2019 FIVB Nations League preview – USA’s quest for title glory repeat

We will again get a taste of top-notch USA women’s volleyball when the country’s national team attempts to defend its title at the FIVB VNL 2019 in China.

USA won the inaugural FIVB VNL championship last year, after a five-set thriller against Turkey in the final. There are understandably high expectations for the world no.3 squad, which will open up the tournament in a pool with relatively manageable foes in Japan, Belgium and Bulgaria.

Like many others, USA will look to capitalize on this tournament to drum up preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But the Americans have a distinct chip on their shoulders as they continue to search for that elusive Olympic gold medal in women’s volleyball.

2018 FIVB VNL record & stats

Win/loss: 13 – 2

Points: 40

Sets win/loss/ratio: 42 – 8 5.250

Points win/loss/ratio: 1227 – 997 – 1.231

Final position: 1st

What’s new for USA in FIVB VNL 2019?

The Americans should be coming into this tournament with pretty much the same names as those that won them the trophy last year. Highly respected head coach Karch Kiraly, an Olympic gold medalist in beach and indoor volleyball, remains at the helm as he aims to guide this team to Tokyo next year.

USA world ranking: 3 (October 2018)

USA provisional roster

Head coach: Karch Kiraly

Setters: Micha Hancock,  Jordyn Poulter, Carli Lloyd, Lauren Carlini,

Liberos: Justine Wong-Orantes, Megan Courtney, Mary Lake, Reyn Akiu

Middle Blockers: Rachael Adams, TeTori Dixon, Lauren Gibbemeyer, Hannah Tapp, Dana Rettke, Haleigh Washington, Chiaka Ogbogu, Paige Tapp,

Wing Spikers (Outside & Opposite Hitters): Jordan Larson, Madison Kingdon Rishel, Andrea Drews, Jordan Thompson, Sarah Wilhite, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, Kimberly Hill, Mikaela Foecke, Simone Lee, Kelsey Robinson, Karsta Lowe, Kadie Rolfzen, Krystal Rivers, Danielle Cuttino

Average age: 25.2 (6th oldest)

Average height: 186.3cm (3rd tallest)

USA players to watch in FIVB VNL 2019: Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, Kelsey Robinson, Rachael Adams

Team USA is loaded with exceptional, world-class talent and it’s always a treat to see them play at the highest level. For FIVB VNL 2019, expect to see last year’s Most Valuable Player Michelle Bartsch-Hackley back in action.

Bartsch-Hackley, 29, was the second-best spiker during the preliminary round of FIVB VNL 2018 with 164 spikes. Additionally, she was the second-best scorer in the final round with 78 total points. Her performance for team USA also earned her the Best Outside Hitter award. But for FIVB VNL 2019, she’s expected to showcase the improved reception she honed while playing for one of Italy’s top teams, Igor Volley Novara.

Kelsey Robinson, who last year smoothly transitioned from outside spiker to libero, will likely see action again this year. The 26-year-old, who is currently playing for Vakıfbank Istanbul in Turkey, one of the world’s best volleyball teams, has done well as a libero in the 2018 edition of FIVB VNL. She was consistently ranked among the top five best diggers and receivers in both preliminary and final rounds.

One of this team’s key strengths is the speed of its middle blockers. Rachael Adams, 28, anchors the middle for the Americans and she has a wealth of experience to pull from. Watch out for setter Carli Lloyd as well, who topped the best setter category in the preliminary round of last year’s FIVB VNL.

Kelsey Robinson, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley & Rachael Adams in action for Team USA

USA FIVB VNL 2019 match schedule

All game times listed in GMT.

Week 1

May 21 at 14:00 – Belgium v USA

May 22 at 14:00 – Japan v USA

May 23 at 17:30 – USA v Bulgaria

Week 2

May 28 at 15:00 – USA v Serbia

May 29 at 18:00 – USA v Italy

May 30 at 15:00 – Dominican Republic v USA

Week 3

June 4 at 00:30 – USA v Korea

June 5 at 00:30 – USA v Germany

June 6 at 00:30 – USA v Brazil

Week 4

June 11 at 08:00 – USA v Turkey

June 12 at 08:00 – Poland v USA

June 13 at 12:00 – China v USA

Week 5

June 18 at 14:00 – Russia v USA

June 19 at 11:00 – Netherlands v USA

June 20 at 11:00 – Thailand v USA

USA games to watch out for in FIVB VNL 2019

With this year’s tournament laced with high stakes as the Olympics approach, any top-tiered team should be an interesting and exciting matchup for the USA national women’s volleyball team. Undoubtedly, matches against the world’s top squads that would generate fireworks.

In particular, watch out for USA locking horns with world no.1 and no.2 Serbia and China, respectively, as well as Brazil and Russia. During the first week of competition, Japan will be USA’s most challenging opponent.

The bottom line: USA’s quest for FIVB VNL title repeat

Whether or not the Americans succeed with defending their FIVB VNL crown has ramifications beyond this tournament.

After winning its first World Championship gold in 2014, team USA slid to fifth place at last year’s edition in Japan. It was an uncharacteristic dip in the team’s play after winning FIVB VNL 2018. So the squad would be looking to bounce back and get its rhythm going once more at this year’s FIVB VNL.

Even if the Americans fail to repeat, they would certainly be aiming for a podium finish to build momentum heading into the Tokyo Olympics next year, where they will want nothing less than to taste a first-ever gold medal in women’s volleyball.

It won’t be an easy task for team USA at FIVB VNL. The Americans have a huge target on their backs with supremely talented squads such as Serbia and China taking aim. But they should be highly motivated at this point given their bigger-picture goal next year. I’s worth noting that another year of international club experience gained by some key players would add further dynamism to the team’s play for FIVB VNL 2019 and beyond.

What is a realistic FIVB VNL projection for the USA women’s team?

A podium finish at the very least is the overwhelming expectation for the Americans. But a second straight championship would certainly be a huge boost to the team’s confidence and morale as they push towards Tokyo next year.

How to watch USA in FIVB VNL 2019

FIVB haven’t as yet released the broadcast details for the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. Once it is updated we will update this section.

For now we can definitely say that fans based in the USA will be able to watch every game LIVE and on-demand via FloVolleyball.tv.