COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 11, 2017) – USA Volleyball has announced its 12-player U.S. Women’s Junior National Team (WJNT) which will compete in the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U20 World Championship.
The World Championship event will be staged July 14-23 in Boca del Rio and Cordoba, Mexico. The U.S. qualified for the World Championship by winning gold at the 2017 Women’s U20 Pan American Cup in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The WJNT roster has three middles, two liberos, three outside hitters, two opposites and two setters. The middles are Brionne Butler (Kendleton, Texas, University of Texas), Rachael Kramer (Phoenix, Arizona, University of Florida) and Regan Pittman (Spring Hill, Kansas, University of Minnesota). The three outside hitters are Leah Edmond (Lexington, Kentucky, University of Kentucky), Thayer Hall (Moore, South Carolina, Upward Stars) and Paige Hammons (Louisville, Kentucky, University of Florida).
The two opposites on the WJNT are Holly Carlton (Sterling, Virginia, University of North Carolina) and Ronika Stone (San Jose, California, University of Oregon). The selected setters are Norene Iosia (Torrance, California, University of Hawaii) and MacKenzi Welsh (Bolingbrook, Illinois, University of Michigan). The two liberos are Tiffany Clark (University of Wisconsin, Naperville, Illinois) and Gabby Curry (Buford, Georgia, University of Kentucky).
The roster was chosen from a 16-player training group who were evaluated July 2-11 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. U.S. Women’s Junior National Team Head Coach Laurie Corbelli said the training period has been great for the athletes to develop into a team.
“From my personal perspective, it has been a blast,” Corbelli said. “We have had great competition daily with a high level of athletes. At the same time, we have had lots of fun with different scoring drills and a couple outings here in Colorado Springs. It has been a phenomenal training camp with this group of athletes.”
Corbelli said the team will have no shortage of offense as long as the passing continues to improve.
“This team is an extremely competitive group in terms of individual athletes,” Corbelli said. “They are physical and play very high. Our passing has improved a ton. It is reassuring to know it is as good as it is, because once we get a good first contact, our hitters have a hay day. Offensively, this is a very strong group.”
During the training camp, the coaching staff keyed on three areas that it felt will impact the squad the most during the World Championship.
“We are offensively dominant, so we spent a lot of time serving, passing and blocking,” Corbelli said. “These are the areas we thought we needed the most attention as it will help us win and cause us to lose.”
The FIVB Women’s U20 World Championship is a 16-team event with four pools of four teams playing a round-robin format in the first round. The top two teams in each pool advance to the gold bracket, while the bottom two teams in each pool will battle for positions 9-16.
Team USA, which is part of Pool C in Boca del Rio, opens the competition against Brazil on July 14, followed by NORCECA rival Cuba on July 15, Serbia on July 16. Brazil qualified for the World Championship by winning the 2016 South American Women’s U20 Championship.
“The first match against Brazil will be so important,” Corbelli said. “We will learn as we go. In that initial match, we need to be ready. We have to be able to make adjustments on the spot. We don’t know as much about them, and I am not sure how much they know about us. As for Cuba and Serbia, we will get a chance to see them before we play.”
Both Cuba and Serbia claimed their tickets to the World Championship as one of the top six teams in the Women’s U20 world ranking not to have already qualified.
Pool A includes host Mexico, Bulgaria, Egypt and Russia. Pool B included China, Dominican Republic, Peru and Poland. Pool D has Argentina, Italy, Japan and Turkey.
“We are rested and healthy,” Corbelli said. “I believe we can have a lot of success and we are going into the tournament believing we will have a lot of success.”
The WJNT includes seven players who were on the Women’s U20 Pan American Cup gold-medal team. Hall was named the most valuable player of the tournament. She will be joined by Women’s U20 Pan Am Cup gold medalists Butler, Clark, Hammons, Pittman, Carlton and Welsh.
“We had a number of athletes participate in the U20 Pan American Cup, and the chemistry those athletes already had helped jump start the chemistry with the group training here in Colorado Springs,” Corbelli said. “That has been a benefit to the development of this team.”
Corbelli believes it is important for these athletes to have top international competition for their future.
“On behalf of the entire team, we want to thank USA Volleyball for this opportunity to be able represent the USA at the World Championship,” Corbelli said. “It is very important to get these young players top international competition as they develop. Each country comes to the court with a different approach, and this experience will only help them.”
U.S. Women’s Junior National Team
# – Name (Position, 2017 Club/College, Height, Hometown, Region)
1 – Brionne Butler (M, University of Texas, 6-4, Kendleton, Texas, Lone Star)
2 – Tiffany Clark (L, University of Wisconsin, 5-11, Naperville, Illinois, Great Lakes)
3 – Thayer Hall (OH, Upward Stars, 6-3, Moore, South Carolina, Palmetto)
4 – Paige Hammons (OH, University of Florida, 6-2, Louisville, Kentucky, Pioneer)
5 – Regan Pittman (M, University of Minnesota, 6-5, Spring Hill, Kansas, Heart of America)
6 – Holly Carlton (OPP, University of North Carolina, 6-7, Sterling, Virginia, Chesapeake)
8 – Ronika Stone (OPP, University of Oregon, 6-2, San Jose, California, Northern California)
11 – Norene Iosia (S, University of Hawaii, 5-11, Torrance, California, Southern California)
12 – MacKenzi Welsh (S, University of Michigan, 6-1, Bolingbrook, Illinois, Great Lakes)
14 – Gabby Curry (L, University of Kentucky, 5-9, Buford, Georgia, Southern)
15 – Rachael Kramer (M, University of Florida, 6-8, Phoenix, Arizona, Arizona)
17 – Leah Edmond (OH, University of Kentucky, 6-2, Lexington, Kentucky, Pioneer)
Head Coach: Laurie Corbelli (head coach at Texas A&M University)
Assistant Coach: Blake Rawlins (head trainer at Top Select Volleyball Academy)
Assistant Coach: Jay Van Vark (assistant coach at Grand Canyon University)
Team Leader: Tom Pingel (USA Volleyball High Performance)
Athletic Trainer: Ronni Beatty-Kollasch (University of Minnesota)
2017 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U20 World Championship
Pool C at Boca del Rio, Mexico
July 14: USA vs. Brazil, 10 p.m. ET
July 15: USA vs. Cuba, 9 p.m. ET
July 16: USA vs. Serbia, 7 p.m. ET