For three nights in mid-May, the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln played host to high-level international volleyball. From the 15th - 17th of May the United States, Poland, Turkey, and Italy played round-robin in the Volleyball Nations League.
The Volleyball Nations League is a new idea from FIVB, the international sanctioning body, with the intent to raise the level of competition that fans get to see and players get to participate in between major tournaments. Matches take place at sites around the world.
The United States team featured Jordan Larson, Kelsey Robinson, and Justine Wong-Orantes, all graduates of the University o-f Nebraska.
Team USA beat Poland the first night 3-1 (28-26, 25-22, 22-25, 25-15), lost to Turkey on night two 2-3 (26-28, 19-25, 25-20, 26-24, 14-16), and finally handled Italy with a sweep (25-21, 25-18, 25-21).
Against Poland, Larson had 16 kills on 31 attempts while adding two blocks and two aces. She added seven kills and one ace against Turkey. On the closing night, Larson had seven kills, no blocks, and one ace.
Robinson had one kill against Poland while playing in only one set, but played in two sets against Turkey and had four kills, two blocks and one ace. She started the match against Italy in the contrasting libero jersey, the first time in her international career.
Wong-Orantes’s stats are a little harder to report because the FIVB doesn’t list defensive stats from the matches. She played libero in all four sets against Poland and all five sets against Turkey, but no digs or passes are tracked. She was not dressed in the contrasting jersey against Italy initially after struggling in serve-receive against Turkey, a point mentioned by Coach Karch Kiraly and multiple players after the match.
Many of the players also mentioned that they were working out the kinks this weekend. Kelsey Robinson, in particular, mentioned flying in last Tuesday from club season, getting in the gym with this team for the first time last Wednesday and now jumping into international competition. Adding to the complication was the fact that this was many of the players’ first competition with Carli Lloyd as the setter.
Turkey’s victory over the United States was a bit of a surprise, but it’s a country with a healthy professional league where Larson plays for a club in Istanbul. It should be noted that the teams in this tournament are the top-12 ranked teams in the world and four wild cards, or challenge teams. However, the hard-fought wins over Poland and Italy were not a surprise for Team USA.
If you want to watch more of the six-week Volleyball Nations League, you can find the schedule here. As of right now, flovolleyball is the only place showing it, and it’s a pricey subscription service.