USA Volleyball VNL women’s team: What they did before and what they’ve done since college

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USA womens volleyball team 5/25/2021-Lauren Carlini
Lauren Carlini

Any true volleyball fan knows the college legacies of the top players in the Team USA gym. Like that Micha Hancock won back-to-back national titles at Penn State, Kathryn Plummer was the VolleyballMag.com national player of the year, and that Kim Hill remains the first and only student-athlete to make the AVCA All-American first-team roster in both indoor and beach volleyball in the same academic year (well, you might not have known that last one, but it’s a pretty cool fun fact, huh?).

But how much do you remember about the kind of noise they made as high school and club athletes? And how much do you know about what they’ve been doing since college? 

With the Volleyball Nations League under way, we’re going to bring you up to speed so you can say you really know all there is to know about the careers of the 18 women who are playing for the USA at VNL, including the 12 who will emerge and make the Olympic team and compete in Tokyo in July.

USA womens volleyball team 5/25/2021-Micha Hancock
Micha Hancock

1 — Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Edmond, Okla., Penn State)
High School Class of 2011
Went pro in 2015
Before: Hancock initially committed to the University of Tulsa, where her older sister Kelsey was playing at the time, which might make you think that the 5-11 setter was a late bloomer or at least flew somewhat under the radar in high school. But that couldn’t be further from the truth: The eventual Penn State starter won three Oklahoma 6A state championships with her Edmond Memorial High School team (2007, 2009, 2010), and twice Gatorade named her the Oklahoma Player of the Year. A member of the Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 and Under Armour All-America list, Hancock was also a PrepVolleyball darling, earning the honors of All-American, National Junior of the Year, and National Senior of the Year from the site and being included in PrepVolleyball’s Class of 2011 Top 50 Recruits and the 2011 Senior Ace list (No. 41). As a member of the 2010 Youth Olympic Team member, Hancock helped Team USA claim a silver medal at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games.
After: Since finishing at Penn State in December 2014, Hancock has played for six different professional teams in three different countries. She began her career in Italy with Imoco Volley Conegliano, played briefly in Puerto Rico for Indias de Mayaguez, and then spent two seasons in Poland, first as a member of Dąbrowa Górnicza and then with Impel Wrocław. In 2017, she returned to Italy, this time to play with US Pro Victoria Monza. Today, she’s a member of Igor Gorgonzola Novara, along with fellow national teamer Haleigh Washington. The team finished runner-up in this year’s Serie A1 league. Hancock’s lefty jump serve has always been her calling card, and the Italian league has given her ample recognition for it, naming her Best Server for the past three years.

USA womens volleyball team 5/25/2021-Jordyn Poulter
Jordyn Poulter

2 — Jordyn Poulter (S, 6-2, Aurora, Colo., Illinois)
High School Class of 2015
Went pro in 2019
Before: Poulter and Hancock are both big-name setters who starred in the Big Ten, but the things they have in common go much further back than their college days. Like Hancock, Poulter was an Under Armour All-American and a member of the Volleyball magazine Fab 50. Poulter was also named the CHSAA (Colorado High School Athletic Association) Class 5A All-State Player of the year and ranked third on PrepVolleyball’s 2015 Senior Aces list. Even before making her collegiate debut, Poulter scored some high-level international experience, playing with the U23 women’s national team at the 2013 FIVB World Championships in Mexico, with the youth national team at the 2013 FIVB U18 World Championships (where the team took silver and Poulter was named Best Setter), and with the U20 women’s junior national team at the 2014 NORCECA Championships (where the team won the title and Poulter was once again named Best Setter).
After: Like Hancock, Poulter’s currently playing in Italy. In fact, it’s the only country where Poulter has played since graduating from Illinois in 2018. She kicked off her pro career with Chieri in the northwestern part of the country before being picked up by Unet E-Work Busto Arsizio (UYBA), a team based just outside of Milan. This season, Poulter helped her UYBA squad to a third-place finish in Champions League and a second-place finish in the Italian Supercup.

USA womens volleyball team 5/25/2021-Kathryn Plummer
Kathryn Plummer

3 — Kathryn Plummer (OH, 6-6, Aliso Viejo, Calif., Stanford)
High School Class of 2016
Went pro in 2020
Before: At Stanford, Plummer won three national championships, with her heavy arm and impressive skills, but she also set in high school and is a U17 beach volleyball world champion (alongside Hawai’i beach volleyball alum Morgan Martin). This versatility earned Plummer the title of 2015 California Gatorade Player of the Year, First Team Under Armour All-American, and No. 3 PrepVolleyball Senior Ace in 2016. And, of course, she made the 2016 Volleyball Mag Fab 50 list.
After: Just nine days after winning the 2019 NCAA national championship with Stanford, Plummer signed her first professional contract with Saugella Team Monza, but she played in only seven or eight matches that season before everything got cancelled due to COVID. For the 2020-21 season, Plummer competed in Japan as a member of the Denso Airybees, helping her team finish the season fifth in the standings and take fourth place in the playoffs.

4 — Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Cypress, Calif., Nebraska)
High School Class of 2013
Went pro in 2019
Before: Wong-Orantes is another player with a prestigious beach volleyball resume in addition to her indoor accomplishments. The first time I ever heard her name, it was when, at age 12, she became the youngest player ever to earn her AAA CBVA rating, playing alongside another athlete whose name you might recognize: Summer Ross. Wong-Orantes went on to play at the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Youth World Championships and the 2012 U19 World Championships, both with Sara Hughes, both which resulted in ninth-place finishes.
Of course, the list of pre-college accomplishments don’t start there. Obviously her indoor resume was sparkling enough to attract the attention of John Cook and his Nebraska staff. Now a libero, Wong-Orantes played setter in high school, leaving Los Alamitos High School as the winningest player in program history and quarterbacking her Mizuno Long Beach club team to a U16 JO national championship in 2011. PrepVolleyball named her to its Senior Aces “The 150” (meaning the 150 players after the top 100 in the class).
After: It’s notoriously difficult to land professional contracts as an American libero, and it’s for this reason that Wong-Orantes didn’t immediately go overseas after graduating from Nebraska. After a few seasons of training with the national team, however, Wong-Orantes got her chance and has been playing in Germany for the past two seasons, playing the most recent season with VC Wiesbaden after making her European debut with SSC Palmberg Schwerin in the 2019-20 season.

6 — Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Burnsville, Minn., Minnesota)
High School Class of 2010
Went pro in 2014
Before: Dixon made more than a splash in the club volleyball world prior to showing up on campus at the University of Minnesota. The middle blocker earned all-tournament honors at GJNCs for three consecutive years (2006-2009) and was the MVP at AAU Nationals in 2009 after leading her Northern Lights team to the 17 Open title. She also got her first taste of international competition while still in high school, ranking as the leading scorer on the girls youth national team that won a gold medal at the NORCECA Girls’ Youth Continental Championships. PrepVolleyball ranked her as the No. 13 player in the Class of 2010.
After: Dixon has played professionally in some of the best volleyball leagues in the world. She started her career in Azerbaijan with Rabita Baku, winning the league title twice, then went to Japan for a season, playing for the Toray Arrows. She spent just one season in Italy with Saugella Team Monza before making the jump to the Chinese league where she’s been with Beijing BAIC Motors since 2018, earning the titles of Best Middle Blocker, Best Blocker, and MVP in 2018-19 after she led her team to the league title.

USA womens volleyball team 5/25/2021-Lauren Carlini
Lauren Carlini

7 — Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, Aurora, Ill., Wisconsin)
High School Class of 2013
Went pro in 2017
Before: Carlini claimed pretty much any national award there was to win in 2012, but her crowning prep achievement was being named the 2012 Gatorade National Player of the Year. A member of the girls youth national team, Carlini was also the No. 1 player in the class according to PrepVolleyball and was included on the Volleyball magazine Fab 50. A four-time AAU All-American, the Sports Performance alum was named MVP at the 2011 USA Volleyball High Performance Championships.
After: Having only been out of college for four and a half years, Carlini’s professional career is still relatively young, and yet her resume features stints with some of the best teams in the world. It began in Italy with first Savino Del Bene Scandicci and then Igor Gorgonzola Novara. Last year, she went to Russia to play for Dinamo Moscow, and today, she’s a member of Turk Hava Yollari, or THY, in the Turkish league. With Carlini at the controls, THY finished third in the league and in the CEV Challenge Cup and earned a spot in Champions League next year.

8 — Hannah Tapp (M, 6-3, Stewartville, Minn., Minnesota)
High School Class of 2013
Went pro in 2017
Before: Tapp won a 17 Open title at GJNCs in 2012 with her Northern Lights team (which also featured her twin sister Paige Tapp and fellow national teamer Sarah Wilhite, not to mention setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson). Tapp ranked 20th on the 2013 PrepVolleyball Senior Aces list and made the 2013 Volleyball Mag Fab 50 list.
After: Right after graduation, Tapp signed with Schweriner SC in Germany, earning the Best Spiker award in her sole season with the team, moving on up into the Italian league the following season to play for Il Bisonte Firenze in 2017-18. An intraleague transfer then saw her compete for Zanetti Bergamo in 2018-19. For her fourth professional season, Tapp initially signed with Brazilian club Flamengo, but when fellow national team middle Rachael Adams got injured and had to pull out of her contract with Japanese team Hitachi Rivale, they called Tapp and offer her an opportunity, and no doubt a salary, that she couldn’t pass up. The league named Tapp Best Blocker last season, and she just completed her second season with Hitachi Rivale.

10 — Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Hooper, Neb., Nebraska)
High School Class of 2005
Went pro in 2009
Before: Jordan Larson is one of the biggest names in women’s indoor volleyball today, and that fame and notoriety go all the way back to her prep days at Logan View High School in Hooper, Nebraska. The No. 2-ranked player in the Class of 2005, according to PrepVolleyball (the No. 1 that year was Cynthia Barboza), Larson of course made the Fab 50 list as well, in addition to earning the title of Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year. She played on both the youth and junior national teams, leading the team to a gold medal at the 2004 NORCECA Continental Junior Championships, where she earned MVP and Best Receiver honors. At the 2003 FIVB U18 World Championships, Larson was named Best Server.
While playing club for Nebraska Juniors, Larson claimed All-American honors at USAV’s Junior Olympics in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Oh yeah, and she played basketball and ran track at Logan View, and not just to score another patch for her letter jacket. Larson averaged 14.8 points and nine rebounds per game on her way to second-team all-state honors during the 2003-04 basketball season.
After: When a pro team signs Jordan Larson, they do their best to hold on to her, so although the outside hitter has been competing professionally for 13 years, she’s only played for four teams. Larson played just one season with Vaqueras de Bayamon in Puerto Rico, but she raked in the individual awards: MVP, Best Scorer, Best Spiker, and Best Outside Hitter.
Then Larson began her first long-term relationship with Dinamo Kazan in Russia where she played from 2009-10 to 2013-14 and was named Best Server of the 2010-11 Russian Cup, Best Receiver of the 2011-12 Champions League, and Best Blocker of the 2013-14 Champions League.
Eczacibasi Vitra of the Turkish League managed to lure Larson away and kept her coming back to Istanbul every season from 2014-15 to 2018-19. In this time frame, Larson claimed the MVP honors at Champions League, Club World Championships, and the Turkish Super Cup and was named Best Outside Hitter of the Turkish League, Best Receiver and Best Outside Hitter of the Turkish Cup, and Best Server of the CEV Cup.
For perhaps the last overseas pro assignment of her career, Larson signed with Shanghai of the Chinese Volleyball Super League in 2019, completing her first season just before the COVID pandemic really exploded. She returned for her second season in the league last fall.
Larson also played a pivotal role in the establishment of Athletes Unlimited pro volleyball here in the U.S. Not only is she a member of the players executive committee, but Larson also won the individual title in the league’s first season, finishing with 4,569 points, a full 879 ahead of the second-place finisher, the Dominican Republic’s Bethania de la Cruz.

USA womens volleyball team 5/25/2021-Annie Drews
Annie Drews

11 — Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Elkhart, Ind., Purdue)
High School Class of 2012
Went pro in 2016
Before: Indiana native Drews started her high school career at Elkhart, where she led the team in kills as a freshman and sophomore. Before her junior year, she transferred to Penn High School, eight miles down the road, and there she became a two-time 4A state champion. A PrepVolleyball Sophomore 79, Top 50 Junior, and No. 29 Senior Ace, Drews made the Volleyball magazine Fab 50 list as a senior in addition to earning first-team Under Armour All-American honors.
After: Until this year, Drews had never spent two seasons in a row with the same club team. Like many American volleyball players straight out of college, she began her pro career playing in the Puerto Rico Superliga, first signing with Indias de Mayaguez and then playing the next season for Criollas de Caguas.
Two years after finishing her career at Purdue, Drews made it to the big leagues — that is, Europe, where she joined SAB Volley Legnano of the Italian league. She stayed in Italy the next season, competing for Pomi Casalmaggiore, and then the Turkish League came calling with an opportunity to play for Beylikduzu.
Drews has found her greatest individual success in the Japanese V-League where she has played for JT Marvelous for the past two seasons. She led her team to the league title for the second season in a row and earned her second consecutive Best Opposite award. Last year, she was also named Best Server and MVP. 

12 — Jordan Thompson (OPP, 6-4, Edina, Minn., Cincinnati)
High School Class of 2015
Went pro in 2020
Before: A two-time AAU All-American who led her Northern Lights club team to an AAU 17 Open title, Thompson ranked No. 44 on PrepVolleyball’s Senior Aces list in 2015, but did not make the Volleyball magazine Fab 50 (yep, a pretty big whiff on our part, but it’s not an exact science!).
After: Thompson kicked off her pro career in Turkey, playing a season with Fenerbahce Opet before getting picked up by Eczacibasi Vitra Istanbul for the 2020-21 season. This season, playing alongside fellow Americans Madi Rigdon and Chiaka Ogbogu, she earned the Best Outside Hitter designation at the Turkish Cup, which Eczacibasi won, and helped her team reach the semifinals of Turkish league.

13 — Sarah Wilhite Parsons (OH, 6-2, Eden Prairie, Minn., Minnesota)
High School Class of 2013
Went pro in 2018
Before: Wilhite Parsons’ resume from her time at Eden Prairie High School is lengthy. As a junior, she led her team to the Class AAA state title, getting 33 kills in the championship match. That same year, Gatorade named her its Minnesota Player of the Year. Her senior season saw Parsons set a school record for kills in a season with 667, finishing her high school career just shy of 2,000 kills and earning the Ms. Baden award, which honors the top senior volleyball player in Minnesota.
Her Northern Lights club team won the 17 Open title at the 2012 USAV GJNCs, PrepVolleyball dubbed Parsons’ the No. 14 recruit in the Class of 2013, and she joined fellow future Gophers Hannah and Paige Tapp and Katie Schau on the 2013 VBM Fab 50.
After: Parsons’ pro career has taken her from Italy to Germany to Brazil to Turkey. In her first season, Parsons’ Unet E-Work Busto Arsizio team claimed a bronze medal at the Italian Cup, and the next year, she celebrated winning the German Bundesliga with her Allianz MTV Stuttgart team. The 2019-20 season saw her take home a bronze medal with Sesi Volei Bauru at the Brazilian Cup, and this year her Nilufer Belediyespor squad ended the season ranked fifth in the Turkish League standings and she was named Best Outside Hitter in the Turkish league.

14 — Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Champaign, Ill., Illinois)
High School Class of 2008
Went pro in 2012
Before: During her prep career, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley appeared on PrepVolleyball’s Frosh 59, Soph 79, and Top 50 Junior Recruits lists and was the No. 16 player on the 2008 Senior Aces list. With the youth national team, she won a gold medal at the NORCECA Championships and competed in the 2006 World Championships. Two years later, just before beginning her collegiate career at Illinois, Bartsch-Hackley helped the junior national team win the 2008 NORCECA Championships. She played middle blocker at that event, where she was also named Best Server.
She left Collinsville High School having set school records for kills and blocks in a season, but the volleyball court was not the only playing field where she made an impact. Bartsch-Hackley was a four-sport athlete at Collinsville. She surpassed 1,000 points in her high school basketball career, qualified for sectionals as a member of the swim team, and finished sixth in the triple jump at the regional track and field meet.
After: Bartsch-Hackley went pro in 2012 immediately after capping her collegiate career with an appearance in the national-championship match. She played a season for Llaneras de Toa Baja in Puerto Rico, but then returned to the States where she served as a volunteer assistant for Illinois in 2012 and the UC Irvine men’s team in 2013. She restarted her pro career in 2013, playing for Rote Raben in Germany, but it was the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons in which she helped Dresden SC win the Bundesliga title in back-to-back years that really established her in the elite world of professional volleyball (and earned her a spot on the national team).
After three seasons in Germany, Bartsch-Hackley made her Italian league debut and played for three different Serie A teams over three seasons (Sudtirol Bolzano, Unet E-Work Busto Arsizio, and Igor Gorgonzola Novara), before spending the 2019-20 season in China with Beijing BAIC Motors. With Novara, Bartsch-Hackley won a gold medal at the 2018-19 Champions League and finished runner-up in the Italian league.
Now a member of VakifBank Istanbul, Bartsch has helped her Turkish team earn a silver medal in the most recent Champions League and was named Best Outside Hitter in the Turkish league.

USA womens volleyball team 5/25/2021-Kim Hill
Kim Hill

15 — Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Portland, Ore., Pepperdine)
High School Class of 2008
Went pro in 2013
Before: Hill has a very impressive prep resume, as you might expect, but the thing that stood out the most to me was that she is a two-time Oregon 2A player of the year not only in volleyball, but also in basketball. She was also the 2008 Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year, the No. 8 recruit in her class according to PrepVolleyball, and a member of the Volleyball magazine Fab 50.
After: Hill is fresh off of a Champions League title with Imoco Conegliano, and amazingly, it’s her second Champions League gold medal after winning with VakifBank back in 2017. In fact, Hill has played in all but one Champions League final since 2016. And the year her squad missed out on the final (2017, her first season with Imoco), she took home a bronze. Her pro resume also features the 2019 Club World Championships gold medal with Imoco, three Italian Serie A1 titles, and one Turkish league title.
Individually, Hill has plenty of awards to boast about: MVP of the 2015-16 Turkish league; Best Outside Hitter at Champions League in 2016, 2017, and 2018; Serie A1 Best Spiker in 2018 and 2019; and Best Outside Hitter at the 2019 Club World Championships.
Before the 2020 Olympics being delayed, Hill indicated that she would likely end her national team and overseas professional career after the Games, so the 2020-21 season with Imoco might just be her last. And what a finish that would be: an undefeated season, Champions League title, Italian Cup and SuperCup winners …

USA womens volleyball team 5/25/2021-Foluke Akinradewo
Foluke Akinradewo

16 — Foluke (Akinradewo) Gunderson (M, 6-3, London, Canada, Stanford)
High School Class of 2005
Went pro in 2010
Before: Yet another multisport athlete, Gunderson was the Florida Dairy Farmers Volleyball Player of the Year in 2005, but also earned all-state honors in basketball and is a four-time Florida state champion in track. Her other sports kept her from playing club volleyball, but Gunderson helped the junior national team win the 2004 NORCECA Continental Women’s Junior Championship and also competed with the junior national team at the 2005 FIVB U18 World Championships. She was the No. 4-ranked player on the PrepVolleyball 2005 Senior Aces list.
After: Gunderson’s pro career has taken her from Japan to Russia to Azerbaijan to Switzerland and then back to Japan again. She won three Azerbaijan Superleague titles with Rabita Baku and won the Swiss League twice with Volero Zurich, including being named MVP of the league in 2017. Gunderson has played for Hisamitsu Springs since the 2017-18 seasons and now has two Japan V. League titles to her name, in addition to being a three-time league Best Middle Blocker and MVP of the league in 2018-19. And somehow in between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, she had a baby!

17 — Megan Courtney (L, 6-1, Dayton, Ohio, Penn State)
High School Class of 2012
Went pro in 2016
Before: Courtney is another one of those players to sweep PrepVolleyball’s rankings lists all four years of high school. She appeared on the Frosh 59, Soph 79, and Top 50 Junior Recruits, capping her prep career as the No. 4 athlete on the 2012 Senior Aces list. Following her senior season, Courtney, who set in addition to hitting on the left pin in high school, earned first team Under Armour All-America honors and was named Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year.
After: Like many American volleyball players, Courtney kicked off her professional career with a season in Puerto Rico before making her way to Europe, where she played in Poland with Impel Wroclaw and Turkey with Canakkale Belediyespor before beginning her three-years-and-counting stint in Italy. She started her Italian residency as a member of Zanetti Bergamo, then played for Igor Gorgonzola Novara in 2019-20 before joining Savino Del Bene Scandicci for the most recent season. The news of her signing with Imoco Conegliano for 2021-22 just broke last week. 

22 — Haleigh Washington (M, 6-3, Colorado Springs, Colo., Penn State)
High School Class of 2014
Went pro in 2018
Before: Haleigh Washington won a state championship with Doherty High School in 2012, leading to her first of two Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year honors. A three-time First Team All-State honoree, Washington set a new state record when she put away 48 kills in a match. Add VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 and Volleyball magazine High School Player of the Year to that list of honors.
After: Washington found her way to Italy right after finishing her career at Penn State, signing with Conad Olimpia Teodora Ravenna of the Serie A2 league. After just one season, she cracked the A1 division, joining Banca Valsabbina Millenium Brescia. She then played the shortened 2019-20 season with Unet E-Work Busto Arsizio before landing with Igor Gorgonzola Novara. Her Novara squad earned a bronze medal in Champions League, finished runner-up in the Italian league, and claimed a silver medal in the Italian Cup.

23 — Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Nebraska)
High School Class of 2010
Went pro in 2014
Before: Kelsey Robinson, who played her first three years of college ball at Tennessee before transferring to Nebraska, ranked No. 19 on PrepVolleyball’s 2010 Senior Aces list. As a member of the Sports Performance 18 Elite squad, Robinson won AAU nationals in 2010 and was named MVP of the tournament. At the conclusion of her three-year starting career at St. Francis High School, Robinson had collected a school record 1,122 kills. This publication named her a second team high school All-American.
After: Robinson has spent her eight year professional career bouncing around between China, Italy, and Turkey, with one initial season in Puerto Rico. She has a medal in each color from Champions League, winning gold with VakifBank in 2017-18, silver with Imoco Volley Conegliano in 2016-17, and bronze with VakifBank in 2018-19. She’s also a two-time Club World Championships gold medalist and has won league titles in Italy and Turkey.
On an individual level, Robinson was named MVP of Serie A1 in 2015-16, Best Outside Hitter of the 2016-17 Champions League, and Best Receiver of the 2018-19 Turkish league, the 2018-19 Club World Championships, and the 2020-21 Chinese League.

24 — Chiaka Ogbogu (M, 6-2, Coppell, Texas, Texas)
High School Class of 2013
Went pro in 2018
Before: A member of the Volleyball magazine 2013 Fab 50, Ogbogu concluded her high school career winning back-to-back state championships with Coppell High School, after which she was named Texas Gatorade Player of the Year and Texas Girls Coaches Association 4A-5A player of the year. PrepVolleyball ranked her sixth in the Class of 2013, citing her vertical, hang time, lateral mobility and block timing — all things she’s known for to this day.
After: Ogbogu has been constantly on the move since her pro career began in 2018 with the Italian League’s Il Bisonte Firenze. She spent 2018-19 in Poland with Chemik Police, then returned to Italy to play for Imoco Conegliano where she was having an absolutely great season before the pandemic shut everything down: her squad won the Club World Championships, the Italian Cup, and the SuperCup. This year, with Eczacibasi Istanbul, she added a Turkish Super Cup gold medal and a Turkish Cup silver medal to her collection before signing with Istanbul’s other big name team VakifBank for next season.

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