The USA’s Khalia Lanier hits over Serbia’s Bojana Drca/Volleyball World photo

Ultimately, veteran Annie Drews led the way, but a couple of Volleyball Nations League newcomers did more than their shares Wednesday as the USA opened the international women’s tournament with a 25-20, 19-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-12 victory over Serbia.

Later Wednesday, host Türkiye swept Korea. 

Earlier in Nagoya, Japan, Bulgaria swept Croatia and China got past Brazil in five.

The USA women have Thursday off, but there are five matches on the VNL schedule.

In Japan, Bulgaria plays the Dominican Republic and Brazil plays the Netherlands.

In Türkiye, Canada plays Thailand, Poland plays Italy and Türkiye plays Serbia.

The Americans are back in action Friday against Italy.

USA 3, SERBIA 2: Drews, the former Purdue star and spectacular opposite in the Tokyo Olympics, had 22 kills — hitting .370 — a block, a match-high 14 digs and two aces to top all scorers in Antalya. Türkiye.

But two outside hitters, former Kentucky and Baylor star Avery Skinner and USC’s Khalia Lanier, had big numbers in their respective VNL debuts. 

The USA’s Avery Skinner reaches high over the Serbian block/Volleyball World photo

Skinner had 17 kills, hitting .410, 10 digs, a block and an ace, while Lanier had 13 kills — including a perfect pass and then the match winning kill — a block, 10 digs and two aces. 

“We were just focusing on our side,” Skinner told’s Emily Ehman, the Volleyball World television analyst. “We can’t control what Serbia did. They played an amazing match, but for us it was coming to the middles, realizing what we can do and fighting together.”

Former Texas standout middle Brionne Butler had five kills, hitting .556, and eight blocks. Her Texas teammate, Asjia O’Neal, was a reserve and the middle had four kills, hit .500, and had a block.

Veteran setter Micha Hancock, dealing with an inordinate number of out-of-system passes, had three kills, six digs and her team hit .343.

“We had some new faces come out and take some heavy swings and started placing the ball as our defense picked up as well,” Hancock told USA Volleyball. “Our serving pressure got better as the match went on. I’m really excited to see what this group can do.”

The USA lost to Serbia in the 2022 VNL quarterfinals.

Serbia’s Ana Bjeclica had 17 kills and two aces. Bianka Busa had 14 kills, 10 digs and an ace, Maja Aleksic had nine kills, two blocks and two aces, and Sara Lozo also had nine kills and two blocks to go with an ace. Mina Popovic had five kills and three blocks. Teodora Pusic had 14 digs and Bojana Drca 11.

TÜRKIYE 3, KOREA 0: Melissa Vargas led Türkiye with 13 kills, a block and an ace. Ilkin Aydin had 11 kills, a block and two aces, and Ebrar Karakurt had nine kills.

Jiyun Jeong had nine kills and a block for Korea.

BULGARIA 3, CROATIA 0: Buglaria cruised to a 25-12, 25-17, 25-19 victory. Maria Yordanova led with 10 kills and three aces. Marinova Radostina had 11 kills and an ace. Mila Pashkuleva had 14 digs. 

Croatia’s Martina Šamadan, who played at Seattle U, had nine kills and Izabela Štimac had 13 digs.

CHINA 3, BRAZIL 0:  Li Yingying had 25 kills and an ace as China battled to a 25-23, 22-25, 25-20, 20-25, 15-12 win. Xiangyu Gong added 15 kills, two blocks and an ace, Xinyue Yuan had nine kills and three blocks, Yunlu Wang had nine kills, 13 digs and an ace, and Yuanyuan Wang added eight kills and a block. Mengjie had 15 digs.

Brazil’s Kisy Nascimento had 16 kills, four blocks and an ace. Ana Christina had 16 kills and a block, Diana Duarte had 14 kills, a block and an ace, and former Georgia Tech star Julia Bergmann had 15 kills and a block. Natalia Araujo had 14 digs.

Julia Bergmann attacks for Brazil against China/Volleyball World photo

Check out VNL match times and TV listings. All VNL matches can be watched on VolleyballWorld.TV.  Use the promo code VOLLEYBALLMAG for a discount on monthly or annual subscriptions. 


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