Now that the international team season is over (Volleyball Nations League, FIVB World Championship), the players have joined their pro teams. Many of the best are in Italy, where the Italian Serie A1 leads the way. There are 14 teams and they include many American stars. Here is a preview of the women’s league:

Imoco Conegliano

Conegliano is the four-time defending championunder head coach Daniele Santarelli. Conegliano will be sporting several new faces this season as the Panthers seek to replace some legendary players. 

Paola Egonu, Miriam Sylla, and Raphaela Folie have all been mainstays of the team for several seasons, but all have found new clubs. There is no easy way to replace Egonu, but Swedish star Isabelle Haak is a good start. Haak returns to Italy for the first time since 2019 after three seasons at VakifBank in Turkey. Haak played a part in Imoco’s two losses in finals last year, the CEV Champions League and the Club World Championship. 

Canadian Alexa Gray and Kelsey Robinson Cook will compete at outside. Cook returns to Conegliano after playing for the club from 2015-2017. Gray, the second top-scoring outside hitter in the league last year, joins from Busto Arsizio. Alessia Gennari joins Imoco from Milano, competing alongside Gray, Cook, and former Stanford great Kathryn Plummer at outside hitter. Middle blockers Marina Lubian and Federica Squarcini will compete to replace Folie. Joanna Wolosz, Robin De Kruijf, and Monica De Gennaro all return as part of Conegliano’s infamous core group.

Departures: Egonu (VakifBank), Sylla (Milano), Folie (Milano), Megan Courtney (USA, inactive), Giorgia Frosini (Bergamo), Giulia Gennari (Bergamo), Hristina Vuchkova (BUL, China), Lara Caravello (Cuneo), Loveth Omoruyi (Busto Arsizio)
New: Roberta Carraro (Martignacco), Haak (SWE, Vakifbank), Robinson-Cook (USA , Queenseis), Gray (CAN, Busto Arsizio), Gennari (Milano), Lubian (Scandicci), Squarcini (Cuneo), Eleonora Furlan (Trentino), Ylenia Pericati (Pinerolo)
Returning: Plummer (USA), De Gennaro, Wolosz (POL), Sarah Fahr, De Kruijf (NED)

Milano (formerly Vero Volley Monza)

Milano finished second last year, its best season ever. The name may be a thing of the past, Vero Volley’s high ambitions will remain intact.

Milano has plenty of new players in Jordan Thompson, Sylla, Folie, Letizia Camera, Pauline Martin, and Jovana Stevanovic. Stevanovic returned to the Serbian national team this past summer and won the World Championship. Milano had tough departures, losing Jordan Larson and Anna Danesi. Sylla and the recovering Egina Begic (ACL) will attempt to fill Larson’s role. Magdalena Stysiak will face a new challenge this season as she is set to become an outside hitter as coach Marco Gaspari wants to explore the potential Thompson-Stysiak duo. Alessia Orro, Hanna Davyskiba, and Wisconsin great Dana Rettke return.

Departures: Anna Danesi (Novara), Jennifer Boldini (Brescia),  Lise Van Hecke (BEL, Hisamitsu Springs), Katarina Lazovic (SRB, Beijing), Alessia Gennari (Conegliano), Jordan Larson (USA, inactive), Katerina Zakchaiou (CYP, Busto Arsizio), Gaia Moretto (Trentino)
New: Thompson (USA, Eczacibasi), Camera (Scandicci), Martin (BEL, Charleroi Volley), Begic (BIH, Moscow), Sylla (Conegliano), Folie (Conegliano), Stevanovic (SRB, Busto Arsizio)
Returning: Orro, Rettke (USA), Stysiak (POL), Davyskiba (BEL), Sonia Candi, Beatrice Parrocchiale, Beatrice Negretti

Novara

Novara is the only team other than Conegliano in the last seven years to claim an A1 title, winning in 2016. Last season was disappointing, however, as Novara bowed out in the semifinals. Olympic champion Jordyn Poulter will run the offense for Stefano Lavarini’s team. Anna Danesi will join national team teammate Christina Chirichella in the middle. Danesi was the best blocker in A1 last season, recording 104 blocks. Novara will be searching for offense as both Britt Herbots and Nika Daalderop have departed. American McKenzie Adams, Cuban Kenia Carcaces, and Italian Gaia Giovannini will be responsible for their replacement alongside mainstay Caterina Bosetti. Adams was previously an A1 champion with Conegliano in 2021. Italian youth national team standout Julia Ituma will compete with Ebrar Karakurt at opposite. Two other significant departures will be that of Micha Hancock and Haleigh Washington, two Olympic champions that have spent two-plus years with the team. Eleonora Fersino will return at libero to anchor the back row.

Departures: Herbots (BEL, Firenze), Daalderop (NED, VakiFbank), Rosamaria (BRA , Busto Arsizio), Sofia D’Odorico (Vallefoglia), Washington (USA, Scandicci)
New: Poulter (USA, Busto Arsizio), Ituma (Club Italia), Adams (USA, Eczacibasi), Giovannini (Cuneo), Danesi (Milano), Carcaces (CUB, Vallefoglia), Lucia Varela (Gran Canaria), Giulia Bresciani (Macerata)
Returning: Karakurt (TUR), Bosetti, Fersino, Chirichella, Sara Bonifacio, Ilaria Battistoni
Zhu Ting signs with Scandicci/Scandicci Del Bene

Scandicci

Scandicci also made a semifinal exit last season and responded by bringing in the biggest signing of the year, Chinese Olympic champion Zhu Ting. Zhu is known as one of the best players in the world but is coming off a wrist injury that has left her unable to play since the Tokyo Olympics. If one Olympic champion was not enough, Scandicci has brought in another with Haleigh Washington. The need for more offense was a common theme with Scandicci’s transfers as they also brought in Camila Mingardi, who may convert to be an outside hitter, and Yvon Belien at middle blocker. Ofelia Malinov will return to set while young sensation Ekaterina Antropova will return to play opposite. Brenda Castillo, the legendary Dominican libero, will resume her role. Italian national team member Elena Pietrini will compete with a crowded outside hitter core with Zhu, Mingardi, Yana Shcherban, and Indre Sorokaite.

Departures: Camera (Milano), Louisa Lippmann (GER , beach), Natalia (BRA – Moscow), Hanna Orthmann (GER, THY), Ana Beatriz (BRA, Kuzeyboru), Lubian (Conegliano)
New: Zhu (CHN), Washington (USA), Belien (NED), Mingardi, Yana Shcherban (RUS), Isabella Di Iulio, Ludovica Guidi
Returning: Malinov, Antropova (RUS), Indre Sorokaite, Elena Pietrini, Veronica Angeloni, Sara Alberti, Castillo (DOM), Enrica Merlo

Busto Arsizio 

Busto Arsizio has potentially the most difficult job of any team in the league, replacing most of its core players. Not many teams lost as much as the “Butterflies.”

Busto Arsizio had to replace Poulter, Gray, Mingardi, and Stevanovic, who were some of their most important players in the past few seasons. Carli Lloyd, who won Busto Arsizio’s only league title in 2012, returns to the club. Rosamaria, Olympic and World silver medalist, will be responsible for replacing some of the offense lost. Rosamaria was the second-leading scorer in the shortened Covid season with Casalmaggiore and will look to regain that form. Alice Degradi, Lena Stigrot, and Loveth Omoruyi will compete at the outside hitter position. Degradi is coming off one of the best seasons of her career, which earned her an invite to the Italian national team. Giudetta Lualdi and Zakchaiou will join Valentina Colombo and Rossella Olivotto in the middle. Completing the roster will be Giorgia Zannoni, who solidified her role as libero last season.

Departures: Poulter (USA , Novara), Gray (CAN, Conegliano), Stevanovic (SRB – Milano), Mingardi (Scandicci), Lucia Bosetti (Cukurova), Adelina Ungureanu (ROM, Pinerolo), Liset Herrera Blanco (CUB. PAOK)
New: Rosamaria (BRA, Novara), Lloyd (USA , Athletes Unlimited), Degradi (Cuneo), Stigrot (GER, Roma), Omoruyi (Conegliano), Lualdi (Futura Volley Busto Arsizio), Zakchaiou (CYP, Milano)
Returning Players: Zannoni, Chiara Bressan, Olivotto, Colombo, Valeria Battista, Sofia Monza

Chieri

Chieri is a team on the rise and had bettered or equaled its performance from the previous year each season since joining A1.

Returning to Chieri will be one of the best unknown outside hitters, Helena Cazaute. Cazaute was the third-best passing OH last season, behind Larson and Courtney-Lush. Chieri has brought in several exciting players, including Texas All-American Brionne Butler, who will make her debut in the league. She will be joined by the best scorer last year in the Polish League, OH Olivia Rozanski, and two-time defending German league MVP opposite Maja Storck. Storck will play alongside newly named captain Kaja Grobelna at opposite, while Rozanski will compete with Cauzaute and Francesca Villani. Francesca Bosio will return to set, while standout German middle blocker Camila Weitzel will also return. Departing Chieri were two Americans, Ali Frantti and Rhamat Alhassan, who both played key roles last year. Libero Ilaria Spirito comes from Cuneo to replace Chiara De Bortoli, who had been with the team for three seasons.

Departures: Frantti (USA, Casalmaggiore), Alhassan (USA , Firenze), De Bortoli (Casalmaggiore), Yagmur Karaoglu (TUR, Fatum Nyiregyhaza), Elena Perinelli (Casalmaggiore)
New: Rozanski (POL, Legionovia), Storck (SUI, Dresdner), Rachele Morello (Brescia), Stella Nervini (Club Italia), Fatim Kone (Bergamo), Marie-France Garreau (FRA, Gran Canaria), Spirito (Cuneo).
Returning: Alessia Fini, Weitzel (GER), Villani, Groblena (BEL), Bosio

Cuneo

Cuneo also faces a transition year but has high expectations. Cuneo finished last season in seventh place, its highest finish ever and returns its top scorer in Lucille Gicquel. Setter Noemi Signorile will play her third season for Cuneo, and Louisville star Anna Stevenson-Hall and Greta Szakmary will join after both played last year in Aydin. Stevenson-Hall joins after playing the summer with the USA national team for the first time. Szakmary, All-American Dani Drews, and Sofya Kuznetsova will look to replace the offense lost through Degradi. Lara Caravello will look to rise to an A1 level libero after being a reserve for Conegliano previously.

Departures: Degradi (Busto Arsizio), Giovannini (Novara), Marrit Jasper (NED, Nantes), Squarcini (Conegliano), Federica Stufi (Bergamo), Spirito (Chieri)
New: Stevenson-Hall (USA, Aydin), Szakmary (HUN, Aydin), Drews (USA, Athletes Unlimited), Caravello (Conegliano), Agnese Cecconello (Roma), Francesca Magazza (Montecchio), Bintu Diop (Perugia), Kim Klein Lankhorst (NED, Team 22 NED)
Returning: Signorile, Gicquel (FRA), Kuznetsova (RUS), Camilla Basso, Sara Caruso, Alice Gay

Firenze

Firenze is looking to make a splash in the league and will do so through Britt Herbots. Herbots, one of the best outside hitters in the world, joins after a rocky season in Novara. Only three outsider hitters have scored more than Herbots since she entered the league in 2018. She will join fellow Belgium Celine Van Gestel, who will play her third season for Firenze. Firenze will sport a powerful middle duo as Florida standout Rhamat Alhassan joins Amandha Marine Sylves. Alhassan was the second-most terminal middle blocker last season. Firenze’s top scorer last season, Sylvia Nwakalor, also will return to the team. Nwakalor will look to join Herbots as a strong 1-2 punch for setter Carlotta Cambi.

Departures: Belien (NED, Scandicci)
New: Herbots (BEL, Novara), Alhassan (USA, Chieri), Anna Adelusi (Club Italia), Silvia Lotti (Sant’Elia), Dayana Kosoreva (Vallefoglia), Gaia Guiducci (Perugia)
Returning: Cambi, Nwakalor, Terry Enweonwu, Van Gestel (BEL), Jolien Knollema (NED), Sylves (FRA), Emma Graziani, Sara Panetoni, Bianca Lapini

Vallefoglia

Vallefoglia finished ninth in its debut season last year. The legendary Tatiana Kosheleva will return from injury to lead the team again and will have many new faces around her, including Olympic-champion Micha Hancock and World Champion Maja Aleksic. Penn State’s Hancock is a five-time Italian league best server. Vallefoglia will feature two new opposites as Merete Lutz, the former Stanford standout, and Vittoria Piani have joined the club. Outside hitter Sofia D’Ordorico has also joined, seeking more playing time after a disappointing season in Novara.

Departures: Sinead Jack (TTO, Eczacibasi), Kaisa Alanko (FIN, Paris SC), Ana Bjelica (SRB, Targoviste), Carcaces (CUB, Novara), Sonja Newcombe (USA, retired), Kosareva (Firenze), Alexandra Botezat (Futura Volley Busto Arsizio), Viola Tonello (Futura Volley Busto Arsizio), Silvia Fiori (Macerata), Giada Cecchetto (Bergamo), Francesca Scola (Casalmaggiore)
New: Giulia Carraro (Volero Le Cannet), Hancock (USA, Novara), Aleksic (SRB, Volero Le Cannet), Piani (Trentino), Lutz (USA, Kurobe), D’Odorico (Novara), Valeria Papa (Potsdam), Melissa Martinelli (Macerata), Beatrice Berti (Trentino), Imma Sirressi (Perugia), Emma Barbero (Club Italia)
Returning: Kosheleva (RUS), Giulia Mancini

Perugia

Perugia, fighting off relegation after finishing 10th, brought in  Americans Tori Dilfer and Stephanie Samedy. Samedy, the former Minnesota great opposite, started her professional career in Germany last spring while Louisville setter Dilfer played in Athletes Unlimited. They will play alongside newcomers Alexandra Lazic, Tessa Polder, and Beatrice Gardini. Polder was named the MVP and the best middle blocker of the French league last season. Perugia’s top scorer from last season, Anastasia Guerra, returns as one of the key players this season. Other main contributors, Bintu Diop, Helena Havelkova, and Laura Melandri, have departed.

Departures: Britt Bongaerts (NED, Stuttgart), Guiducci (Firenze), Monika Galkowska (POL, Bydgoszcz), Bintu Diop (Cuneo), Giulia Melli (Roma), Helena Havelkova (CZE, beach), Laura Melandri (Casalmaggiore), Christina Bauer (FRA – Venelles), Imma Sirressi (Vallefoglia)
New: Dilfer (USA, Athletes Unlimited), Giorgia Avenia (Roma), Samedy (USA , Schwerin), Anamarija Galic (Branik), Beatrice Gardini (Sassuolo), Lazic (SWE – Radom), Polder (NED – Volero Le Cannet), Benedetta Bartolini (Scandicci), Martina Armini (Club Italia)
Returning: Claudia Provaroni, Guerra, Linda Nwakalor, Chiara Rumori
Lauren Carlini with Scandicci in 2018/ Filippo Rubin photo

Casalmaggiore

Casalmaggiore will not only look to avoid relegation after finishing 11th last year, but also hope to return to the form that saw it win the Italian league in 2015. Casalmaggiore signed former Wisconsin great and USA setter Lauren Carlini and Penn State’s Ali Frantti, who had a great season with the USA. In Carlini’s first season in Italy in 2018 she led Scandicci to its best finish ever at the time. Emiliya Dimitrova and Juliet Lohuis are new. Dimitrova joins after being one of the top scorers in the Turkish league for PTT.

Departures: Marta Bechis (Roma), Erica Di Maulo (retired/inactive), Polina Rahimova (AZE, Kuzeyboru), Shcherban (RUS, Scandicci), Kinga Szucs (HUN, Bydgoszcz), Guidi (Scandicci), M’Kaela White (USA, CSO Voluntari), Martina Ferrera (Roma)
New: Carlini (USA, THY), Dimitrova (BUL, PTT), Scola (Vallefoglia), Elena Perinelli (Chieri), Rebecca Piva (Brescia), Frantti (USA, Chieri), Juliet Lohuis (NED, Stuttgart), Laura Melandri (Perugia), Benedetta Sartori (Futura Volley Busto Arsizio), De Bortoli (Chieri)
Returning: Adhu Malual, Elena Braga, Linda Mangini

Bergamo

Bergamo’s goal for this season will also be to avoid relegation after finishing 12th, the final safe spot. USC great Khalia Lanier returns to lead the offense and the team. Lanier was the top scoring outside hitter in the league last year. She joins fellow All-American Mac May of UCLA, who is looking to grow on her first pro experience last spring with Bergamo. Bergamo will try to take note from champion Conegliano as they have signed setter Giulia Gennari and opposite Giorgia Frosini from the Panthers. Federica Stufi will look to be a key contributor in the middle alongside Bozana Butigan, who returns for her second season. Opposite Lorrayna ventures to Europe for the first time, after a successful season with Barueri in Brazil and a debut with the Brazilian national team.

Departures: Isabella Di Iulio (Scandicci), Ana Paula Borgo (BRA, unknown), Francesca Marcon (unknown), Sara Loda (Aydin), Kone (Chieri), Daniela Ohman (FIN, unknown), Alicia Ogoms (CAN, TFOC), Marie Scholzel (GER, Stuttgart), Giorgia Farone (Messina)
New: Gennari (Conegliano), Lorrayna (BRA, Barueri), Laura Partenio (Venelles), Laura Bovo (CDA Talmassons), Stufi (Cuneo), Giada Cecchetto (Vallefoglia)
Returning: Sofia Turla, May (USA), Lanier (USA), Emma Cagnin, Butigan (CRO), Luna Ciola

Pinerolo

Pinerolo debuts in A1 after winning A2 last season. Adelina Ungunearnu and Vittoria Prandi will lead the way. Ungureanu has played in A1 for the past three years with Busto Arsizio and Cuneo. Prandi led Pinerolo in their promotion efforts last season and will return to A1 after previously playing for Bergamo and Busto Arsizio. Veronika Trnkova was one of the top-scoring middle blockers last year for Roma.

New: Laura Bortoli (Montecchio), Sofia Renieri (Olbia), Martyna Grajber (POL, LKS Lodz), Ungureanu (ROM – Busto Arsizio), Trnkova (CZE – Roma), Ilenia Moro (Trentino)
Returning: Prandi, Valentina Zago, Federica Carletti, Silvia Bussoli, Anna Gray, Yasmina Akrari, Michelle Gueli

Macerata

Macerata won the A2 promotional playoff last season to earn their place in A1. This will be Macerata’s first season in A1 ever as well. Northwestern’s Symone Abbott will be one of their headlining players as she returns to A1, previously playing for Modena in 2018. Akuabata Okenwa will continue with Macerata after being their top scorer last season. Liberos Silvia Fiori and Francesca Napodono played in A1 last year and will use that valuable experience to help the team this season. Aleksandra Lipska (Chemik Police) will join Abbott as one of the more experienced players on the roster.

New: Nikol Milanova (BUL, Fatum Nyiregyhaza), Abbott (USA, AO Thiras), Lipska (POL, Chemik Police), Giorgia Quarchioni (Soverato), Beatrice Molinaro (Mondovi), Aurora Poli (Catania), Fiori (Vallefoglia), Napodono (Scandicci)
Returning: Maria Ricci, Okenwa (USA), Polina Malik, Alessia Fiesoli, Francesca Cosi

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