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USA Olympic volleyball rosters: Men’s coming soon, women’s next month

USA Olympic volleyball rosters: Men’s coming soon, women’s next month

USA Olympic volleyball rosters: Men’s coming soon, women’s next month
The USA and Japan women gathered for a photo after scrimmaging Monday

ANAHEIM, California — The respective USA Olympic volleyball coaches, Karch Kiraly and John Speraw, will both end up in Paris the third week of July, but their teams are taking different paths to get to the Olympics.

Kiraly and his USA women start Volleyball Nations League play next Wednesday against Thailand in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The USA women’s 12-person, one-alternate Olympics roster is far from decided.

Speraw’s men’s team begins VNL play against Poland May 22 in Antalya, Türkiye, and though not announced, the roster is closer to being finalized.

USA women

The USA women will take 14 players Saturday to Rio where they also play China, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

“When we get back we’ll get the whole group together,” Kiraly said Monday. “We still have five people who haven’t been in the gym yet with Haleigh Washington, Dana Rettke, Kelsey Robinson Cook, Kathryn Plummer and Khalia Lanier, four of whom just finished their pro seasons yesterday at the Champions League final. So they’ll be in here middle of next week while we’re in Brazil.”

There are five Texas exes in the USA women’s gym. From left, Asjia O’Neal, Brionne Butler, Zoe Fleck, Chiaka Ogbogu, Madi Skinner.

Washington and Cook were members of the USA team that won the Tokyo Olympics gold medal; the other three are strong contenders to make the roster this time around.

The second leg is in Arlington, Texas, site of last year’s finals. The USA plays Canada on May 28, Bulgaria on May 31, Poland on June 1 and Türkiye on June 2.

When the team gathers again here in Anaheim, “We hope to select our Olympic team that week,” Kiraly said. “The week of June 3-7.”

The Olympic team will head to Fukuoka, Japan, and starting June 10 play France, Netherlands, Italy and Japan.

The finals are in Bangkok, Thailand, June 20-23.

In addition to the 12-player roster, teams can bring one official alternate to the Games.

“We expect to have an alternate at each position because of injury or illness. But one of those five will be designated as the official alternate and have a credential and be there with us in Paris. And then another of those five will be an unofficial alternate and will travel with us to Paris to make it so we can have the most productive training sessions possible, with seven on each side of the net and a full contingent of personnel.”

After VNL the USA team will come home until leaving for Paris on July 20. Before then there are three exhibitions with the Netherlands July 10, 12, 14 at The Pyramid at Long Beach State.

The schedule in Paris has yet to be announced, “the middle of June at the earliest,” Kiraly said.

From the things-you-might-not-have-thought-of-about department:

“With the pent-up demand because nobody could travel to the last Olympics, lots of people seem to expect the biggest amount of people converging on an Olympics ever,” Kiraly said. “Hundreds of thousands of people going to Paris.

“That’ll be exciting and fun to have family and friends that couldn’t go the last time, and we’ll just to have remember and have some good practice in terms of how to help families and friends be good for their loved ones rather than be distractions or detract from their performance.

“All with best intentions, but there are some things that can be helpful and things that might not be so productive.

“And another thing that is really cool is opening ceremonies is going to be on a river (the Seine) instead of in a stadium. There will be less walking but still a lot of standing. My understanding is, and we’re trying to learn more, but there may not be seats on the barges. It would make a lot of sense if there were seats on the barges, but there might not be and that’s going to be a consideration. Seated vs. standing going to be a big consideration in terms of if people do the whole opening ceremonies or if they do part of the opening ceremonies. We’ve got to work out way through that.”

Kiraly, an assistant in 2012, was the USA head coach in 2016 and 2020(21). As you can see in the photo above, there are five former Texas players in the gym, including Asjia O’Neal and Madi Skinner from the team that just won back-to-back titles. When the USA scrimmaged Japan on Monday, Skinner got to play with her older sister, Avery. Avery and Madi won an NCAA title together at Kentucky before Avery finished at Baylor and Madi transferred to Texas.

USA men

Speraw played a core group last summer and it would be surprise if it varied much when it comes time to announce the USA Olympic roster.

“Over the next 10 days, we need to make a decision about what direction we’re going to go as long as everyone is healthy,” said Speraw, who was an assistant Olympic coach in 2008 and 2012 and is in his third quad as head coach. “I’m going to spend the next couple of days getting the lay of the land. We’re going to have meetings about it and start to finalize what we’re really going to do.

John Speraw when the USA played Turkiye in 2023/Volleyball World photo

“But in an ideal world you would name the team as early as possible. The earlier the better in my mind. Each time I’ve done that I’ve felt like the earlier you can name the team the earlier you can build team. We’ll do it as early as we can.”

Speraw has had a busy week. Last Thursday, his UCLA Bruins won their semifinal match in five sets over UC Irvine and then Saturday won the NCAA title by beating Long Beach State in four sets.

It took Monday off but was back in the gym Tuesday.

“Great win,” Speraw said. “It was a great win. Really hard. It was a hard season. You would think that after winning last year the pressure would be off but it didn’t feel that way. … For us to go through that whole year was tremendous and really gratifying.”

The 14-player USA first-leg VNL roster will be announced next week.

The USA men open play in Antalya, Türkiye, on May 22, when they play Poland, followed by France, Bulgaria and the home team.

The second round is back in Ottawa, Canada. The USA men play Argentina on June 4, followed by matches against Italy, Serbia and Canada.

The third leg is in Manila, Philippines, where the USA plays Iran on June 19, and then Brazil, Germany and Japan.

The finals are in Lodz, Poland, June 27-30.

The team will return to Anaheim after that, but head back to Poland for a training session before heading to Paris.

Like the women, the men have to cut down to 12 players and an alternate.

“There’s a big difference from 12 to 14,” Speraw said. “I would imagine the body of work that we’re looking at is going to come from them playing professionally overseas this year. The truth is we’re not going to get a lot of information from a few days of practice. We have a good idea of ​​the pool of athletes who we’re looking at for that final 12.

“The final 12 is tough. There are some tough decisions to be made when you’re a head coach and I don’t know if there’s anything more difficult in our profession than naming the 12.”

In Tokyo, the USA men beat eventual gold-medalist France to open the tournament, but then did not get out of pool play.

“I think we’re a better team and better prepared than we were three years ago in Tokyo,” Speraw said. “Hopefully we can be healthier and go play our best volleyball and see where that takes us.

“This team deserves another shot at it. This team is a great group of men and they’ve worked incredibly hard, they’re total pros and they’ve had a lot of really great (international) tournaments. They’ve had such a great run. They’ve won World Cups and medaled at World Champs for the first time in 30-something years and medaled in one Olympics (bronze in Rio on 2016) and a bad result at the last Olympics. They’ve had great runs in VNL. If you look at their body of work there’s only a few things they need to do and this is one of them.

“From the staff perspective we just want to do everything we can to give them the best opportunity to go out there and win.”