COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 8, 2018) – They’re back!
The U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked second in the world, opens the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League May 15-17 in Lincoln, Nebraska, by having its seven active Olympians all back on the court together for the first time since earning bronze at the 2016 Rio Games.
The seven Olympians will form a solid core for the 14-player Volleyball Nations League roster which will compete at the Devaney Center on the University of Nebraska campus. Team USA hosts No. 22 Poland on May 15, followed by No. 12 Turkey on May 16 and No. 7 Italy on May 17. All three USA matches are scheduled for 7 p.m. CT after the conclusion of the non-USA match at 5 p.m.
Team USA will have two-time Olympic medalist and Nebraska Husker alum Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) serving as team captain. She will be joined at outside hitter by Olympians Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon) and Kelsey Robinson (Manhattan Beach, California), as well as Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Champaign, Illinois). Robinson also played her senior year of college with the Huskers.
“It is awesome playing close to home in Lincoln,” said Larson, who grew up about 45 minutes from Lincoln. “We had the 2016 Olympic Qualifier (in Lincoln), and it was such a great atmosphere. We are excited to come back and get another opportunity to play in front of the Husker fans.”
The U.S. roster will also be deep in the middle. Two-time Olympic medalist Foluke Akinradewo (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) and 2016 Olympian Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) will share time with Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) and Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota). Olympian Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois) and Annie Drews (Elkhart, Indiana) are the two opposites selected to the Volleyball Nations League opening week roster.
Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California), a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and the 2017 USA Volleyball Female Indoor Player of the Year, will be joined by Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma) at setter. The selected liberos are Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona) and Husker alum Justine Wong-Orantes (Cypress, California).
“This first section of the Volleyball Nations League is huge for us to get our crew back together and work out the kinks from everybody being out of the country (for their pro leagues),” Larson said. “I am excited for our chances, and I am excited to be back.”
Drews has had the opportunity play in Devaney Center, but as part of the visiting team with Purdue University. Now she is anxious to be part of the home team with the fans rooting her on.
“I have played in the Devaney Center a couple times in college,” Drews said. “I have won there, and lost there. I will say this, it is an intense environment. It is super fun, really loud. Nebraska is known to have loud and proud fans.”
Wong-Orantes has already played in many memorable matches inside the Devaney Center wearing Husker scarlet and cream, and now she gets the opportunity represent her country in the building wearing red, white and blue.
“It really is a cool atmosphere to be in,” Wong-Orantes said. “Every view in Devaney is an awesome view. I know the Nebraska fans will be pumped up. I don’t doubt them for a second that they will show up to watch USA.”
The FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) is in its first year replacing the long-standing FIVB World Grand Prix. The VNL has five consecutive weeks of preliminary round matches where 16 teams play in one of four round-robin pools each week around the world.
Per FIVB regulations, the roster can be changed each week of the preliminary round so long as the players were listed on the 21-player expanded roster. Each country must declare its 14-player roster two days before the start of each week’s round-robin competition.
The U.S. will embark on an extensive road trip for the rest of the Volleyball Nations League preliminary round. The Americans travel to Toyota, Japan, to face host and No. 6 Japan, No. 8 Netherlands and No. 13 Belgium in matches held May 22-24. For the third week, Team USA challenges No. 9 Dominican Republic, No. 13 Germany and No. 16 Thailand May 29-31 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Americans remain in Asia for week four, which will be one of the most anticipated pools on the schedule. The U.S. will face top-ranked China, No. 4 Brazil and No. 5 Russia June 5-7 in Jiangmen, China. Team USA concludes pool play June 12-14 in Sante Fe, Argentina, against the No. 3 Serbia, No. 10 Korea and No. 11 Argentina.
The Volleyball Nations League Final Round will be played June 27 to July 1 in Nanjing, China. The top five teams in the preliminary round will join China to form the six-team Final Round field.
Team USA finished the 2017 season with an 18-8 record in which many first- and second-year players saw success with expanded playing time. The U.S. did not play a single match with all seven of its returning Olympians on the roster as many took time off early in the season, while other veterans took additional time off during the season-ending tournament.
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League May 15-17
# – Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
1 – Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)
3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)
4 – Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Nebraska, Cypress, California)
5 – Rachael Adams (M, 6-2, Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio)
6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
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 – Kelly Murphy (OPP, 6-2, Florida, Wilmington, Illinois)
14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Champaign, Illinois)
15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Pepperdine, Portland, Oregon)
16 – Foluke Akinradewo (M, 6-3, Stanford, Plantation, Florida)
20 – Amanda Benson (L, 5-7, Oregon, Litchfield, Park, Arizona)
23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Manhattan Beach, California)
Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coaches: Luka Slabe, Tama Miyashiro, Erin Virtue
Technical Coordinator: Jeff Liu
Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans
Team Manager: Jimmy Stitz