Youth and inexperience proved no problem for the USA women, who opened Volleyball Nations League with three victories this week in Ruse, Bulgaria.

The team beat Belgium on Tuesday 25-23, 25-8, 25-22, downed Japan on Wednesday 25-21, 24-26, 25-21, 25-20, and then Wednesday defeated Bulgaria 25-20, 25-16, 25-21.

“I am really impressed with how this group worked and learning, and working together in all the various combinations we have put on the court so far,” USA coach Karch Kiraly told

“We came here not having any expectations. We didn’t get a lot of time of training together, and that is not unusual. Almost every team had little time to train and prepare. A lot of teams are playing with some new faces and younger players that involve a lot of learning. We are really proud of the way this group battled and pursued every ball and every rally relentlessly. Lots of great effort, and that is one of the few things we can control.”

In Wednesday’s win over Bulgaria, former Minnesota star Sarah Wilhite Parsons had 11 kills, three blocks and two aces. Dana Rettke, who will be a junior at Wisconsin, had seven kills and five blocks. And another collegian, Cincinnati’s Jordan Thompson, had nine kills and two aces.

Former Nebraska great Mikaela Foecke had eight kills, two blocks and an ace, but will not play next week when competition resumes in Italy. USA Volleyball reported that Foecke is getting married a week from Saturday.

But the team will be playing in Conegliano Venato, Italy, and plays Serbia on Tuesday, Italy on Wednesday, and the Dominican Republic on Thursday. Kiraly has the option of putting together a completely 14-player different roster for that trip, choosing from a pool of 25 players.

Click here for the complete USA Volleyball recap of the victory over Bulgaria.

In the opener against Belgium, Purdue product Annie Drews led with 14 kills and five aces, while Wilhite Parsons had 11 kills. Click here for the complete USA Volleyball report.

And against Japan, former Penn State standout Haleigh Washington led with 12 kills, five blocks and three aces, while Thompson — who led the NCAA in kills last season — had 11 kills and three blocks. Click here for the complete USA Volleyball report. 

The VNL, a 16-country league for both genders, 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 Americans are the home team against Korea, Germany and Brazil  June 4-6 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The top five teams from the preliminary round will compete in the VNL Final Six along with host China from July 3-7.


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