The 2023 Volleyball Nations League begins Tuesday with four matches in Nagoya, Japan (click here for the schedule). The USA women are in Türkiye for their first round of the 16-team tournament and they play Serbia at 10 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday in Antalya. We will have a USA roster breakdown later Monday.

This is the first time that the USA does not enter the event as the defending champion since the inaugural edition in 2018. The Americans also won in 2019, there was no tournament in 2020, and the USA won in 2021. Italy won last year after the USA got eliminated in the quarterfinals by Serbia. They later finished fourth in the FIVB World Championship.

Here is the USA schedule:

at Antalya, Türkiye

May 31 vs. Serbia
June 2 vs. Italy
June 3 vs. Korea
June 4 vs. Türkiye
at Brasila, Brazil
June 13 vs. Croatia
June 15 vs. Thailand
June 17 vs. Japan
June 18 vs. Brazil
at Suwon, Korea
June 28 vs. Poland
June 29 vs. Bulgaria
July 1 vs. Germany
July 2 vs. China

The VNL finals are in Arlington, Texas, and as the host, the USA is guaranteed an automatic spot in the quarterfinal round. A total of fifteen other teams will compete for the remaining seven spots. 

Additionally, the five challengers teams — Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Dominican Republic, and Poland — will try to avoid relegation from the VNL. The VNL will not only serve as crucial preparation for the Olympic qualification tournament this fall, but will also provide teams with an invaluable opportunity to develop and expand their rosters in high-level competition. Teams will compose their rosters with both experienced veterans and promising, yet inexperienced players. Each week, teams will field a roster of 14 players, with the flexibility to make changes each week. The USA 30-player overall roster and Türkiye team are listed at the end of the story.

Here’s a look at the teams in the field in the order in which the USA plays them, followed by the three they don’t.


Top-ranked Serbia, which took VNL bronze in 2022, knocked the Americans out in the quarterfinals. But Serbia has a new coach in Giovanni Guidetti, who takes charge after serving as the head coach of Türkiye for more than five years. 

The return of Serbia’s star player, Tijana Boskovic, is uncertain, especially after she didn’t play in last year’s tournament. If Boskovic, who is on the 30-player roster, is absent, Ana Bjelica, the opposite player, who ranked fifth in scoring during the previous edition, might take on that role once again. There is also the possibility of Maja Ognjenovic making a return to the Serbian squad after taking a one-year hiatus. Ognjenovic, who led Serbia to the title in 2018 but was on a break during last year’s World Championship run, will compete with Bojana Drca for the starting spot. Drca, who led the team last summer, will be a strong contender for the starting spot. The trio of outside hitters — Bianka Busa, Bojana Milenkovic and Sara Lozo — are expected to reprise their roles and will be challenged for a spot by 18-year-old Aleksandra Uzelac, best scorer of the Serbian league. In the middle, Jovana Stevanovic and Maja Aleksic will provide leadership and guidance to youngsters like Hena Kurtagic and Minja Osmajic. Teodora Pusic, who anchored the Serbian defense as libero for the first time last summer, is expected to continue in that role this summer, although she will face competition from Aleksandra Jedgic.

Italy celebrates winning VNL 2022/Volleyball World photo


Defending-champion Italy enters with several unanswered questions. Superstar Paola Egonu faced a fallout with the team following the World Championships due to online racism and fan incidents, leading her to express her intention to take a break from the national team. However, Egonu has potentially reconciled with the team and is on the shortlist for Davide Mazzanti’s squad. Italy has traditionally used the VNL to provide valuable experience to their young players, and opposites Sylvia Nwakalor and Adhu Malual may benefit from this opportunity. One of Italy’s major uncertainties lies in the setter position. Long-time starter Ofelia Malinov has been excluded due to struggles during the club season. Alessia Orro appears ready to claim the starting role after helping Milano reach the Italian league finals. Francesca Bosio will offer competition after a strong season with Chieri. Caterina Bosetti will once again lead the outside hitters, which includes Elena Pietrini and Miriam Sylla, who both faced difficulties during the club season. Breakout performances from Loveth Omoruyi and Francesca Villani could provide Mazzanti with additional options at outside. Italy boasts considerable depth in the middle blocker group, with Anna Danesi, Christina Chirichella, Sarah Fahr, Marina Lubian, Federica Squarcini, along with less experienced players Alessia Mazzaro and Emma Graziani. The libero position is also well-stocked, with Eleonora Fersino and Sara Panetoni likely to start the VNL, while long-time starter Monica De Gennaro will be available if needed.


Korea went winless in VNL 2022, but narrowly escaped relegation thanks to the VNL’s rules regarding “core” teams, which are protected. And in the World Championships, Korea managed only one victory. Since the departure of the legendary Kim Yeon-Koung, Korea has struggled and has also lost two other starters due to the Lee twins’ involvement in a bullying scandal. Not only does the team need to be rebuilt, Korean clubs offer substantial salaries to players (in the hundreds of thousands of dollars), and national team commitments can hinder their performance at the club level. Key players include outside hitters Park Jeong Ah and Kang Sohwi and middle blocker Lee Dahyeon.


Seventh-ranked Türkiye has a mix of returners and new players. Danielle Santarelli has made the switch from Serbia to Türkiye after winning the World Championship last year. Others include libero Gizem Orge, outside hitter Neriman Ozsoy and middle Asli Kalac, who all fell out of favor with the former coach.

Ebrar Karakurt of Türkiye/Volleyball World photo

The highly anticipated addition to the Turkish team is Melissa Vargas, who naturalized after a fallout with the Cuban national team. Vargas, recently named MVP in the Turkish League, is recognized as one of the world’s best opposites and will be eligible to compete for Türkiye for the first time this summer. One of the challenges Santarelli will face is the ongoing issue of the revolving door of outside hitters, which has troubled Türkiye for several years. The return of Neriman will provide competition within the group that includes Hande Baladin, Saliha Sahin, Ilkin Aydin and Tugba Ivegin. Additionally, Ebrar Karakurt is set to return to the outside after playing in that role in 2019. Setter Cansu Ozbay will resume her role as the leader of the offense following the retirement of long-time starter Naz Akyol. Orge will compete with Simge Akoz and Ayca Aykac for the primary libero position. Zehra Gunes was the second-best blocker in the 2022 VNL and is joined at middle by Kalac, Eda Erdem, and Kubra Akman.


Croatia, the second-youngest team in the field, went winless in last year’s World Championship, makes its VNL debut and will focus on gaining valuable experience. Veteran starters Samantha Fabris (opposite) and Bozana Butigan (middle blocker) have faced injury struggles. Coach Ferhat Akbas will prioritize stability for the outside hitters, a group that includes three teenagers and three others under the age of 24. That includes Oral Roberts grad Laura Milos and current UMBC player Mia Bilusic. The libero group has Izabela Stimac (22), entrusted with leading Tia Kovco (17) and Carla Stosic (16) as they make their senior team debuts. Jurja Vlasic, a graduate from the University of San Francisco, may also make her debut with the senior team as she joins Lara Stimac and Lea Deak in the setter group. Opposite Andrea Mihaljevic (20) may be asked to lead the offense in the absence of Fabris. Arkansas grad Barbara Dapic will be an option as well. Two future NCAA athletes could make their senior team debuts as Ana Burilovic (committed to Colorado) and Bianka Lulic (Miami) are on the roster.


Thailand captivated fans last season with an exciting style of play and positive demeanor on the court as it got to the quarterfinals for the first time. Most of the team returns, including opposite Pimpichaya Kokram and outside hitters Chatchu-on Moksri and Ajcharaporn Kongyot. Both Kokram and Moksri were among the top 10 scorers in last year’s VNL. The Thai team has encountered injuryies, with middles Thatdao Nuekjang and Hattaya Bamrungsuk missing matches last summer. Star setter Pornpun Gudepard is currently nursing an injury as well.


Japan pulled off an upset against the USA in the group stage of the VNL last summer and narrowly lost to Brazil twice, in the VNL knockouts and the World Championships. Star outside hitter Sarina Koga-Nishida, who was the second-highest scorer in the entire VNL last year, recently led her club team to the Japanese league title.

Sarina Koga-Nishida/Volleyball World photo

The remaining pin positions will be fiercely contested between Mayu Ishikawa, Arisa Inoue, and Kotona Hayashi. One potential surprise could be the return of opposite Miyu Nagaoka, who hasn’t played for the national team since 2018 due to injuries. Nagaoka, the lone Rio Olympian on the roster, adds an intriguing dynamic. Airi Miyabe is expected to challenge for a starting role, possibly as a middle blocker, following her success in the position last year. The biggest question for Japan lies in determining the setter and libero. The setter group includes Nanami Seki, Mika Shibata and Tamaki Matsui. Manami Kojima impressed during the VNL, but Satomi Fukodome claimed the libero spot by the end of the summer.


Brazil enters as one of the favorites after second-place finishes in the 2022 VNL and World Championships. The return of Julia Bergmann and Ana Cristina, who were absent at the World Championship, will provide a boost to Ze Roberto’s squad. Bergmann, the powerful outside who played a larger role for the first time last summer, has finished her time at Georgia Tech, where she was a first-team All-American.

Julia Bergmann serves against Poland in the 2022 VNL/Volleyball World photo

She faces tough competition from Ana Cristina, who has made a significant impact on the club scene, helping Fenerbahce win the Turkish league title. The other outside is superstar Gabi. Another powerhouse returning to Brazil’s lineup is Thaisa, a two-time Olympic champion, who announced her return to the national team after a hiatus since 2018. Carol, named the best middle blocker in both last year’s VNL and World Championships, tore her ACL during the club season with Minas. Brazil’s middle depth will be tested as Diana, Lara and Lorena are expected to compete alongside Carol and Thaisa. Setters Roberta and Macris will after both won the best-setter award in their respective leagues. Natinha and Nyeme, who saw playing time as liberos last summer, will continue in that role for the VNL. The most uncertain position for Brazil is the opposite, with no clear starter. Olympian Rosamaria has been hampered by an injury that kept her out for most of the spring. Youngsters Kisy, Tainara and Lorrayna have shown flashes of potential.


Poland pushed eventual champion Serbia to five sets in the World Championships, losing on an ace that ended the match at 16-14. One of the world’s top setters, Joanna Wolosz, returned to the national team under Stefano Lavarini’s guidance last year and is back. Opposite Magdelena Stysiak. Stysiak, standing at 6-foot-8, combines with the 6-6 Agnieszka Koreluk to create a strong blocking presence, which played a crucial role in Poland’s success last year. Injuries have affected Poland’s lineup, with starters Zuzanna Gorecka (OH) and Klaudia Alagierska (MB) tearing ACLs during the club season. In search of the right combination of outside hitters, Poland and Lavarini will turn to talented youngsters, including Martyna Lukasik (23), Marytna Czyrnianska (19), Julita Piasecka (20) and Monica Fedusio (23). Maria Stenzel and Aleksandra Szczyglowska are likely to anchor the defense once again this year.


Bulgaria has the youngest VNL roster. Many vetrans, including Emiliya Dimitrova, Elitsa Vasileva, Hristina Vuchkova, Gergana Dimitrova and Lora Kitipova, are not part of this event. Middle blocker Nasya Dimitrova leads as Bulgaria hopes to avoid relegation. Nasya will likely be partnered in the middle by the experienced Mira Todorova. Petya Barakova, as the most experienced option, may be expected to take charge of the team’s offense under coach Lorenzo Micelli. A notable young prospect for Bulgaria is opposite Iva Dudova, who may make her senior team debut in the VNL. The outside hitter group may be led by Miroslava Paskova and Aleksandra Milanova, both of whom played in the Turkish league this past year. Additionally, 19-year-old libero Mila Pashkuleva gained valuable experience as a starter last summer.


Germany also has a combination of experienced and new players. Former captain Jennifer Janiska and starting opposite Kimberly Drewniok have retired from national-team play, so coach Vital Heynen will look to Pia Kastner and Anna Pogany for leadership roles. Kastner, who won the setting position last summer, will face competition from Sarah Straube and Corina Glaab, who have relatively less experience at the international level. Anna Pogany is a stalwart in the German defense. To fill the void left by Janiska, Heynen will turn to Lina Alsmeier and Hanna Orthmann. Alsmeier had a successful season in Germany, while Orthmann finished strongly in Türkiye. Laura Emonts, coming off a successful club season, could also be a contender or potentially play as an opposite. Opposite is the biggest weakness, with Louisa Lippmann transitioning to beach volleyball, Drewniok retired and Ivana Vanjak injured. Outside hitter Lena Stigrot has played in the position in some matches, but she will face competition from Lara Berger, current Rice athlete Emilia Weske (who transferred from USC), and the young sensation Leana Grozer, who is only 16. The most experienced position for Germany may be the middle blocking duo of Marie Scholzel and Camila Weitzel, who both had a strong performance for Germany last year and during the recent club season. Monique Strubbe will also vie for a spot after being the best blocker and spiker in the German league.


China finished sixth in both the VNL and World Championships and faces challenges as key players Zhu Ting and Zhang Changning will be absent. Without Zhu Ting, China will rely heavily on Li Yingying to carry the offensive load. Li had a breakout season last year, finishing as the third highest scorer in the competition. The second outside hitter position remains a question mark, and coach Cai Bin will explore options with Wang Yunlu, Zhong Hui or Du Qingqing. Captain Yuan Xinyue will lead the middle blockers. Finding a successor for Yan Ni, who occupied the second middle blocker position, remains a priority. Yang Hanyu, Gao Yi and Wang Yuanyuan will compete for that spot alongside Yuan Xinyue. Gong Xiangyu is expected to continue as the starting opposite, playing the unique receiving opposite position. In the setting position, Diou Linyu is likely to be the starting setter after impressing during the World Championships. Wang Mengjie is expected to be the libero, but competition from Ni Feifan and Xu Jianan should keep the position competitive.


Canada, whose VNL roster is loaded with former NCAA players, had its best finish ever, 10th at the World Championships. Opposite Kiera Van Ryk  was not only the team’s top scorer but also the best server in the tournament. Leading the outside hitters will be BYU alum Alexa Gray, who had a stellar season in the Italian league finals and was named MVP for Conegliano.

Alexa Gray was the Lega Volleyball Femminile MVP/LVF photo

She will be joined by Andrea Mitrovic (Arizona State) and Thana Fayad (San Diego). Middles and opposites include Emily Maglio (Hawaii), Jennifer Cross (Michigan), Alicia Ogoms (USC), Jaz White and Allyssah Fitterer (Michigan State) and Layne Van Buskirk (Pitt), showcasing the strength of Canada’s block. Brie King is coming off an excellent club season where she was named the best setter in Brazil,. Canada’s biggest question mark may come at libero, where Kat Georgiadis from Santa Clara will compete for the starting spot with Julia Murmann, who held the position last summer, and Arielle Palmero, who was a reserve. 

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic will be led by the dynamic Martinez sisters, Brayelin and Jineiry,. Both sisters had successful seasons in Brazil, where they were league and South American champions. Brayelin was MVP of the South American championship. Brayelin, standing at an impressive 6-7, will primarily feature as an outside hitter but can also play opposite. Yonkaira Pena, Massiel Matos, star veteran Bethania De La Cruz, Madeline Guillien and Flormarie Heredia (Miami, FL) will compete for a spot at the outside hitter position. Jineiry leads the middles. Lisvel Eve, who returned to the national team after being absent in 2022, will compete with Geraldine Gonzales, Angelica Hinojosa and Candida Arias for the second middle spot, which was not firmly established last year. Niverka Marte is expected to lead the team’s offense, but coach Marcos Kwiek has called up Yokaty Perez, along with two teenagers in Ailyn Liberato and Crismeily Paniagua, to compete for the setter position. The team’s defense will be anchored by the exceptional Brenda Castillo, regarded as one of the best liberos in the world. Larysmer Martinez and Yaneirys Rodriguez will provide support and may see action as defensive specialists.


The Netherlands has a new head coach, Felix Koslowski, and the VNL provides an opportunity for him to experiment with players and lineups to establish the team’s identity. One area of depth for the Dutch is the setter position, where Laura Dijkema, Britt Bongaerts and Sarah Van Aalen will compete for the starting role. Bongaerts and Van Aalen recently faced off in the finals of the German league, which Bongaerts won. The middle blocker position is also well-stocked with options, including Juliet Lohuis, Eline Timmerman, Indy Baijens and Tessa Polder, who will be tasked with filling the void left by retiring players. However, the rest of the positions present plenty of questions. The absence of outside hitter Anne Buijs and the injury to Fleur Savelkoel leave opportunities for players like Hester Jasper, Marrit Jasper and Nika Daalderop to step up. Celeste Plak, who has experience as both an opposite and an outside hitter, will be an interesting player to watch and see how Koslowski utilizes her. The opposite position also leaves room for competition, with Plak, Iris Scholten, and youth sensation Elles Dambrink vying for the role. Myrthe Schoot, who was the starting libero last year, will be challenged by Kristen Knip, Romy Brokking, and Florien Reesink, all of whom have experience in the German league.

USA roster

No. Name (Pos., Ht., Hometown, College)
 1. Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Edmond, Okla., Penn St.)
 3. Kendall White (L, 5-5, Zionsville, Ind., Penn St.)
 4. Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Cypress, Calif., Nebraska)
 5. Ali Frantti (OH, 6-1, Spring Grove, Ill., Penn St.)
 6. Morgan Hentz (L, 5-9, Lakeside Park, Ky., Stanford)
 7. Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, Aurora, Ill., Wisconsin)
 8.  Brionne Butler (MB, 6-4, Kendleton, Texas, Texas)
10. Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Hooper, Neb., Nebraska)
11. Annie Drews (Opp, 6-4, Elkhart, Ind., Purdue)
12. Jordan Thompson (Opp, 6-4, Edina, Minn., Cincinnati)
14. Anna Stevenson (MB, 6-2, Laurens S.C., Louisville, Palmetto)
15. Haleigh Washington (MB, 6-3, Colorado Springs, Colo., Penn St. )
16. Dana Rettke (MB, 6-8, Riverside, Ill., Wisconsin,)
18. Kara Bajema (OH, 6-2, Lynden, Wash., Washington)
19. Jenna Gray (S, 6-1, Shawnee, Kan., Stanford)
20. Danielle Cuttino (Opp, 6-4, Indianapolis, Ind., Purdue)
21. Simone Lee (OH, 6-1, Menomonee Falls, Wis., Penn St.)
22. Kathryn Plummer (OH, 6-6, Aliso Viejo, Calif., Stanford)
23. Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Nebraska)
24. Chiaka Ogbogu (MB, 6-2, Coppell, Texas, Texas)
25. Brooke Nuneviller (OH, 5-11, Chandler, Ariz., Oregon)
26. Asjia O’Neal (MB, 6-3, Southlake, Texas, Texas)
27. Avery Skinner (OH, 6-1, Katy, Texas, Baylor)
28. Ashley Evans (S, 6-1, Liberty Township, Ohio, Purdue)
29. Khalia Lanier (OH, 6-2, Scottsdale, Ariz., Southern California)
30. Danielle Hart (MB, 6-4, Virginia Beach, Va., Wisconsin)
31. Roni Jones-Perry (OH, 6-0, West Jordan, Utah, BYU)
34. Stephanie Samedy (Opp, 6-2, Clermont, Fla., Minnesota)
35. Tori Dilfer-Stringer (S, 5-11, Los Gatos, Calif., Louisville)
36. Madeleine Gates (MB, 6-3, San Diego, Calif., Stanford)
Head Coach: Karch Kiraly
Assistant Coach: Tama Miyashiro
Second Assistant Coaches: Marv DunphyAlfee ReftErin Virtue
Performance Analyst: Rianne Verhoek
Physical Therapist/Athletic Trainer: Kara Kessans
Team Doctor: Lori Boyajian-O’Neill, William Briner, James Suchy, Eugene Yim
Consultant Coach: Sue Enquist, Katy Stanfill
Team Manager: Dana Burkholder, Coley Pawlikowski
Sports Dietitian: Shawn Hueglin
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Brandon Siakel
The 14 USA players in Türkiye are, in jersey numerical order, Hancock, Wong-Orantes, Hentz, Butler, Drews, Rettke, Cuttino, Nuneviller, O’Neal, Skinner, Evans, Lanier, Jones-Perry and Gates.

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. 


  1. I’m still wondering why high level competition like this still using Core & Challenger term, which is clearly unfair due to the fact that core team can’t be relegated but challenger team can. What is FIVB thinking when making this rules ? it just hurt the sportsmanship.


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