Early last week, USA women’s volleyball coach Karch Kiraly announced the 25-team player pool from which he would choose rosters for this year’s FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL).
The 14-player squad he ultimately chose for the first trip has plenty of new faces on the nation’s top international team, including two Big Ten stars who played in last season’s NCAA national semifinals in Illinois setter Jordyn Poulter and Nebraska outside hitter Mikaela Foecke. For that matter, 10 of the players on the list played in the Big Ten.
Four of the players are former Penn State stars and three will be seniors in college this fall.
The USA will play three matches in Ruse, Bulgaria:
At 10 a.m. Eastern Tuesday, the women play Belgium. At 10 a.m. Wednesday, they face Japan, and finish with a 1:30 p.m. match Thursday against Bulgaria.
The other setter is former Penn State star Micha Hancock. There were two other setters on the 25-player roster, Carli Lloyd and Lauren Carlini.
Carlini, outside Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, outside Kim Hill, and opposite Karsta Low, also part of the 25-player roster, and their Italian team, Igor Gorgonzola Novara, won the European Champions League Super Finals title on Saturday in Berlin.
The outside hitters joining Foecke in Bulgaria are Madi Kingdon Rishel (who played at Arizona), Penn State product Simone Lee, and former Big Ten player of the year for Wisconsin Sarah Wilhite Parsons.
The liberos are former Penn State outside hitter Megan Courtney and Mary Lake, who played with BYU in the NCAA national semifinals and will be a senior in 2019.
Purdue’s Annie Drews is one opposite and the other is Jordan Thompson, who led the NCAA — by far — in total kills and kills per set last season for Cincinnati. Thompson will be a senior for the Bearcats in 2019.
And the middles are Chiaka Ogbogu, who played at Texas, Dana Rettke, who will be a junior at Wisconsin next season, Minnesota product Hannah Tapp, and Penn State’s Haleigh Washington.
As USA Volleyball describes it, the VNL is a 16-country league for both genders and includes 15 pool play matches for each country spread over five consecutive weeks with four pods of four teams competing in round-robin action every week. The top five teams from the preliminary round will compete in the VNL Final Six along with host China from July 3-7 with the winner receiving $1 million.