 25 with the medal-round matches and other classification matches.
The U.S. roster for Pan American Cup blends mostly young talent with limited to no international experience to a couple athlete who have been with the team for a few years but not cracking the most elite tournament rosters. Carlini, Hancock, Courtney, Kingdon, Alhassan and Wong-Orantes all played at last year’s Pan Am Cup but have had little time training with the top U.S. team until this year. Meanwhile, Drews, McCage, Benson, Tapp, McMahon and Rolfzen all played their first international match just a few days ago as Team USA hosted Canada in a friendly match on June 13.
Having so much young talent in the gym gives Kiraly flashbacks to 2013 when the team had so many new faces and later played key roles later in the Olympic quad.
“This is a much more thorough experience for this team,” Kiraly said. “It reminds me of four years ago when Kim Hill had never been in the gym, same with Kelly Murphy and Rachael Adams. We had a number of people who were brand new and very quickly started figuring things out. The ultimate example was Kim Hill. After just a year and half with the team, Kim led us with an MVP performance to gold at the FIVB World Championship.”
The younger players are not the only ones having a chance to shine against Canada and later the Pan Am Cup. Bartsch and Newcombe have been in the Team USA gym in the past and have suited up in international tournaments for the U.S. Now they get a chance to provide a veteran presence while some of the top athletes who have competed in the Olympics are taking some time off this summer.
Even with the youth and new faces having such a big presence in the early going of the National Team’s training in Anaheim, Kiraly is excited about the possibilities the team can provide. And he would love nothing more to have rough decisions when the veterans return to the gym.
“We have a wide variety of people here,” Kiraly said. “And we are very excited about the chances for all of them. We would love nothing more than to see all of them crush it and hit and grand slam and make our choices difficult. We love to see them all develop hugely over the next few years.”
Kiraly was pleased with the tune-up performance against Canada in its recent friendly match on June 13 in San Juan Capistrano, California. The Americans won the match 3-0 and the teams agreed to play a bonus fourth set in which Team USA also won.
“There are some real positives,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said after the match. “We had a good, long six weeks training block before this and we did some nice things. With the stress of competition and a live crowd – some of our habits are harder to stay with, and so some of our habits broke down too. That is a great learning opportunity. But we had some positives in every phase of the game. Our passers were passing at a much higher level than they have in the last few weeks. So the work they have been putting in is really good. We didn’t serve in as much as we need to. We would like to serve in nine out of every 10 at least – 90 percent. We were really below that (82 percent). But the serves that went in caused some real problems for Canada.”
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for Pan Am Cup
# – Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
1 – Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)
4 – Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Nebraska, Cypress, California)
7 – Lauren Carlini (S, 6-1, Wisconsin, Aurora, Illinois)
9 – Madi Kingdon (OH, 6-1, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona)
11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-3, Purdue, Elkhart, Indiana)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Maryville, Illinois)
17 – Megan Courtney (OH, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
18 – Sonja Newcombe (OH, 6-1, Oregon, Lake Arrowhead, California)
16 – Molly McCage (M, 6-3, Texas, Spring, Texas)
20 – Amanda Benson (L, 5-7, Oregon, Litchfield Park, Arizona)
21 – Paige Tapp (M, 6-1, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
23 – Liz McMahon (OPP, 6-6, Illinois, Liberty Township, Ohio)
26 – Amber Rolfzen (M, 6-3, Nebraska, Papillion, Nebraska)
27 – Rhamat Alhassan (M, 6-4, Florida, Glenarden, Maryland)
Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue, Jon Newman-Gonchar
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans