ANAHEIM, Calif. (June 12, 2017) – The U.S. Women’s National Team has announced its 14-player roster for its June 13 international friendly with Canada as both teams prepare for the upcoming Pan American Cup being staged June 17-25 in Peru.
Team USA will host Canada at JSerra Cathlolic High School at 7 p.m. PT in San Juan Capistrano, California. Tickets are $7 for kids 10-and-under and adults 60-and-over, or $10 for everyone in between.
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 Canada match 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), Hannah Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota), Paige Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota) and Amber Rolfzen (Papillion, Nebraska).
“We are beginning week seven, and we are really excited,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said about the start of the National Team season. “It has been a really good training block to get people more on the same page. We got to play four Red-Blue matches during that time. Now the next step is that we get to play a different country across the net. We are really excited to get after it against Canada, and a couple days later to depart for Peru to begin our first tournament of the cycle, the Pan American Cup.”
Kiraly said that instead of playing an early season tournament in May or early June, the ability to train together for six weeks has been invaluable to the team’s development.
“Sometimes we play a tournament like Montreux, but this year we opted not to just because we know we have so many young players,” Kiraly said. “We wanted the players to have a better initiation, a more thorough indoctrination into what we are trying to do and how we go about our business.”
With 30 athletes in the Team USA gym located in Anaheim, California – host city for the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams – there has been no shortage of competition. In addition to the 14 players playing against Canada and heading to Pan American Cup later this week, 16 other athletes are in the gym training and preparing for the FIVB World Grand Prix that starts in early July.
“It is always good to have people pushing each other – pushing each other on the same side of the net, and honoring each other by competing really hard across the net,” Kiraly said. “We have lots of new faces in here, people who have spent very little time in here.”
The U.S. roster for the Canada match, as well as the roster that will head to the Pan American Cup later this week, blends mostly young talent with zero international experience to some with limited training and a couple who have been with the team for a few years but not cracking the most elite tournament rosters. Carlini and Hancock, who played at last year’s Pan Am Cup but have had little time training with the top U.S. team, 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 both Lauren and Micha, along with many others in their same shoes,” Kiraly said. “People who have never really been here before. 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.
“We have some players who are taking some time off, and have earned that right,” Kiraly said. “In that position, people like Jordan Larson, Kim Hill, Kelsey Robinson, Rachael Adams – this is really a big year for recharging, recovery, regeneration, both physically and mentally. As a result, it is a really exciting year of opportunity for others in that position, whether it is someone like Michelle Bartsch or Sonja Newcombe who have some experience here, or others who have had less experience such as Megan Courtney or Madi Kingdon who played at Pan Am Cup last year but who haven’t really had much experience in our gym. Or like Sarah Wilhite, who just came off a college player of the year performance and another very strong season at Minnesota with Hugh McCutcheon.”
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.”
The Pan Am Cup, slated for June 17-25, 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 12-team Pan American Cup has two six-team preliminary round pools that will play a full round-round schedule.
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.
In just over three weeks, the U.S. Women will embark on its FIVB World Grand Prix schedule that takes them to China in the first two rounds, followed by Brazil to conclude the nine-match, three weekend preliminary schedule. In their opening weekend, the Americans face powerhouses No. 5 Russia, No. 8 Italy and No. 1 China in Kunshan, China from July 7-9. The U.S. preliminary schedule doesn’t get easier July 16-18 in Macau as it has rematches with China and Italy after a match-up against improving Turkey, ranked No. 12 in the world. To end the nine-match preliminary schedule, the Americans travel to Cuiaba, Brazil, to face No. 7 Netherlands, No. 16 Belgium and Brazil. Should the U.S. earn a spot in the top five, the Americans will advance to the Final Round in Nanjing, China.
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster for June 13 vs Canada
# – 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)
19 – Hannah Tapp (M, 6-2, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
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