COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 27, 2023) – The U.S. Women’s National Team moved into first place in the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) preliminary round with a thrilling 3-2 (17-25, 25-15, 27-25, 28-30, 16-14) victory over Poland in Suwon, Korea. Poland entered the contest in first place.
The U.S. Women (8-1), which entered the final week of preliminary round play as the No. 1 team in the world, return to the court at 11:30 p.m. PT against Bulgaria (2-7).
Outside hitter Kelsey (Robinson) Cook made her 2023 VNL debut a memorable one, scoring the winning point and sharing the team lead with opposite Annie Drews with 20 points. Cook finished with 17 points and three blocks, while Drews paced the U.S. squad with 18 kills, adding a block and service ace.
“I thought we took it point by point and we were really patient with a lot of block touches. Our blockers did an amazing job and allowed our defense to play, and then when we had the swing, we took it,” Cook said about rallying from a four-point deficit in the final set, in which she recorded five kills, including the match-saving point at 13-14.
Middle blocker Dana Rettke, who finished with 13 points (10 kills, three blocks) added three kills in the fifth set, including a kill on an overpass at 14-14. Outside hitter Ali Frantti recorded 12 kills and middle blocker Haleigh Washington totaled 10 points, including a team-high five blocks.
“I thought we were super solid on the block, easy to read behind and play defense. I feel like that is going to be a motto for us moving forward,” Cook said. The U.S. finished with 13 blocks, including 12 over the final four sets.
Captain and libero Justine Wong-Orantes totaled 23 digs with Cook and Frantti each adding 10.
After being outblocked 5-1 in the opening set, the U.S. turned it around and finished with a 6-0 advantage in the second set. The U.S. led 16-12 in the second set before using a 5-1 run to pull away. Washington recorded a kill and two blocks to account for three of the five points.
“We have a different group every time we step out on the court, so it is just about finding our rhythm. It might take a little bit longer, but I thought we did a really nice job of settling in when we did. We have a lot more to go,” Cook aadded.
The third set was back and forth with neither team leading by more than three points. With the score tied 25-25, a Frantti kill gave the U.S. Women the lead and Cook followed with a kill to win the set.
The U.S. rallied from a 22-17 deficit in the fourth set and fought off two match points on kills by Cook to tie the set 24-24. The U.S. had three match points before Poland eventually took the set to continue the match.
The U.S. dropped five consecutive points to fall behind 7-3 in the final set, but scored seven of the next 10 points, three by Cook, to even the set at 10. The U.S. did not lead until Rettke’s kill made it 15-14.
Volleyball Nations League is the world’s premier annual international indoor volleyball tournament. The top 16 teams in the world play four matches a week for three weeks of preliminary competition. The top eight teams at the end of the preliminaries will go to the Final Round
The United States will host the 2023 Women’s VNL Final Round on July 12-16 at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas, which means the U.S. automatically qualifies.
Get tickets for the final round at tickets.volleyballworld.com/arlington.
U.S. Women’s Preliminary Roster for 2023 VNL
No. Name (Pos., Ht., Hometown, College, USAV Region)
1 Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Edmond, Okla., Penn State Univ., Oklahoma)
4 Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Cypress, Calif., Univ. of Nebraska, Southern California)
5 Ali Frantti (OH, 6-1, Spring Grove, Ill., Penn State, Great Lakes)
6 Morgan Hentz (L, 5-9, Lakeside Park, Ky., Stanford Univ., Pioneer)
7 Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, Aurora, Ill., Univ. of Wisconsin, Great Lakes)
8 Brionne Butler (MB, 6-4, Kendleton, Texas, Univ. of Texas, Lone Star)
11 Annie Drews (Opp, 6-4, Elkhart, Ind., Purdue Univ., Hoosier)
12 Jordan Thompson (Opp, 6-4, Edina, Minn., Univ. of Cincinnati, North Country)
14 Anna Stevenson Hall (MB, 6-2, Laurens S.C., Univ. of Louisville, Palmetto)
15 Haleigh Washington (MB, 6-3, Colorado Springs, Colo., Penn State Univ., Rocky Mountain)
16 Dana Rettke (MB, 6-8, Riverside, Ill., Univ. of Wisconsin, Great Lakes)
18 Kara Bajema (OH, 6-2, Lynden, Wash., Univ. of Washington, Puget Sound)
22 Kathryn Plummer (OH, 6-6, Aliso Viejo, Calif., Stanford, Southern California)
23 Kelsey (Robinson) Cook (OH, 6-2, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Univ. of Nebraska, Southern California)
Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coach: Tama Miyashiro
Second Assistant Coaches: Alfee Reft, Erin Virtue
Performance Analyst: Rianne Verhoek
Physical Therapist/Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans
Team Doctor: Eugene Yim
Team Manager: Coley Pawlikowski
Sports Dietitian: Shawn Hueglin
U.S. Women’s Schedule for the 2023 VNL
All matches will be broadcast on volleyballworld.tv
Week 1 at Antalya, Türkiye
May 31: USA def. Serbia 3-2 (25-20, 19-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-12)
June 2: USA def. Italy 3-2 (25-16, 14-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-9)
June 3: USA def. Korea 3-0 (25-16, 27-25, 25-11)
June 4: USA def. Türkiye 3-2 (25-22, 25-22, 22-25, 11-25, 15-9)
Week 2 at Brasilia, Brazil
June 13 USA def. Croatia 3-1 (17-22, 25-22, 25-18, 25-15)
June 15 USA def. Thailand 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-16)
June 17 Japan def. USA 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 23-25, 15-6)
June 18 USA def Brazil 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-22)
Week 3 (all times PT) at Suwon, Korea
June 27 USA def Poland 3-2 (17-25, 25-15, 27-25, 28-30, 16-14)
June 28 at 11:30 p.m. USA vs Bulgaria
July 1 at 1:30 a.m. USA vs Germany
July 2 at 1:30 a.m. USA vs China
Final Round on July 12-16 at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas