Seasoned veterans, newcomers and plenty of athletes are on the list as U.S. women take their first step towards the 2024 Paris Olympics in the summer of 2023.
The U.S. women play Serbia, Italy, Korea and hosts Türkiye as the Volleyball Nations League kicks off this week in Antalya, Turkey and Nagoya, Japan (Click here for a breakdown of all the other teams in the tournament).
Teams provide an overall roster of 30 players, but can only bring in 14 for each VNL match. For the US, coach Karch Kiraly took a mix of old and new to Antalya. He has the luxury that no matter what happens, the US is guaranteed a place in the quarterfinals. That’s because the quarter-finals, semi-finals and championships will be played in Arlington, Texas from July 12-16, with the home team securing a place in the final eight.
Many veterans are finishing long professional seasons and just need a rest. This includes the four who played in the Italian league final two weeks ago, Conegliano’s Kelsey Robinson and Kathryn Plummer who beat Milano, Jordan Larson and Jordan Thompson.
As such, we’ll take a look at Türkiye’s 14, which includes three members of Team USA, which won gold at the Tokyo Olympics, and eight players making their VNL debut.
We also have a recap of the US women who won the NORCECA Pan American Cup on Sunday as the U21 team defeated the hosts in the final.
US 14 in Turkey
Setters: Micha Hancock and Ashley Evans.
Hancock, who may have the cruelest serve in the sport, is a seasoned professional veteran from Penn State. When starting Jordyn Poulter sprained her ankle in Tokyo, Hancock stepped in and the band never missed a beat. She played most of her professional career in Italy, including last season in Vallefoglia.
Evans, a Purdue product, debuts at VNL. Evans, a professional since 2018, played last season in German Aachen
Outside attackers: Brooke Nuneviller, Avery Skinner, Khalia Lanier, and Roni Jones-Perry. All former NCAA stars are playing in the VNL for the first time.
Former Oregon star Nuneviller just finished his first pro season for Nilufer Belediyespor in Türkiye. We introduced her last summer and most of the story was that she would have to become a libero if she wanted to play for the national team, but in this case, the 5-foot-9 outstanding all-rounder still defies the odds and is out.
Skinner won an NCAA title with Kentucky, ended up at Baylor, and played for the Beziers in France last season.
Lanier was everything to USC, who played her first professional season in Puerto Rico before moving to Bergamo, Italy last season.
Jones-Perry led BYU to the 2018 NCAA National Semifinals and began her professional career in Italy before playing three seasons in Poland. Last season, she was the best server in the Brazilian league for Sesc-RJ/Flamengo.
Middle Blockers: Brionne Butler, Dana Rettke, Asja O’Neal and Madeleine Gates.
Butler and Rettke played in the VNL last year. O’Neal and Gates are teaming up for the first time.
Butler, a former Texas great, played a season in Indonesia before moving to Chieri in Italy last season.
Rettke, who led Wisconsin to the 2021 NCAA title, played with Larson and Thompson in Milan. She played sparingly in the Italian finals.
O’Neal has had a great season for Texas, which won the NCAA title in December. She is the only college player on the team and will play for the Longhorns again next season.
Gates won an NCAA title as a college student in her only season at Stanford. She played for Dresdner in Germany for two seasons before moving to RC Cannes in France last season.
opposites: Annie Drews and Danielle Cuttino. They both played for Purdue.
Drews had a fantastic second half of the Tokyo Olympics when Jordan Thompson was injured. The left-hander has had an incredible career in the US since her professional debut in 2016. She had stops in Puerto Rico, Italy, Poland and Japan, and last season played in Italy for Vallefoglia with Hancock.
Cuttino, making her debut in VNL, in the past season in Queenseis, Japan, constantly presented great numbers. She previously played professionally in Italy for Casalmaggiore and in Brazil for Minas.
libero: Justine Wong-Orantes and Morgan Hentz. Wong Orantes was an Olympic libero in Tokyo; Hentz played in the VNL last summer.
Wong-Orantes won an NCAA title for Nebraska and played in Germany for Schwerin and Wiesbaden before moving to Beziers last season where she played with Skinner.
Hentz wasn’t sure she’d be playing after college when she won the 2019 NCAA title at Stanford with Plummer and Gates (and Jennifer Gray, who is on the 30-player roster). She played a season with Dresdner in 2020-21, but playing with Athletes Unlimited in the same year boosted her professional career (We showed it during last year’s VNL).
List of 30 US players
No. Name and surname (Poz., Ht., Hometown, University)
1. Micah Hancock (S, 5-11, Edmond, Oklahoma, Penn St.)
3. Kendall White (L, 5-5, Zionsville, Ind., Penn St.)
4. Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, Cypress, CA, Nebraska)
5. Ali Franti (OH, 6-1, Spring Grove, Illinois, Penn St.)
6. Morgan Hentz (L, 5-9, Lakeside Park, Kentucky, Stanford)
7. Lauren Karlini (S, 6-2, Aurora, Illinois, Wisconsin)
8. Brionne Butler (MB, 6-4, Kendleton, Texas, Texas)
10. Jordan Larson (OH, 6-2, Hooper, Nebraska)
11. Annie Drews (Opp, 6-4, Elkhart, Ind., Purdue)
12. Jordan Thompson (Up, 6-4, Edina, Minnesota, Cincinnati)
14. Anna Stevenson (MB, 6-2, Laurens SC, Louisville, Palmetto)
15. Haleigh Washington (MB, 6-3, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Penn St.)
16. Dan Rettka (MB, 6-8, Riverside, Illinois, Wisconsin)
18. Kara Bajem (OH, 6-2, Lynden, Washington, Washington)
19. Jenna Gray (S, 6-1, Shawnee, Kan., Stanford)
20. Danielle Cuttino (Opp, 6-4, Indianapolis, Indiana, Purdue)
21. Simon Lee (OH, 6-1, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Penn St.)
22. Kathryn Plummer (OH, 6-6, Aliso Viejo, CA, Stanford)
23. Kelsey Robinson (OH, 6-2, Manhattan Beach, CA, Nebraska)
24. Chiaka Obogu (MB, 6-2, Coppell, Texas, Texas)
25. Brooke Nuneviller (OH, 5-11, Chandler, Arizona, Oregon)
26. Asia 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, Arizona, Southern California)
thirty. Danielle Hart (MB, 6-4, Virginia Beach, Wisconsin)
31. Roni Jones-Perry (OH, 6-0, West Jordan, Utah, BYU)
34. Stefania Samedy (Opp, 6-2, Clermont, Florida, Minnesota)
35. Tori Dilfer-Stringer (S, 5-11, Los Gatos, CA, Louisville)
36. Madeleine Gates (MB, 6-3, San Diego, CA, Stanford)
Head Trainer: The King of the Tavern
Assistant Trainer: Miyashiro Dam
Second Assistant Coach: Marv Dunphy, Alfee Reft, Erin Virtue
Performance Analyst: Rianne Verhoek
Physiotherapist/Sports Coach: Kara Kessans
Team Doctor: Lori Boyajian-O’Neill, William Briner, James Suchy, Eugene Yim
Consultant Trainer: Sue Enquist, Katy Stanfill
Team Manager: Dana Burkholder, Coley Pawlikowski
Sports nutritionist: Shawn Hueglin
Strength and Conditioning Coach: Brandon Siake
In the NORCECA Pan American Cup, the US women won the tournament 5–0 against Mexico 25:13, 25:16, 25:21 in Nogales, Mexico.
Purdue’s Chloe Chicoine was named the MVP of the tournament and the best outside hitter. Creighton’s Norah Sis, the 2021 VolleyballMag.com National Freshman of the Year and last year’s third-team VBM All-American, was the second best outside. Pitt’s Rachel Fairbanks was the top quarterback, Florida’s Gabrielle Essix was the top center, and Baylor’s libero Lauren Briseño was the top receiver.
The team was coached by Dan Fisher of Pitt. Click here for more from USA Volleyball.