Arizona’s Madi Kingdon Rishel, Washington’s Kara Bajema

Well, actually neighboring Bossier City, Louisiana, where the USA women play in the first round of the 16-nation Volleyball Nations League. It was in northwest Louisiana in 2019 that the USA clinched its spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

The defending Olympic gold-medalists open play at 8 p.m. Central Tuesday in the Brookshire Grocery Arena against the Dominican Republic. Action begins at 5 p.m. when Germany plays Brazil.

The USA is then off two days before playing Canada on Friday and Brazil on Saturday.

Then the Americans’ portion of the tournament moves to the Phillipines. The other first-round site is in Turkey.

The top eight teams will qualify for the single-elimination quarterfinals July 13 in Ankara, Turkey. The VNL this season is as important as ever, as it will be the only major event before the 2022 FIVB World Championship in September.

Here’s a look at the teams the USA and the teams the Americas will play in the next week:

USA — The Americans are the three-time defending champions and enter the competition with a mixture of new players on the big stage and some experienced international veterans. The roster is 25 total, with 14 at the tournament. The two Olympians are opposites Jordan Thompson and Annie Drews. Thompson was spectacular at the start of the Tokyo Games, but then got hurt, which opened the door for Drews, who was also phenomenal.

China’s X.Y. Yuan gets a couple of fingers on the Jordan Thompson spike during the Tokyo Olympics/Ed Chan,
Two Stanford greats are on the squad, libero Morgan Hentz, who just had a big-time season for Athletes Unlimited, and setter Jenna Gray, who played in Germany.

The other setter is Lauren Carlini, the former Wisconsin All-American who is having a tremendous pro career.

The middles include two former Minnesota standouts in Tori Dixon and Sarah Wilhite, Wisconsin player of the year Dana Rettke, Brionne Butler of Texas and recent Louisville standout Anna Stevenson.

The outsides are Penn State’s Ali Frantti, Arizona’s Madi Kingdon Rishel, Washington’s Kara Bajema and the libero is Penn State’s Kendall White.

Click here for our story about the entire roster chosen by coach Karch Kiraly.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC — The DR is coming off an Olympic quarterfinal appearance and a NORCECA championship, After a solid club season in Turkey, opposite Gaila Gonzales will look to lead the Dominican Republic, which finished sixth in the VNL last season. She will be joined by the Martinez sisters, outside Brayelin and middle Jineiry. Niverka Marte has been the setter since 2010. Outside Yonkaira Peña will attempt to establish herself in the starting lineup after a strong season in Brazil. All-time great and Athletes Unlimited star Bethania De La Cruz has been with the national team since 2007. Libero Brenda Castillo, regarded as one of the best in the world, is coming off a strong season in Italy.

CANADA — Canada is a challenger team, joined by Poland, Dominican Republic, and Belgium, meaning whichever of the four has the worst finish will be relegated from the VNL at the end of the competition. Our northern neighbors are led by BYU product Alexa Gray, who has become one of the best attacking outsides in the world. Gray may be joined on the outside by Arizona State’s Andrea Mitrovic or Hilary Howe. Former Michigan State star Autumn Bailey is still sidelined by injury. Kiera Van Ryk, the 2021 VNL third-best scorer, will hold down the opposite position, and former Florida Gator Shainah Joseph hopes to get in the mix. A trio of former NCAA players will lead the middle blockers, including Emily Maglio (Hawaii), captain Jennifer Cross (Michigan), and Alicia Ogoms (USC). Brie King will lead the offense while Kim Robitaille will provide backup. Santa Clara libero Katerina Georgiadis will compete for the libero position with Arielle Palmero and Julia Murmann.

Comments are closed