Carlini, Lowe and Bartsch-Hackley back in the fold

Team USA welcomes three star players into its training camp for week four of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League as Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, Lauren Carlini and Karsta Lowe link up with Karch Kiraly’s squad for a tough run of matches against tournament leaders Turkey, fifth-placed Poland and hosts China.

The trio’s arrival comes as a boost to Kiraly and his players, who suffered their second defeat of the VNL against Brazil in week two, leaving the Stars and Stripes with a 7-2 record going into the Chinese leg of the competition.

Top performers Annie Drews and Chiaka Ogbogu remain in the camp but Kiraly will be without Mikaela Foecke and Dana Rettke as he looks to bounce back from a performance he described as “not acceptable” against the Selecao.

Arriving on a high

Bartsch-Hackley and Carlini come into the USA squad on the back of a glorious end to their club season with Igor Volley Novara, who won the CEV Champions League title for the first time in the club’s history.

Their triumph came at the expense of Lowe’s Imoco Volley Conegliano, who pipped Igor to the Serie A1 title in 2018-19, and the combination of three of the most talented players in Italy’s domestic volleyball scene will be a huge boost to Team USA.

Lowe will also bring a detailed insight into USA’s opponents Poland, having spent the season playing alongside Polish setter Joanna Wolosz, who was the Champions League’s top setter with an efficiency of 46.9 per cent. 

“I’ve never seen anyone run an offence like her,” Lowe told FloVolleyball of her team-mate. 

“She’s so athletic. She hides it super well – she’s super neutral when she sets, so it’s hard to defend against her.”

Form and experience

At the age of 29 and with a glittering career under her belt, Bartsch-Hackley brings valuable experience to Kiraly’s team but she remains on the very top of her game.

She was named in the CEV Champions League Dream Team after notching 20 kills on 45 attacks, racking up a .311 hitting efficiency, and her ability to combine with Carlini to great effect is something the pair have honed over the course of their domestic season.

“Lauren is great,” Bartsch-Hackley told FloVolleyball earlier in the year. 

“She’s extremely hard-working and wants to be the best. We have only played together a little bit in the USA gym before coming to Novara, so having to play with her every day here I think will help both of us in the long run for USA. 

“In general, having another American on the team makes life so much easier. The cultural difference can be difficult and having someone to understand you and where you come from is so nice.” 

Team USA play against Turkey in Jiangmen on June 11 before facing Poland and then China over the two days that follow.