Avery Skinner attacks against Bulgaria/Volleyball World photo by Dana Drambarean, @bet.on.her.collective

ARLINGTON, Texas — Things ramp up here Saturday and Sunday for the USA women’s volleyball team in Volleyball Nations League.

After sweeping Bulgaria on Friday to improve to 4-2 and move up to sixth place in the 16-team field, the Americans go back-to-back against two of the better teams in the world.

At 4:30 p.m. Central Saturday they play first-place Poland (7-0, 21-1 in sets) and then finish this second round Sunday against fifth-place Türkiye (4-2).

“We’re really excited for a chance at Poland,” USA coach Karch Kiraly said. “One of the last times we played them was here (in 2023). We (later) played them in the Olympic qualifier, but we had a really gnarly match, 17-15 in the fifth, for the bronze medal in the VNL finals here on this same floor. 

“I’m really excited to play them. They’ve been playing really good volleyball. They’ve barely lost a set and are undefeated and it will be a nice test for both teams.”

Veteran outside Jordan Larson, who did not play Friday but will almost certainly be in the lineup this weekend, is ready.

“Huge. It’s going to be great. Obviously both teams are great and it will be great competition,” Larson said. “Good preparation for the matches coming this summer.”

The USA beat Bulgaria 25-17, 25-22, 25-22 as outside Avery Skinner led with 17 kills, hitting .352, and two blocks. 

Micha Hancock sets against Bulgaria/Volleyball World photo by Dana Drambarean, @bet.on.her.collective

Three former Penn State players were in the lineup. Outside Ali Frantti had eight kills and two blocks, middle Haleigh Washington had nine kills with one error in 13 swings and an ace, and setter Micha Hancock had two kills, three blocks, two aces and 10 digs, and her team hit .291.

Washington was playing in her first 2024 VNL match.

“Just been gearing up. We had a late season. My pro team (in Italy) did really, really well so I arrived (in Anaheim) a little later, so we were slowly trying to ramp me up,” Washington said. “So I missed the first week but it’s great to be back for week two and it was a fun first game.

“Lot of miniscule errors, a lot of technical things that I’m really trying to upgrade and work on, but I think it’s good when you come and don’t play the perfect match. You should feel the nerves and the jitters and make the little mistakes. I’m glad and I feel like I’m right where I need to be.”

Libero Morgan Hentz had 11 digs, and Khalia Lanier had 10. But there was way more to Lanier’s outing than that. Lanier had 10 kills, hit .300, all while playing opposite as she also made her 2024 VNL debut.

Lanier, a great college outside at USC, is going with the flow. The other opposite here is Jordan Thompson, and the other USA opposite, Annie Drews — Thompson and Drews shared the position at the Tokyo Olympics — has yet to play in this VNL.

“I’m happy to get an opportunity wherever it is,” Lanier said. “At the beginning I think I started with like two errors (she had a total of four in 20 attacks), so I definitely had to work out some kinks. But it feels good to be on the court no matter what position and wear the USA jersey.

“So I’m just happy and grateful that I’m out there and try to help the team as best as I can.”

That wasn’t lost on Kiraly.

“Khalia did a really nice job in a position she doesn’t play that much of,” Kiraly said. “That’s a credit her. Finishing out the second game, credit to Micah for having some confidence in Khalia to get that kill to end the second — and the third — so lots of good stuff happening.”

His team trailed 12-9 in both of the last two sets.

“I like that we fell down in each of the second and third games and had to figure some stuff out and it wasn’t just easy,” Kiraly said. “Sometimes it can be, but it’s better for us to have to struggle through and work against some headwinds.”


There are three matches Saturday in Macao, China, where Brazil beat Ialy in five, Japan beat the Dominican Republic in four sets and China was to play Thailand.

A 1 p.m. Central here, Korea plays Türkiye and at 8 p.m. Serbia faces Bulgaria.


Earlier in the College Park Center at UT Arlington, Serbia did what it had to at key moments to beat Canada 25-22, 21-25, 26-24, 25-20. Aleksandra Uzelac led wtih 15 kills, two blocks, 13 digs and two aces, and Katarina Lazovic had 16 kills, 17 digs, a block and an ace. 

Kiera Van Ryk continued her torrid VNL pace with 20 kills and 11 digs. Emily Maglio, who played at Hawai’i, had 12 kills, four blocks and two aces. Setter Brie O’Reilly had 17 digs to go with a kill and three blocks. Andrea Mitrovic, who played at Arizona State, had 13 kills, a block and eight digs. Alexa Gray, who played at BYU, had 10 kills and 16 digs. 

Poland swept Germany 25-23, 25-20, 25-21. behind Magdalena Stysiak’s 18 kills and a block. Martina Lukasik and Natalie Medrzyk had 12 kills each.

Germany’s Lena Kindermann had 16 kills, a block and an ace. Read more about the former Jacksonville State player here.

In Macao, China, Sarina Koga continued to sparkle, this time with 25 more kills and 11 digs, as Japan beat China 25-22, 19-25, 25-18, 25-17. Arisa Inoue had 18 kills and Katona Hayashi 13 and 16 digs. Satome Fukodome also had 16 digs.

China’s Yingying Li had 20 kills and three aces.

The Netherlands beat the Dominican Republic 25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 25-17 behind 18 kills, a block and two aces from Nova Marring, who also had 12 digs. Isabel Pena had 15 kills and a block for the DR. 

Thailand had to regroup to beat France 25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 20-25, 15-7. 


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