The Sports Examiner

VOLLEYBALL: U.S. women remain undefeated in Nations League, while men’s Nations League starts Friday

Think the U.S. women were happy about beating Italy ... in Italy! (Photo: FIVB)

It appears that the reigning FIVB Women’s Nations League champs – the United States – are going to be hard to remove.

After a 3-0 start against moderate competition last week, the American women are suddenly the only undefeated team left in the Nations League after second-week wins in Bulgaria against Serbia and Italy.

On Tuesday, the U.S. defeated Serbia, 3-1, in Conegliano Veneto (ITA), dropping the first set, 23-25, then storming back to win, 25-16, 25-15, 25-21. Andrea Drews led the U.S. with 22 points, with Dana Rettke and Haleigh Washington adding 15 and Madi Kingdon Rishel scoring 13. Drews was especially effective, scoring on 19 of her 29 attacks (65.5%) and Rettke was even better, scoring on 11 of 15 tries (73.3%).

On Wednesday, home-standing Italy gave the U.S. all it could handle in a 3-2 loss. The U.S. won the first set, 25-22, but then the Italians won the next two sets – 25-17 and 25-23 – for a 2-1 lead. But the American women roared back for a 25-19 win in the fourth set and then win the decider by 15-11.

Kingdon Rishel led the U.S. scoring with 19 points on 18-30 attacks, followed by Simone Lee with 13 (11-27), Chiaka Ogbogu (12 on 8-9 attacks) and Drews with 10 (6-15). Italy hurt their cause with 32 errors to just 20 for the U.S.

Second-week will conclude for the U.S. with a final match in Italy against the Dominican Republic, currently 2-3 after losses to Italy and Serbia, both by 3-1.

The Women’s Nations League continues with pool play through 20 June; the complete schedule is here.

Russia defeated France in the final of the inaugural season of the FIVB Men’s Nations League, the successor to the old World League begun in 1990. Round two of the men’s Nations League starts on Friday, with 16 teams working toward the finals in Chicago, the first time the U.S. has hosted the championship round, even counting World League. The teams and current world FIVB rankings:

Americas: Argentina (7), Brazil (1), Canada (6), United States (2)
Asia: China (20), Iran (8), Japan (11)
Europe: Bulgaria (14), France (9), Germany (27), Italy (3), Poland (4), Portugal, Russia (5) , Serbia (10)
Oceania: Australia (16)

As with the women, the teams will play a round-robin, being grouped into pools of four which change by the week. The U.S. will start with a difficult round in Katowice (POL) against no. 1 Brazil on the 31st, then play against no. 4 Poland on Saturday and no. 16 Australia on Sunday.

The finals will be played from 10-14 July at the 6,115-seat Credit Union 1 Arena in Chicago (USA), on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Through the 28 seasons of the World League (ending in 2017), Brazil was the top nation with nine wins, followed by Italy with eight, Russia with three and France and the U.S. with two (in 2008-14). Russia won the initial Nations League title, with France second, the U.S. third and Brazil fourth in 2018.

Look for results here.

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