A star-studded field of players, from team captains to up-and-comers. Who are the players to watch at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) 2023?
The rosters for the VNL, which begins on May 30, have been released. From Melissa Vargas, who will be competing for the Turkiye national team, to Ekaterina Antropova, the 2003 Apogee Italy champion, to Brazilian Kisi Nascimento, who made a name for herself at the last VNL, there are plenty to look forward to.
- Melissa Vargas (Turkiye)
Cuban-born Melissa Vargas will change her national colors after becoming a naturalized citizen of Turkiye. Vargas was granted Turkmenistan citizenship in 2021. Two years have passed since then. He will make his debut in a Turkiye jersey in the upcoming VNL.
Vargas’s performance is a testament to why Turkije called him up. He was named the Best Aggregate in the 2018-19 season of the Turkkiye Cup. He followed that up with a stellar 2021-2022 season in the Chinese League, where he was named best server, best scorer, and best attacker. This season, he showed even more growth. He joined Fenerbahçe midway through the 2022-23 season and led the team to the title. With Vargas on board, Fenerbahçe went on a rapid upward trajectory. The team finished the regular season in third place, but won the playoffs to reach the top. Vargas was named MVP, Best Aggressor, and Best Server.
Vargas’ performance was nothing short of spectacular. When Vargas joined the Turkiye national team, there was a natural generational shift. Replacing veteran Meriem Boz, who was the starting outside hitter at Tokyo 2020, Evrar Karakurt and Vargas will compete for the national outside hitter spot 스포츠토토.
The addition of Vargas strengthens Turkiye’s one shot on the right. How will the competition with Karakurt affect Turkiye?
- Ekaterina Antropova (ITA)
Born in 2003, Ekaterina Antropova is a powerful attacker who uses her great height of 202 centimeters to her advantage. Her recent performances for her club Sabino del Vene Scandicci have been impressive. She was the main attacker for the team as they won the CEV Cup and reached the semifinals of their playoff series. In the Italian Serie A1 league, she ranked first in serving with 43 service aces and eighth in attack.
Antropova started the 2020-21 season with Green Warriors Sassuolo before moving to Scandi for the 2021-2022 season. In her rookie year with Sassuolo, she was named the top scorer and top spike in the Italian Serie A2. He went on to win the Challenge Cup MVP in the 2021-22 season. In the 2022-23 season, he was the best server in Serie A1 and the CEV Cup MVP.
He earned his first national team cap at the young age of 20. It will be interesting to see if his impressive form at the club level translates to the international level.
- Kishi Nascimento (Brazil)
Brazil’s Kishi Nascimento is a 2000-born left-handed apogee spiker who made her presence felt in the 2022 VNL. She played both wings alongside Gabi and helped her team to a runner-up finish. At 6-foot-5, she’s a charming lefty with a young frame. She is a welcome addition to a Brazilian team that has been in need of a generational change.
In last year’s VNL, his first full international cap, Kish was the main striker, finishing 12th overall in scoring and averaging nearly 10 points per game. With that as a springboard, he’s continued his form in the league. He was named the Brazilian Cup’s top scorer in the 2022-23 season with Gerdão Minas. He also showed improvement in the Brazilian Superliga, winning the Best Aggregate and MVP honors.
Brazil is a mix of old and new at the tournament. With an average age of 27.5, they’re the oldest team in the tournament, but they also have a number of newcomers, including Kish. It will be interesting to see if she can repeat her performance from last year amongst the veterans.
There are other notable returnees to the national team. Serbian setter Maya Ognjenovic, American outside hitter Jordan Larson, and Brazilian middle blocker Taissa Menezes are among them. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact the return of these veterans will have on the team.
There are also players who will be competing in the VNL with their families. These are the Japanese siblings Yuki Ishikawa and Mayu Ishikawa. They are both on the Japanese national team and will be competing in the VNL together. Next season, Mayu Ishikawa will move to Florence, Italy, and the siblings will play together in Italy.
They will be joined by sisters Braelyn Martinez-Hineiri Martinez from the Dominican Republic and Silvia Nwakalo-Linda Nwakalo from Italy, who met at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.