As the PVL Expands, Fans and Athletes Line up to Join

May 28, 2013, 10:50 p.m. (ET)

by Nikki Bernstein for USA Volleyball

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (May 28, 2013) - The second annual Women’s Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Championships brought old and new volleyball fans together for an exciting week of competitive play at the Kentucky Expo Center.

The goal of the PVL is to create a sustainable and successful indoor professional volleyball league in the US for post-collegiate athletes. Sustainable and successful are the two key buzzwords that PVL President Steve Bishop wants to share.

“I had the privilege of introducing this concept in 2011,” said Bishop, who is also the General Manager of Team Florida Wave. “The good folks and other regional leaders that have teams saw fit to elect me as the president of the PVL for a four-year term, giving me a chance to work on this vision.”

The PVL is incorporated with a board of directors, a set of bylaws, and it’s a legal entity. As for the future of the PVL, next year its hope is to have more men’s and women’s teams and more league play during the season, which was another one of the PVL goals.

“We have a lot of work to do still, but the PVL has made a lot of progress,” Bishop said. “We started with 12 women’s teams last year and came back this year with 15. We’re anticipating between four to six teams in the first men’s PVL championship in Reno, so I think the growth will be organic and consistent until we reach our goal of 20 women’s teams and 10 men’s teams.”

A short-term goal of the PVL is to take the professional game of volleyball back to the fans, and that means playing where the fans are, and not asking them to travel to the athletes.

“We want this league to grow to a manageable number across the U.S.,” said Bishop. “As far as our success, I’d say considering we’re into our second year and we’re making the progress we are, we’re right on target.”

Making it to the finals was Team Florida Wave, who tied for fifth in the league’s first championship in 2012, fighting against last year’s runner-up and this year’s winner of three sets, team Iowa Ice for the title.

Making it to the finals this year hasn’t gone without hard work and dedication from the girls of team Florida Wave.

“We’ve had a great tournament so far, if you look at the overall success of the team, they’ve played great volleyball and have come a long way,” said Bishop. “We ran into amazing defense and we had a difficult time getting the balls on the floor.

Three of the top four teams in the playoffs were all from team Florida Wave’s pool, which began on the first day of competition.

“We had to battle early on and we’re very proud of our Wave girls, they did a great job,” said Bishop.

The girls of Iowa Ice showed pride and were ecstatic to return this year after placing second in 2012.

Upon completion of the league’s first year, many regions saw the potential in what could happen when everyone rose to the occasion and found the money in their budgets, to keep the level of play up.

Lynne Updegraff, general manager for Team Iowa Ice and regional commissioner of the Iowa Volleyball Region, is responsible for putting the team’s budget together for the board to approve and help arrange the athletes travel, making sure the coaches have what they need and everyone is registered.

“The goal for the whole Premier Volleyball League and for Iowa is to get our girls who have gone through High Performance and some of our better programs, a chance to play here in the U.S. and not have to travel abroad, so they can keep their jobs and families,” said Updegraff. “I think the girls really appreciate it and of course the goal is to always win.”

This year, Iowa Ice held a few more events in its region, allowing the girls the opportunity of playing with each other more before coming to this competition, which has clearly made a difference, as shown in their timing of their setter and hitters.

“I think the big difference between last year and this year, was last year we played four days and didn’t get a lot of practice time together,” said Iowa Ice captain Breann Payton. “We were a little more used to each other this year, especially our setter-hitter connection, which helped a lot. It didn’t take us long to get used to one another and that was a big part of it.”

Playing Florida Wave earlier in the pool play on the first day of competition, Iowa Ice was more prepared going into the final match.

“It’s a great feeling to come back and win, because last year we had some unsettling feelings after finishing second in the final,” said Payton. “We felt like we didn’t play our best match. The team we played last year was great and so was Florida Wave, but we were ready for them.”

Iowa Ice loves having the PVL league at its disposal. Going overseas is a great experience to play professionally, but the opportunity to play professionally in the U.S. is an opportunity these athletes have been waiting for.

“If the PVL can keep going and continue to grow, that will be great,” said Payton. “Volleyball is huge and it’s getting even bigger. It’s so exciting to see the support we are getting and the level of competition from all the athletes is just as exciting.”

As many regions act as constant supporters of their teams, this enables each team to compete.

“I see this league being huge,” said Iowa Ice player Megan Schipper. “I mean everywhere in Europe volleyball is huge and we already have such a good Olympic team, I think the PVL will continue to develop and grow, because volleyball is so popular in the U.S.”

Both Payton and Schipper had a recent stint playing overseas, but neither enjoyed the style of play and returned home to the U.S.

The PVL hopes for the success of the league and the discussions among the athletes to help grow the league from the inside.

Next year’s competition will be held in Phoenix, traveling to a different host city each year.

Look forward to watching the growth and development of the PVL, which hopes to further the interest of fans and athletes everywhere.