COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 10, 2012) – Destinee Hooker (San Antonio, Texas) has been named the USA Volleyball Indoor Female Athlete of the Year for 2012, while Kristin Richards Hildebrand (Orem, Utah) has been selected as USA Volleyball’s Most Improved Player in the indoor female athlete category.
Hooker concluded the 2012 season with a 5.31 scoring average per set that included 4.36 kills per set on a .345 hitting efficiency. She added averages of 0.80 blocks and 1.81 digs per set.
"Thank you USA Volleyball for the award I truly appreciate it," Hooker said. "I owe it all to my teammates and the coaching staff - I couldn't have done it without them. The team has worked really hard these past four years. It has been an honor being on the court with some of the world's best athletes and coached by a few of the best coaches in the nation as well as the world. Again I want to say thank you for the award and for the opportunity to represent the USA. God bless."
“It’s difficult to single out one person’s contribution on a team that had so many great players,” said Hugh McCutcheon, who served as the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team head coach this past Olympic quadrennial. “However, we felt that Destinee’s play in 2012 was worthy of this recognition. She consistently carried a significant offensive load for our team and she worked hard in other areas of her game to become a complete player. She is one of the best attackers in the world of women's volleyball, and when you combine that with her ability to compete, she can absolutely dominate an opponent.”
Hooker helped the U.S. secure its second consecutive Olympic Games silver medal at the 2012 London Games. The U.S. finished the Olympic Games with a 7-1 record, losing only to Brazil in the gold-medal match. Hooker earned the Olympic Games Best Spiker award with a .379 hitting efficiency (.385 unofficial DataVolley hitting efficiency). Hooker also ranked second in Best Scorer at the Olympics with 161 points, averaging 5.96 points per set in starting all 27 sets. She added 0.78 blocks per set at the Olympics to finish fourth in Best Blocker.
Hooker scored 21 or more points in four of the eight Olympic Games matches, including 25 points in a four-set victory over Brazil in the preliminary round on July 30. She added 24 points in a three-set win over China on Aug. 1. During the semifinal match versus Korea on Aug. 9, Hooker contributed 24 points in a three-set match in which she converted 21 of 33 attacks for points with just one error to go with three blocks.
Hooker started the first six matches of the 2012 FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round in which the U.S. went on to win the gold medal for the third time in as many years. She averaged 5.15 points, 1.65 digs and 0.85 blocks per set in the World Grand Prix, but did not travel to the third weekend phase or the Final Round.
Richards Hildebrand, an alternate on both the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Teams, started 12 matches and played in 50 sets during the 2012 season, compiling averages of 4.24 points, 3.62 kills, 0.40 blocks, 0.22 aces and 2.24 digs per set. During the FIVB World Grand Prix, she started four of the five Final Round matches in addition to two of the three matches in the third preliminary round weekend. Richards Hildebrand averaged 3.57 points per set during the World Grand Prix, which included a 19-point effort in a three-set win over Thailand in the final preliminary round match and 17 points versus Cuba on June 30 in the second-to-last Final Round match.
"What a humbling surprise and honor," Richards Hildebrand said. "Receiving this award would mean a lot in any circumstance but receiving it this year in particular, it means even more. After losing my mom earlier this year to an inspiring battle with breast cancer, I struggled with whether or not I was even going to return to the USA program, or volleyball at all. I decided to for a few reasons, but among them was because my USA teammates had become, and are, my family, and the opportunity to compete alongside them at the highest level in the world is one I could not pass up. They, along with our coaching staff, supported me in an unbelievably special way through this summer, helping me get through all the hard moments which allowed me to play freely and improve at the game I'm passionate about. I couldn't be more grateful for them, or our entire USA Volleyball family."
Richards Hildebrand was named the most valuable player of the 2012 Pan American Cup after helping the U.S. claim the gold medal for the first time since 2003. She averaged 4.81 points, 4.30 kills, 0.41 blocks and 2.26 digs per set during the tournament. Richards Hildebrand added a .312 hitting efficiency that included a 48.9 kill percent. In the gold-medal match against Brazil’s Olympic-laden team, Richards Hildebrand scored a season-high 35 points with 32 kills, two aces and a block to finish the tournament as the Best Scorer with 128 points. She turned in four matches with at least 21 points, in addition to three double-doubles with kills and digs.