Current and former Cougars named to 2021 Volleyball Nations League rosters
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Volleyball has released the preliminary roster for the 2021 FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League tournament, the organization announced today, and three former BYU players will compete with Team USA later this month in Rimini, Emilia-Romagna, Italy.
Current BYU player, Davide Gardini, is on the preliminary Italian roster for his major international debut. Former BYU player and coach Luka Slabe will represent as assistant coach for Team USA women’s team.
2016 Olympian, outside hitter Taylor Sander (BYU 2011-14) was named team captain of Team USA. Opposite hitter Ben Patch (BYU 2013,16-17) who competed on the 2019 VNL Finals squad, is also back on the roster. Rounding out the Cougar representation is outside hitter Brenden Sander (BYU 2015-18), brother to Taylor, who competed on the 2019 VNL preliminary team.
This will be the only 2021 international competition for USA Volleyball leading up to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Team USA is looking to medal for the third time in a row after taking silver in 2019, and bronze in 2018.
This is Gardini’s first international appearance on a senior national team roster. Gardini formerly competed with Italy’s U21 2019 World Championship team, where the team took second place to Iran. He was also featured on Italy’s U19 team in the 2017 European Championship where Italy earned the silver medal, and Gardini was named best outside hitter. Most recently at BYU, Gardini was named to the All-America first team and finished with the Cougars as national runners-up in the May 8 NCAA Championship. He will be returning with the Cougars in 2022 for his senior season.
On the USA women’s VNL roster is assistant coach Luka Slabe. Slabe competed with the Cougars from 2000-03 and was an assistant coach for the BYU men’s team from 2016-18. Slabe and the rest of the squad will be looking to defend their 2019 VNL gold.
The men’s VNL competition will begin May 28, with the championship taking place June 27. The women's tournament will begin May 25. Each match will take place in a controlled environment to protect the players, with no fans allowed to attend. Games will be available in the United States on the FIVB’s streaming service, Volleyball World TV.
Rosters are subject to change during the event, this piece will be updated as changes occur.