Italy’s Simone Giannelli ready for serve-off

A long line of international stars of the highest calibre headline their national team rosters for the upcoming edition of the men’s and women’s Volleyball Nations League 2023.

As the 30-player team lists were finalized and published on the VNL competition website, a number of stellar names attract the fans’ attention in exciting anticipation of the first major event on the 2023 volleyball national team calendar.

In the women’s competition, defending champions Italy will once again be led by VNL 2022 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Paola Egonu. She is back on the team roster despite vowing to take a break from the national team after the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship, disappointed by some fan remarks on social media and taking a stand against racism.

The silver medallists of the last three VNL editions, Brazil, feature a roster highlighted by the return of 35-year-old star middle blocker Thaisa Menezes, who last played for the team at the 2018 World Championship.

Legendary 38-year-old setter Maja Ognjenovic’s return is the big news about the roster of VNL 2022 bronze medalists and two-time reigning world champions Serbia, after she skipped the last national team season. World Championship MVP Tijana Boskovic is also on the squad.

The United States, the most decorated team in the history of the competition, with titles from the first three VNL editions, will also be able to take advantage of a returning star. 36-year-old Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medallist and MVP Jordan Larson is back on the line-up for the first time since the Games in the Japanese capital. She will be in the company of American teammates who have been shining with their club teams in the best leagues in the world, like Alexandra Frantti, Jordan Thompson, Kara Bajema, Kathryn Plummer, Lauren Carlini, etc.

Türkiye, who have always made it among the top four in the VNL, will now have an additional option in Cuban-born opposite Melissa Vargas.

Japan’s squad is highlighted by the return of 31-year-old spiker Miyu Nagaoka, who last played for the national team back in 2018, while another Asian side that stirred a lot of excitement with their performance in VNL 2022, Thailand, is ready for more with the likes of Guedpard Pornpun, Kokram Pimpichaya, Kongyot Ajcharaporn and Moksri Chatchu-On in the leading roles.

The men’s tournament will be no less star-studded. Titleholders France will have their starting line-up from last year available, including MVP Earvin Ngapeth and the other three VNL 2022 Dream Teamers - Jean Patry, Trevor Clevenot and Jenia Grebennikov.

Last year’s silver medallists USA will be able to once again enjoy the services of 36-year-old middle blocker Max Holt, a Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist, who has not played with the team since the Games in Tokyo. Setter Micah Ma'a is also back with the American squad for the first time since 2019.

Italy, who finished fourth in VNL 2022 and went on to triumph at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship, has made as many as 13 of the their 14 world champs available to compete for the team’s first VNL medals, led by magical playmaker Simone Giannelli, MVP of the last editions of the World Championship, the CEV European Championship and the FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship.

The Sousa brothers, 29-year-old Alan and 20-year-old Darlan, have both made it on the Brazilian roster. Alan suffered an injury during VNL 2022 and skipped the World Championship after that, but was well replaced by his younger sibling, who helped the team earn bronze at Poland-Slovenia 2022.

The spectacular trio Yuki Ishikawa - Yuji Nishida - Ran Takahashi will continue to inspire the Japanese fans, who are also delighted by the return of 30-year-old outside Masahiro Yanagida, who hadn’t been called up since the 2019 FIVB Volleyball World Cup, where the Asians finished fourth.

With all the other participating teams featuring top-notch players on their rosters, VNL 2023 will get underway on May 30 with a women’s game between Germany and the Netherlands and finish with the men’s final on July 23.

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2023 on VBTV