The U.S. Women’s National Team opened the 2023 Volleyball Nations League (VNL) by winning a battle with world No. 1 Serbia 3-2 (25-20, 19-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-12) on Wednesday in Antalya, Türkiye
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 2, 2023) – The U.S. Women’s National Team found itself in a 2-1 hole for the second straight match but once again battled back for a five-set victory, this time over world No. 2 Italy (25-16, 14-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-9) on Friday in Antalya, Türkiye.
The U.S. Women (2-0) face Korea on Saturday morning at 7 a.m. PT. Korea is 0-2 after losing to both Türkiye and Canada in straight sets.
U.S. Head Coach Karch Kiraly changed his starting lineup a bit for the second match of the season. He stayed with setter Micha Hancock, outside hitter Khalia Lanier, opposite Annie Drews and middle blocker Dana Rettke. On the outside, he brought in Roni Jones-Perry instead of first-match starter Avery Skinner, and Asjia O’Neal started at middle instead of Brionne Butler. Morgan Hentz replaced Justine Wong Orantes at libero.
The new lineup dominated in set one, but Italy stepped up its level of play to take sets two and three. The U.S. had a big lead early in set four, but Italy came back to tie it at 17 before the U.S. pulled away. In the deciding set, the U.S. also jumped out to a quick lead, but this time it never relinquished it.
Hancock was impressed by the tenacity of the entire team during another five-set match.
“We like to say 14 strong,” she said. “Everyone was ready to come off the bench. We have a relentless attitude when we’re all together. It’s really fun to see a bunch of young girls let it rip.”
Five players scored in double figures in the balanced U.S. attack.
Lanier led the team with 16 points on 13 kills, two blocks and an ace. Perry scored 15 on a team-high 14 kills and one block. Rettke tallied 14 points on 11 kills, two blocks and an ace, and Annie Drews scored 12 points on 12 kills.
O’Neal, who had a couple key blocks in the match, scored 11 points on seven kills, three blocks and an ace. Hancock had a kill and a block and set the team to a .309 hitting efficiency.
Hancock also praised the play of the VNL newcomers.
“They just have big arms,” she said. “My job’s sort of easy, I will say ‘hey’ and I’ll say their name, and then ‘go get it!’
“There was a ball that Asjia blocked, and I got the chills,” she continued. “I [thought] ‘am I getting old? Is that a thing?’”
Hentz was credited with 17 digs and three successful receptions.
Kiraly echoed Hancock, saying how impressed he’s been with the “grit” of the team.
“Two straight matches where we were down 2-1 and come back to tie it and then come out strong in the fifth to close it out,” he said. “And those are two very good teams: Serbia, current world champion, and Italy, the team that beat us for bronze in the world championship. Of course, those teams are missing a few players, as is Team USA. But our young people are holding up really well.
“I just love, love most of all how we’re battling and staying in it, even after a tough set two, where we got beat by a big margin,” he continued “We came back strong, and again, I’m impressed with the young people who until this week never played FIVB level volleyball.”
Italy edged the U.S. in kills (60-58), digs (92-91) and aces (4-3), and the two teams each had nine blocks. The U.S. Women scored 31 points on Italy’s errors and gave up 22.
VNL matches are livestreamed in the United States on VolleyballWorld.tv.
U.S. Women’s Roster for 2023 VNL Preliminary Round 1
No. Name (Pos., Ht., Hometown, College, USAV Region)
1C 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)
6 Morgan Hentz (L, 5-9, Lakeside Park, Ky., Stanford Univ., Pioneer)
8 Brionne Butler (MB, 6-4, Kendleton, Texas, Univ. of Texas, Lone Star)
11 Annie Drews (Opp, 6-4, Elkhart, Ind., Purdue Univ., Hoosier)
16 Dana Rettke (MB, 6-8, Riverside, Ill., Univ. of Wisconsin, Great Lakes)
20 Danielle Cuttino (Opp, 6-4, Indianapolis, Ind., Purdue, Hoosier)
25 Brooke Nuneviller (OH, 5-11, Chandler, Ariz., Univ. of Oregon, Arizona)
26 Asjia O’Neal (MB, 6-3, Southlake, Texas, Univ. of Texas, North Texas)
27 Avery Skinner (OH, 6-1, Katy, Texas, Baylor, Lone Star)
28 Ashley Evans (S, 6-1, Liberty Township, Ohio, Purdue, Ohio Valley)
29 Khalia Lanier (OH, 6-2, Scottsdale, Ariz., Univ. of Southern California, Arizona)
31 Roni Jones-Perry (OH, 6-0, West Jordan, Utah, BYU, Intermountain)
36 Madeleine Gates (MB, 6-3, San Diego, Calif., Stanford, 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: James Suchy
Team Manager: Coley Pawlikowski
U.S. Women’s Schedule for the 2023 VNL
All matches will be broadcast on volleyballworld.tv
Week 1 (all times PT) 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 at 7 a.m. USA vs Korea
June 4 at 10 a.m. USA vs Türkiye
Week 2 at Brasilia, Brazil
June 13 at 1:30 p.m. USA vs Croatia
June 15 at 10 a.m. USA vs Thailand
June 17 at 1:30 p.m. USA vs Japan
June 18 at 6 a.m. USA vs Brazil
Week 3 at Suwon, Korea
June 27 at 11:30 p.m. USA vs Poland
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