Bartsch-Hackley – This year’s VNL is wide open

Michelle Bartsch-Hackley says “anyone could grab the title” at this summer’s Volleyball Nations League as the outside hitter prepares to defend the title with the USA.

Bartsch-Hackley was named MVP at last season’s VNL as the Americans beat Turkey 3-2 in a nail-biting final at Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre in China, scoring 18 points for Karch Kiraly’s team.

The VNL is the first major event of a packed international summer schedule and the 29-year-old from Illinois says squad rotation may be a factor in who comes away with the trophy.

“It will be interesting who is sending who to which weeks of VNL,” she told Volleyverse.

“I think anyone could grab the title, but obviously we would love to repeat [last year]. VNL is a fun tournament for exposure of our sport.”

The Americans’ 2019 VNL schedule involves pool action in Bulgaria, Italy, USA, China and Russia before a return trip to China for the final round (if they qualify). That hectic period precedes Olympic qualifiers in Louisiana in August and the World Cup in Japan in September.

Bartsch-Hackley added: “We play all over the world for a long period of time. We do have a lot of important things this summer including the Olympic qualifier.

USA is so excited to be able to host this special event.”

CEV Champions League

Before the international season begins, the University of Illinois graduate has the small matter of a CEV Champions League final to prepare for with her Italian club Igor Gorgonzola Novara.

They went down heavily to Imoco Valley Congeliano in the Italian Serie A1 final last week and now face the same domestic rivals in European volleyball’s showpiece final in Berlin this coming weekend (May 18).

“We didn’t play our best volleyball during the A1 final,” admitted Bartsch-Hackley, who faced compatriots Kim Hill and Karsta Lowe across the net.

“Our focus is to work hard and grind out the next week of training and be able to play free and enjoy the Champions League final.”

As for any talk of her moving clubs for next season, she was playing her cards close to her chest, saying only: “I’m more focused on the finish of this club season right now; only eight days left.

Italy is a fun place to play because the fans and support around volleyball is awesome. The worst part is there’s no American coffee anywhere!”

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