Haleigh Washington attacks against China during VNL in July/Volleyball World

The path to the Olympics officially gets underway for the USA women on Saturday against Colombia in Lodz, Poland.

That’s their site of the Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier where teams will be begin to claim spots in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

As explained by USA Volleyball:

There are two other eight-team qualifiers going on at the same time in Japan and China. At the end of the three qualifiers, six teams for the Olympics will be determined, plus the host country France.

The other five teams will be determined based on world rankings in June 2024.

The USA women, who won the gold medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, are currently ranked No. 2 in the world behind Türkiye, followed by Serbia, Brazil, Italy, China, Poland, Japan, the Netherlands and Dominican Republic. 

Türkiye won Volleyball Nations League this summer and last week the Dominican Republic defeated the Americans in the NORCECA Continental Cup gold-medal match.

In Poland, the USA plays seven matches in nine days (all times Eastern):

Saturday, September 16, vs. Colombia, 5:30 a.m.
Sunday, September 17, vs. Thailand, 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday, September 19, vs. Slovenia, 2:30 p.m.
Wednesday, September 20, vs. Korea, 8:30 a.m.
Friday, September 22, vs. Italy, 2:45 p.m. 
Saturday, September 23 vs. Poland, 11:30 a.m.
Sunday, September 24, vs. Germany, 11:30 a.m.

All matches can be seen on Volleyball World TV. Use “VOLLEYBALLMAG” for a discount.

The USA is in Pool C. Pool A in Ningbo, China, has Canada, China, Czechia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Netherlands, Serbia and Ukraine; and Pool B in Tokyo has Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Japan, Peru, Puerto Rico and Türkiye.

The USA roster looks a bit different than the one that finished fourth in Volleyball Nations League. To begin with, Olympic setter Micha Hancock is out with an injury. The USA was already without starting Olympic setter Jordyn Poulter, who is recovering from major knee surgery.

So backing up Lauren Carlini, who split time with Hancock in VNL, will be veteran Ashley Evans. Evans has been with the team all spring and summer and was with the squad for VNL. The Purdue product played in one match. 

Coach Karch Kiraly told us, “Our plan had Micha on our roster, as we did in NORCECA, but she is unable to participate at this time. 

“Looking back, we cannot remember a single major event going ‘according to plan,’ and this is no exception. 

“So we’ll continue to move forward, sempre avanti — with Micha in our hearts, and with gratitude for Ash relentlessly staying ready to help and serve this team.”

“Sempre avanti,” Kiraly explained, means “always forward.”

The USA is used to rolling with the setter punches. During the Olympics, Poulter was injured and Hancock stepped in for her.

And the squad includes seven of those gold-medalist on the 14-player roster.

The liberos are Olympian Justine Wong-Orantes — named the captain of this team — and Morgan Hentz.

The outside hitters include the captain of the Olympic team, Jordan Larson, who sat out VNL. The other outsides are Ali Frantti, Kathryn Plummer , Olympic veteran Kelsey Robinson and Avery Skinner. Plummer was also not with the team for the VNL finals when they beat Japan and then lost to Türkiye in the semifinals and to Poland in the bronze-medal match. 

The middles include Olympians Haleigh Washington and Chiaka Ogbogu and Dana Rettke.

Both Olympic opposites are on the team, Jordan Thompson and Annie Drews.

To read our stories from Arlington the VNL finals, click here for the bronze-medal match recap when the Americans lost to Poland and here for the recap of the semifinals loss to Türkiye.

Here’s a look at the other teams in Pool C.

POLAND: Poland, trying for its first Olympic bid since 2008, passionate home crowd will undoubtedly provide a significant advantage. Star setter Joanna Wolosz, who was absent during the VNL, is back. Poland is led by opposite Magdalena Stysiak, who emerged as the team’s top scorer in the European Championship. Poland has encountered injuries at outside hitter and will rely on Olivia Rozanski and Martyna Lukasik. Agnieszka Korneluk the 6-foot-6 middle, is a force who finished the European Championship second in blocks.

ITALY: Disagreements, drama and desire for change between head coach Davide Mazzanti and his players have led to a revamped roster. Long-time stalwarts including Ofelia Malinov, Cristina Chirichella, Monica De Gennaro, and Caterina Bosetti, have been excluded from the national team and were not part of the European Championship squad.

World superstar Paola Egonu, whose relationship with the national team soured after experiencing racial abuse in 2022, was included in the European Championship but in a supporting role and is on this roster. Russian-born Italian Ekaterina Antropova received approval from the Italian government and FIVB to represent Italy earlier this summer and made her debut in the European Championship, leading Italy with 73 points. Italy finished fourth. Miriam Sylla and Elena Pietrini have seen increased playing time as outside hitters. Anna Danesi holds down the middle with Marina Lubian. Alessia Orro was the starting setter throughout the European Championship, is out with an injury, so Francesca Bosio will step in.

GERMANY: Germany, in the VNL finals for the first time, took a hit during the European Championship when star outside hitter Hanna Orthmann sustained a serious knee/leg injury that will keep her sidelined for many months. 

Opposite Kimberly Drewniok is back and gives coach Vital Heynen some flexibility. Germany, last in the Olympics in 2004, will rely heavily on middle Camila Weitzel.

THAILAND: Thailand, which has never been to the Olympics, won the Asian Championship for the first time since 2013. Fatigue may become a factor, as evidenced at VNL, and star setter Pornpun Guedpard might be absent with an injury. That might open the door for the return of the legendary setter Nootsara Tomkom. Thailand will look to their two star attackers, Chatchu-on Moksri and Pimpichaya Kokram.

KOREA: After a winless VNL, Korea failed to reach the Asian Championship podium for the first time since 2009. So coach Cesar Hernandez might view this tournament as an opportunity to provide valuable experience to younger players.

COLOMBIA: Colombia showed promise the past two years but has been disappointing in 2023. The team includes Amanda Coneo future player for the Grand Rapids of the Pro Volleyball Federation, and Texas A&M product Camila Gomez.

SLOVENIA: Slovenia, ranked No. 25 in the world, is making its debut in a world-level event, a significant milestone in their national team history. The roster consists of a young and promising group, with several players under the age of 20. Outside hitter Lorena Fijok, 20, was Slovenia’s leading scorer in the European Championship. Outside Mija Siftar, 17, is considered one of Europe’s most promising rising stars.


Annie Drews comes out of the back row against Japan/Volleyball World photo @shotbygomez


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