USA women, men set for respective Volleyball Nations League finals

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The USA women were all smiles after beating Thailand in their last VNL match/FIVB photo

This is an exciting time with a lot going on for USA Volleyball’s top teams: the women’s national team, men’s national team, and a squad headed to the Pan American Cup.

First up are the USA women, one of the six teams competing at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League tournament in Nanjing, China.

The Americans, 12-3 in the VNL and one of six teams qualified for the finals, open play at 3 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday against Poland. Also Wednesday, China plays Turkey. The USA plays Brazil on Friday.

Coach Karch Kiraly, who noted that he has used 15 different lineups in 15 matches, has taken a team with an interesting mix of experience and youth.

Most notable are the setters, Lauren Carlini and Jordyn Poulter. Carlini, the former Wisconsin star, has had great success on the international level, joined the team after her Italian pro season ended. Poulter, a first-year pro after a great career at Illinois, beat out Micha Hancock on the 14-player roster. Hancock, the former Penn State great, is going with the Pan Am team with Madison Lilley, who will be a junior at Kentucky.

There are four outsides, all from the Big Ten, in Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (Illinois), and three from Nebraska, Mikaela Foecke, Jordan Larson, and Kelsey Robinson.

Three of the four middles are from the Big Ten, Tori Dixon (Minnesota), Dana Rettke (who will be a junior at Wisconsin) and Haleigh Washington (Penn State), and Texas product Chiaka Ogbogu.

The opposites are Annie Drews (Purdue) and Jordan Thompson, who will be a senior at Cincinnati.

And the liberos are Megan Courtney, who played outside hitter at Penn State, and Mary Lake, who will be senior at BYU.

“We have some younger people who gave us some special contributions (in the VNL),” Kiraly told USA Volleyball. “We wanted to see who out there, even some with remaining college eligibility, who might have the most promise and the most chance to have an impact on the USA future, both for the near term as in this year’s Volleyball Nations League and also in the quite, slightly less near-term looking through the through the last 14 months of this Olympic cycle, and then of course far beyond 2020.”

FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals schedule at Nanjing, China
July 3: USA vs. Poland, 3 a.m. Eastern
July 3: China vs. Turkey, 7:30 a.m. Eastern
July 4: Brazil vs. Poland, 3 a.m. Eastern
July 4: Italy vs. Turkey, 7:30 a.m. Eastern
July 5: USA vs. Brazil, 3 a.m. Eastern
July 5: China vs. Italy, 7:30 a.m. Eastern
July 6: Semifinal 1 (1A vs 2B), 3 a.m. Eastern
July 6: Semifinal 2 (1B vs 2A), 7:30 a.m. Eastern
July 7: Bronze-medal match, 3 a.m. Eastern
July 7: Gold-medal match, 7:30 a.m. Eastern
Thanks to USA Volleyball for this research of head-to-head results:
1. China (12-3, 35 points): lost to USA 3-0; lost to BRA 3-0; def. ITA 3-2; def. TUR 3-0; def. POL 3-0
2. USA (12-3, 35 points): def. CHN 3-0; lost to BRA 3-1; def. ITA 3-2; lost to TUR 3-0; def. POL 3-1
3. Brazil (11-4, 35 points): def. CHN 3-0; def. USA 3-1; def. ITA 3-0; lost to TUR 3-2; lost to POL 3-2
4. Italy (11-4, 34 points): lost to CHN 3-2; lost to USA 3-2; lost to BRA 3-0; def. TUR 3-2; def. POL 3-2
5. Turkey (11-4, 32 points): lost to CHN 3-0; def. USA 3-0; def. BRA 3-2; lost to ITA 3-2; def. POL 3-2
6. Poland (9-6, 26 points): lost to CHN 3-0; lost to USA 3-1; def. BRA 3-2; lost to TUR 3-2; lost to ITA 3-2

Click here for the complete USA Volleyball report.

USA men: The Americans are also in the VNL finals, and have the advantage of playing at home when the tournament kicks off July 10 in Chicago.

The tournament includes Brazil, Poland Russia, France and Iran.

According to USA Volleyball, this will be the first time that the United States has been the host for a major men’s volleyball event outside of the Olympic Games.

The USA went 9-6 in VNL play.

Pan American Cup: The competition in Peru begins Saturday and continues through July 14.

The USA opens play against Colombia and faces Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico and Puerto Rico before the playoffs begin.

The team, coached by Rob Browning, includes Hancock; VolleyballMag.com NCAA player of the year Kathryn Plummer from Stanford; UCLA’s Karsta Lowe, who was certainly in the VNL roster mix; libero Justine Wong-Orantes, the Nebraska great who has played for the national team; and former Nebraska All-American Kadie Rolfzen.

Click here for the complete USA Volleyball report, roster, and schedule.

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