From team captains to up-and-comers, there’s no shortage of stars. Who are the players to watch out for at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) 2023?

The list of players competing in the VNL, which starts on 30 May, has been released. From Melissa Vargas, who will be wearing the Turquoise jersey for the first time, to Italy’s 2003 Apogee Ekaterina Antropova and Brazil’s Kisi Nascimento, who made a name for herself at the last VNL.

  1. Melissa Vargas (Turkiye)
    Cuban-born Melissa Vargas will change her national colours after becoming a naturalised 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.스포츠토토

Vargas’s performance is proof of 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 attacker, and best server.

Vargas’ performance was nothing short of spectacular. When Vargas joined the Turkiye national team, there was a natural generational shift. Evrar Karakurt and Vargas will compete for the national opposite spot in place of veteran Maryem Boz, who was the main opposite at Tokyo 2020.

The addition of Vargas strengthens Turkiye’s right-back options. How will the friendly competition with Karakurt affect Turkiye?

  1. Ekaterina Antropova (ITA)
    Born in 2003, Ekaterina Antropova is a powerful attacker who uses her great height of 202cm to her advantage. Her recent performances for her club Sabino del Vene Scandicci have been impressive. She was the main attacker in the team’s European Volleyball Confederation (CEV) Cup victory and semi-final 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 2022-23, he was named the best server in Serie A1 and MVP of the CEV Cup.

He earned his first cap at the young age of 20. It will be interesting to see if his impressive form at club level translates to international competition.

  1. Kishi Nascimento (Brazil)
    Brazil’s Kishi Nascimento is a 2000-born left-handed apogee spiker who made her presence felt at the 2022 VNL. She played both wings alongside Gabi and helped her team to a runner-up finish. At 191cm, she’s an attractive left-hander and still young. She is a welcome addition to a Brazilian side that has been in need of a generational change.

In last year’s VNL, his first full international campaign, Kish was the main striker, finishing 12th overall in scoring and averaging around 10 points per game. His form has continued in the league. He was named the Brazilian Cup’s top scorer for the 2022-23 season with Gerdão Minas. He also showed improvement in the Brazilian Superliga, winning the best attacking position and MVP.

Brazil had a mix of old and new at the tournament. With an average age of 27.5, they are the oldest team in the tournament, but they also have some new faces, including Kish. It will be interesting to see how she fares amongst the veterans.

There are other notable returnees to the squad. 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 the 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. Mayu Ishikawa is moving to Florence, Italy next season, 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.

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