A Closer Look At The Final VNL Roster For The USA Women

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The picture of the group that will don the red, white and blue jerseys, and represent the USA in this summer’s women’s Volleyball Nations League is coming into focus. 

On Monday, USA Volleyball released the 25-player VNL roster. A preliminary 30-player roster was announced on May 1, and prior to each week of pool play, head coach Karch Kiraly will select a 14-player group to travel with. 

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The 25-player roster features five players from the 2016 Olympics roster: setter Carli Lloyd, middle Rachael Adams, outside hitters Kim Hill and Kelsey Robinson, and opposite Karsta Lowe. 

Robinson is back to being listed as an outside hitter after spending the majority of the 2018 Team USA season starting at the libero position. Lowe took a season and a half off from volleyball following the 2016 Olympics but rejoined the team partway through last season, even traveling with the squad to World Championships in Japan and earning some playing time. 

Missing from the core group that traveled and started last summer are middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo and opposite Kelly Murphy. 

In their place, you’ll see a slew of brand-new college grads and even a few women still in the midst of their college careers. Setter Jordyn Poulter and outside hitter Mikaela Foecke join the women’s national team after capping decorated college careers with an appearance in the 2018 NCAA national semifinals in Minneapolis—Poulter with Illinois and Foecke with Nebraska.

Kiraly also included three athletes with college seasons yet to play on his 25-player roster: Mary Lake (libero, BYU), Dana Rettke (MB, Wisconsin), and Jordan Thompson (OPP, Cincinnati). 

Lake, a two-time WCC Defender of the Year and a Second Team All-American, helped propel BYU to a 31-2 record in 2018 and an appearance in the national semifinals. Her inclusion on the 2019 VNL roster goes hand-in-hand with the exclusion of Wong-Orantes, who was the starting libero at the beginning of the 2018 VNL tournament before Robinson made the switch. Megan Courtney, who competes as an outside hitter for her professional team, is the only other libero on the 25-player VNL roster.

Rettke has only played two seasons of college volleyball, but already she’s a two-time First Team All-American and earned the title of 2017 AVCA National Freshman of the Year. In 2018, she ranked sixth in the country in blocks per set (1.54), second in hitting percentage (.423), and 25th in points per set (4.76). Standing 6-foot-8, Rettke is the tallest player on the 25-woman roster, by a full four inches. 

But when FloVolleyball visited the national team in early May, it was Thompson who was generating the most buzz among the more veteran players in the gym. 

Of course, this will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the career of the Edina, Minnesota, native. Her many accolades from three seasons at the University of Cincinnati include 2015 AAC Freshman of the Year, 2016 and 2018 AAC Player of the Year, and 2018 Third Team All-American. As a sophomore, she surpassed the 1,000 kills mark, becoming the fastest player in UC and AAC history to hit that milestone. 

Thompson redshirted the 2017 season following Tommy John surgery (UCL), but in 2018 had another banner year. As of the second week of the season, Thompson led the country in kills (827), points (909), kills per set (6.27), and points per set (6.89) and never relinquished that hold. 

With opposite being one of the positions that has been more in flux over the past few seasons and with Murphy absent from the VNL roster, Thompson has a chance to make a significant impact this summer, despite still having another year of college eligibility left. In addition to Lowe, she’ll have to compete with national team returner Annie Drews and 2018 Purdue grad Danielle Cuttino for a spot.

The first week of VNL presents an especially good opportunity for young players to prove themselves as a few of the veteran players are still overseas competing with their professional teams. In particular, Hill, Lowe, setter Lauren Carlini, and outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley will play in the CEV Champions League final on May 18, just three days before the start of VNL, so it seems safe to assume they won’t be joining the team until a later date. 

In addition to Wong-Orantes, athletes featured on the preliminary 30-player roster who are not included in the 25-player are Kadie Rolfzen, Krystal Rivers, Paige Tapp, and Tita Akiu. 

U.S. Women's National Team Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League

# - Player (Position, Height, College, Hometown)

1 – Micha Hancock (S, 5-11, Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)

2 – Jordyn Poulter (S, 6-2, Illinois, Aurora, Colorado)

3 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, California, Bonsall, California)

5 – Rachael Adams (M, 6-2, Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio)

6 – Tori Dixon (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)

7 – Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, Wisconsin, Aurora, Illinois)

8 – Lauren Gibbemeyer (M, 6-2, Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota)

9 – Madi Kingdon Rishel (OH, 6-1, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona)

10 – Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Hooper, Nebraska)

11 – Annie Drews (OPP, 6-4, Purdue, Elkhart, Indiana)

12 – Jordan Thompson (OPP, 6-4, Cincinnati, Edina, Minnesota)

13 – Sarah Wilhite Parsons (OH, 6-2, Minnesota, Eden Prairie, Minnesota)

14 – Michelle Bartsch-Hackley (OH, 6-3, Illinois, Champaign, Illinois)

15 – Kim Hill (OH, 6-4, Pepperdine, Portland, Oregon)

17 – Megan Courtney (L, 6-1, Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)

18 – Mikaela Foecke (OH, 6-3, Nebraska, West Point, Iowa)

19 – Hannah Tapp (M, 6-3, Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)

20 – Dana Rettke (M, 6-8, Wisconsin, Riverside, Illinois)

21 – Simone Lee (OH, 6-1, Penn State, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin)

22 – Haleigh Washington (M, 6-3, Penn State, Colorado Springs, Colorado)

23 – Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Nebraska, Manhattan Beach, California)

24 – Chiaka Ogbogu (M, 6-2, Texas, Coppell, Texas)

25 – Karsta Lowe (OPP, 6-4, UCLA, Rancho Santa Fe, California)

27 – Mary Lake (L, 5-7, BYU, Palm Springs, California)

32 – Danielle Cuttino (OPP, 6-4, Purdue, Indianapolis, Indiana)

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