The U.S. Women's Junior National team advanced to the second stage of group play at the FIVB Women's U20 World Championship, meaning Oregon sophomore Brooke Nuneviller remains in contention for a gold medal this summer.
Nuneviller, who was honorable mention all-America as a freshman for the Ducks last fall, is playing libero for the WJNT this month in Mexico. The U.S. squad went 2-1 in the opening round of pool play this past weekend, and kicks off the next stage of pool play with a match Tuesday against Japan.
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Poland and Turkey also are in a pool with U.S. and Japan. The top two teams from the pool will advance to the semifinals Saturday, with the championship match to be contested Sunday.
"We have high expectations," Nuneviller said Monday during a practice day for the U.S. team. "We want to get a medal."
Nuneviller helped the U.S. win a gold medal last summer in the NORCECA Women's U20 Continental Championship, qualifying the team for this year's world championship. In 2017, Nuneviller and the U.S. Girls' Youth National Team finished eighth at the FIVB Girls' U18 World Championship in Argentina.
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The Ducks will play 12 home matches in Matthew Knight Arena, beginning with the Oregon Classic on Aug. 30-31.
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Nuneviller and two players for Texas, Logan Eggleston and Skylar Fields, are playing for the fourth year in a row as part of the national team program.
"Our lives are so busy; to get a chance to compete with one another and hang out, it's really cool," Nuneviller said. "I never expect to make the team any year – there's so many great liberos out there. Every time I get the opportunity to put a USA jersey on, it's very special."
Playing libero for the WJNT provided Nuneviller a break from her transition to outside hitter with the Ducks. During Oregon's European tour earlier this summer, Nuneviller played hitter, with talented incoming freshman Georgia Murphy slotted at libero.
An outside hitter in high school, Nuneviller transitioned to libero for her national team appearances, preparing her to play the defensive position with the Ducks as a freshman. So it's fitting she moved again from hitter to libero for this year's national team play.
"Honestly, I've done it my whole life," she said of the switch. "It's different, as a mentality. But I'm so used to it. It hasn't been too big of a challenge, just because I've done it so often."
The U.S. WJNT opened world championship play with a loss Friday to Italy, whose team includes players who won the FIVB Girls' U18 world title in 2017. But that was a tight match – 28-26, 18-25, 30-28, 25-22 – and the United States bounced back with wins over Mexico and Cuba.
Nuneviller said the close contest with Italy "gave us confidence, knowing we can play with anybody."
The U.S. has five matches left at the world championship to prove as much. Then, Nuneviller will return to Eugene to gear up for the UO volleyball season that begins Aug. 30 against UC Irvine in Matthew Knight Arena.
"Playing for USA is obviously incredible," Nuneviller said. "But I love playing for Oregon volleyball too. I can't wait to get back."