USA Punches Ticket To Final Six During Perfect Week

Thailand vs United States | Women's VNL

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

In the final week of Volleyball Nations League preliminary play, the U.S. women’s national team collected three victories.

With the first, a sweep of Russia, Team USA secured its spot in the VNL Final Six. Then, the second, a five-set battle with the Netherlands, saw head coach Karch Kiraly do some experimenting with his lineup. 

The third outing of the week, the final match of the preliminary round for the USA, ended in another sweep for the Americans, this time over Thailand, giving the U.S. three valuable points toward a better seed in the Final Six.

A trend in all of this week’s matches was experimentation at the libero position. After using either Megan Courtney or Mary Lake as the starting libero in every match over the first four weeks of VNL, Kiraly used a different libero in each of the Week 5 matches. 

Against Russia, outside hitter Kelsey Robinson put on the libero jersey for the first time since last summer, when she spent the majority of the season playing the position for USA. The former Nebraska Husker collected a team-high 14 digs and boasted a 75 percent positive reception in the three-set match.

“I think this was one of our best passing matches of the 13 VNL matches. It was a well-managed effort,” Kiraly said. 

Michelle Bartsch-Hackley donned the libero jersey against the Netherlands, her first time ever playing the position in an international match. Her 43 percent positive reception was perhaps not what you would typically hope for from a libero, but she added 11 digs and helped the team stave off two match points to defeat a full-strength Netherlands squad that had nothing to lose after already missing out on an opportunity to advance to the Final Six.

For the Thailand match, Kirlay tapped Mikaela Foecke for the libero gig, and she recorded a 32 percent positive reception on 25 passes. Foecke was added to the roster last minute ahead of Week 5’s matches, perhaps for this specific reason, that Kiraly knew he would need some additional depth at the libero/outside hitter position.

Lake was not included in the Week 4 or 5 travel roster and Courtney hasn’t played since Week 3 in Lincoln, with USA Volleyball citing “health issues” as the reason; however, she has remained on the roster and traveling with the team. If Courtney recovers, expect her to reclaim the libero jersey, if not, our best guess would be that Kelsey Robinson will play the position throughout the Final Six.

At the end of the preliminary round, Annie Drews remains the USA’s top scorer, with 158 total points. Chiaka Ogbogu, with 125 points, ranks second in just her first season traveling with the top USA team. The former University of Texas middle has collected an impressive 23 blocks in her 11 match appearances and is the team’s top server with 13 aces.

Joining USA in the Final Six will be host China, which finished the preliminary rounds in first place with a 12-3 record, 35 points, and a sets ratio of 3.083. The USA earned the No. 2 seed with the identical 12-3 record and 35 points, however, with a sets ratio of 2.294.

Brazil, Italy, Turkey, and Poland round out the finalists, with Poland beating out Japan, Dominican Republic, and Belgium, who were all battling in Week 5 to earn the final slot.

The teams now get a week and a half off before the Final Six begins in Nanjing, China, on July 3. All Final Six matches will stream live right here on FloVolleyball.

Men's Individual Stats From VNL

When it was all said and done, Russia came out victorious once again this year as they took out team USA.

USA Comes Up Short In VNL Final Against Russia


At the end of a major tournament, it often seems like the silver medalists are the most disappointed team on the podium. Sure, the bronze medalists lost in the semifinals, but they finished the tournament with a win. 

USA Gets Incredible Comeback Win Over Brazil

It wasn’t exactly the Curse of the Bambino, but the members of the U.S. men’s national volleyball team are no less relieved to have finally vanquished the semifinal curse that has kept them out of gold-medal matches in four major tournaments in the past four seasons.

Thomas Jaeschke Comes Up Big Against Russia


A year and a few months after tearing his ACL, you’d have to say Thomas Jaeschke is officially back.

Russia, USA, Poland Secure Semifinal Spots At VNL Finals

On the second day of Volleyball Nations League Final Round Pool Play, Poland defeated Iran and Russia swept France, results which locked in three of the four semifinalists for the tournament. 

Veteran USA Squad Opens VNL Finals With Win Over France


USA head coach John Speraw didn’t love everything he saw from his team in Wednesday night’s Volleyball Nations League Final Round opening match for the U.S. men versus France.

VNL Men's Final Round Rosters Released

The men’s VNL Final Round begins Wednesday, with the six remaining teams battling it out for three nights of pool play before Saturday’s semifinals and Sunday’s medal rounds. 

VNL Recap: 'What A Great Team Win'

The U.S. women’s national team certainly didn’t take the easy road to a repeat Volleyball Nations League gold medal. 

U.S. Women Enjoy Historic Holiday Weekend

I’m just gonna put it out there: July 7, 2019, was a great day for women’s sports in the United States.

USA To Play China In Volleyball Nations League Semifinals

With a pair of four-set victories in Final Round pool play, the U.S. women’s national team moved a step closer to repeating as the Volleyball Nations League champion. And they did it with two almost completely different starting lineups.