Foreign players no small influence in this year’s NCAA volleyball tourney

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NCAA foreign players 12/6/2019-Nika Markovic-Pitt volleyball
Nika Markovic, from Slovenia, is one of four foreign players on Pittsburgh's team/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

St. John’s, which pushed Texas A&M to the limit for two sets on Thursday before getting swept in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, could have been the sports ambassador for volleyball foreign relations. 

That’s because St. John’s had 10 foreign players on its roster this season, led by Greek sophomore star Efrosini Alexakou. One of her teammates, Ariadni Kathariou, is also from Thessaloniki, Greece, and they have two teammates from the Czech Republic, two from Italy, and one each from Columbia, Germany, Japan and Serbia.

While St. John’s is in New York, American University is in another international city, Washington, D.C, and seven of the Eagles are foreign. That includes Zeynep Uzen, who led AU in offense all season, and Turkish teammate Asli Celikkol. They had teams from Israel, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and Canada.

We were curious to see just how many players from other countries are in this year’s 64-team NCAA Tournament. You could also wonder that since the USA women have never won an Olympic gold medal, how many Division I college spots are going to foreigners, with domestic scholarship money training our competitors.

There are 74 foreign players in the NCAA field, representing 28 countries. Well, really 27, because we’re counting Puerto Rico (even though it’s in America) because they’re fast becoming one of our most challenging NORCECA rivals.

Canada leads the list with 12 players, followed by Italy (7), Greece (6, four from the city of Thessaloniki alone), Puerto Rico (6), Serbia (5), and Germany (4).

Is there a trend towards using foreign players? Are there more foreign freshmen than seniors? Of our 74 foreign players, we found 21 seniors, 17 juniors, 13 sophomores, and 23 freshmen.

Of the 64 teams in the championship field, 28 have foreign players on their roster. Seven teams have four or more: St. John’s (10), American (7), Cincinnati (5), Missouri (4), Pitt (4), Towson (4), and Washington State (4).

Remember, too, that there are another 268 Division I teams not listed here. Rutgers, for example, had eight foreign players this season, four from Russia alone.

Here are some others:

Cincinnati has two Greek players, two Serbian players, and a Norwegian player.

Missouri’s roster contains three Puerto Ricans and a Chinese player.

Pittsburgh has players from Canada, Greece, Puerto Rico, and Slovenia.

Towson has players from Canada, Greece, Italy, and Serbia.

One of the last four teams in, Washington State has players from the Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico, and Poland.

The top four seeds are primarily American.

Top-seeded Baylor has two foreign players, Canadian Gabby Brown and Marieke van der Mark from the Netherlands, while No. 3 Stanford has Sidney Wilson. There are no foreign players on second-seeded Texas and No. 4 Wisconsin.

The other teams in this year’s NCAA tourney relying solely upon domestic talent are Marquette, Wright State, Purdue, Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, South Carolina, Nebraska, Ball State, UNI, UCLA, Notre Dame, Illinois State, Georgia, Cal Poly, BYU, Howard, Creighton, UCF, Western Kentucky, and Texas State.

There are 10 players that have competed on their respective foreign countries’ senior national teams, 18 with junior national programs.

On the senior national teams, American’s Olivia Wassner, a junior setter, competes for Switzerland. Colorado State’s Paulina Hougaard-Jensen plays for Denmark. Hawai’i kills-leader Hanna Helvig, a freshman outside, has competed for Sweden in 13 senior matches, 35 youth. Iowa State’s Candelaria Herrera spends her off-season with the Argentinian national team, earning a 2019 Pan Am bronze medal.

Minnesota junior outside Airi Miyabe hails from Osaka and competes for Japan. Cincinnati freshman outside Karoline Fauske plays for the Norwegian senior team.

Texas A&M’s Camila Gomez, a senior libero, has competed for Colombia for eight years, including being named best libero at this year’s Pan Am games — not to be confused with Winthrop’s sophomore outside Camila Gomez, who competes on the Chilean U23 squad after transferring from Georgia Southern last year.

USC’s sophomore setter Raquel Lazaro hails from Cordoba, Spain, having competed for the Spanish national team for seven years. Utah’s Kinga Windisch, a junior outside from Budapest, Hungary, has spent time with the senior Croatian national team.

Washington State’s Jocelyn Urias has been a member of the Mexican national team for three years.

Washington State’s Joecyln Urias is from Mexico/Ed Chan, VBshots.com
Name School Country Position Class
Noa Brach Albany Germany MB Fr
Helena Elbaek American Denmark OH Jr.
Inbal Peleg American Israel S Fr.
Chiara Bosetti American Italy OH Jr.
Aleksandra Sochacka American Poland OH Sr.
Olivia Wassner American Switzerland S Jr.
Zeynep Uzen American Turkey OH Fr.
Asli Celikkol American Turkey OH Fr.
Gabby Brown Baylor Canada L/DS Fr.
Marieke van der Mark Baylor Netherlands RS So.
Chrysanthi Stamatiou Cincinnati Greece OH/RS Jr.
Dimitra Tziarli Cincinnati Greece MB R-Fr
Karoline Fauske Cincinnati Norway OH/RS Fr.
Nevena Santrac Cincinnati Serbia Middle R-Fr
Damjana Cabarkapa Cincinnati Serbia MB R-So.
Paulina Hougaard-Jensen Colorado State Denmark MB/Opp Sr.
Sasha Colombo Colorado State Italy MB/Opp So.
Irina Alekseeva Dayton Russia OH/RS Jr.
Katarina Marinkovic Denver Serbia OH Sr.
Nya Jones Fairfield Canada MB Fr.
Sonja Radulovic Fairfield Canada OH Sr.
Manuela Nicolini Fairfield Italy S Sr.
Tiffany Westerberg Hawaii Canada OH/MB Fr.
Hanna Hellvig Hawaii Sweden OH Fr.
Bruna Vrankovic Illinois Croatia OH R-Fr.
Candelaria Herrera Iowa State Argentina MB Jr.
Katarina Glavinic Michigan Croatia OPP Sr.
Katerina Rocafort Michigan Puerto Rico S Sr.
Tamara Dolonga Minnesota Croatia S Fr.
Airi Miyabe Minnesota Japan OH Jr.
Sun Wenting Missouri China OH Sr.
Leandra Mangual-Duran Missouri Puerto Rico OH Fr.
Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana Missouri Puerto Rico OH/RS Jr.
Andrea Fuentes Missouri Puerto Rico S R-So.
Savannah Davison NM State Canada OH R-So.
Megan Hart NM State Canada MB R-Sr.
Tori Gorrell Penn State Canada OH R-Sr.
Sadie Dick Pitt Canada OH/RS Fr.
Zoi Faki Pitt Greece OH/RS R-Jr.
Valeria Vazquez Gomez Pitt Puerto Rico OH Fr.
Nika Markovic Pitt Slovenia RS Sr.
Bartu, Yonca Rice Switzerland OH/OPP Sr.
Liisel Nelis Sacred Heart Estonia OH RS-Sr
Ariana Pagan SFA Puerto Rico OH Fr.
Maria Angelica Palacios St Johns Colombia MB Jr.
Tiziana Baumrukova St Johns Czech S Jr.
Klara Mikelova St Johns Czech OH Jr.
Hanna Wagner St Johns Germany MB Sr.
Efrosini Alexakou St Johns Greece OH So.
Ariadni Kathariou St Johns Greece MB So.
Rachele Rastelli St Johns Italy RS So.
Erica Di Maulo St Johns Italy S Sr.
Mimi Larry St Johns Japan DS Fr.
Jovana Askovic St Johns Serbia RS/OH So.
Sidney Wilson Stanford Canada DS Jr.
Camila Gomez Texas A&M Colombia L/DS Sr.
Danielle Gravina Towson Canada S Fr.
Fay Bakodimou Towson Greece OH So.
Silvia Grassini Towson Italy MB Sr.
Marija Tomaševic Towson Serbia OH So.
Emilia Weske USC Germany OH Fr.
Raquel Lázaro USC Spain S So.
Laura Madill USD Canada S So.
Thana Fayad USD Canada OH Sr.
Anna Newsome USD Spain S Sr.
Kinga Windisch Utah Hungary OH Jr.
Veronica Brod Farias VCU Brazil MB Jr.
Vicky Giommarini VCU Italy OH Sr.
Paula Neciporuka VCU Latvia OH Jr.
Maria Bogomolova Washington Russia OH Jr.
Camila Gomez Winthrop Chile OH So.
Magda Jehlárová WSU Czech MB Fr.
Pia Timmer WSU Germany OH Fr.
Jocelyn Urias WSU Mexico MB R-Sr.
Weronika Wojdyla WSU Poland OH Fr.

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