U.S. Women's Update: A Chat with Cassidy

By Bill Kauffman | April 15, 2014, 8:15 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 15, 2014) – Cassidy Lichtman (Poway, Calif.), an outside hitter with the U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team, was told by doctors that she may never walk again at the age of nine.

“My athletic career should have been over before it even started,” Lichtman wrote in an article for USA Volleyball in January of 2013. “I woke up one day when I was nine years old and couldn’t walk. For seven months I was on crutches as I saw one doctor after another. None of them could find any way to break through the constant pain and I wasn’t supposed to walk ever again. I made the choice to walk anyway, but I skipped over the part about getting better. Instead, I decided I wanted to be a volleyball player and I made the pain even worse. It’s been over 14 years now and the pain has never stopped.”

Lichtman persevered through the pain and went on to a successful collegiate career that included two AVCA All-America First-Team selections at Stanford University in 2009 and 2010. She moved on to the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team in 2011 and has won five medals in six senior-level international tournaments she has competed in. Last year Lichtman earned gold medals in the Pan American Cup and the NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship, along with the silver medal in the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup. She helped the U.S. to a 3-0 record versus Japan in the inaugural USA Volleyball Cup.

In remembering her doctors telling her she may not walk again, Lichtman has been giving back to the community through “Play with a Purpose” volleyball clinics she conducts with all proceeds benefiting Ronald McDonald House.

To learn more about Lichtman, watch the above video interview from 2013 or read her online bio.

NANCY OWEN-FORTNER – 50 YEARS OF OLYMPIC VOLLEYBALL SPOTLIGHT: Nancy Owen-Fortner was a two-time Olympian, playing in the inaugural Olympics for volleyball at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games followed by the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. In addition, the 1964 Games marked the first Olympics featuring a women’s team sport. Gaertner and her 1964 Olympic Games teammates will be honored May 21 during USA Volleyball’s Boyce Banquet in Phoenix as part of the 50 Years of Olympic Volleyball celebration. Owen-Fortner also competed in the 1963 and 1973 Pan American Games, as well as the 1967 and 1970 FIVB World Championships. In domestic competitions, she earned numerous honors including 1966 Most Valuable Player at the USA Volleyball Open National Championships (then USVBA Nationals) following her 1963 Rookie of the Year selection. She won national championships with Sad Six in 1962, Long Beach Shamrocks in 1963 and 1964 and the Los Angeles Renegades in 1966. For more details and to purchase banquet tickets, click here.

GIBBEMEYER, LLOYD WITH CONEGLIANO IN ITALY: Setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, Calif.) is competing for Imoco Volley Conegliano in the Italian Serie A league for this winter season, while middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) transferred to Conegliano in February. Conegliano, the second seed in the Italian Serie A1 playoffs, swept the best-of-three quarterfinal series against seventh-seed Pomi Casalmaggiore. In the opening match, Conegliano won 25-13, 25-12, 29-27 on April 9. Lloyd set the squad to a 45 kill percent while adding one individual kill on one attack and a block. Gibbemeyer totaled five kills on eight attacks, a team-high four blocks and two of the team’s three aces for 11 points. For a match photo gallery, click here. In the second match, Conegliano blanked Pomi Casalmaggiore 25-21, 25-21, 25-21 on April 12. Lloyd set her team to a 44 kill percent and added two blocks in the victory. Gibbemeyer notched five kills on 13 errorless attacks and two blocks for seven points. Conegliano now will face Unendo Yamamay Busto Arsizio in the best-of-three semifinals with matches on April 18 and April 21, and if necessary, on April 25.

MURPHY WITH NOVARA IN ITALY: Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) joined Igo Gorgonzola Novara in the Italian Serie A1 league midway through the league schedule. Novara, the fourth seed in the Italian Serie A1 playoffs won consecutive 3-1 matches to defeat No. 5 seed Liu Jo Modena in the best-of-three quarterfinals. Murphy pocketed 19 points in the opening 19-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21 victory on April 10. She totaled 17 kills on 42 attacks with a block and ace. For a match photo gallery, click here. Novara ended the series in the second match with an 18-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-17 victory on April 13. Murphy scored a team-high 20 points with 19 kills on 36 attacks and an ace for 20 points. Novara now advances to the best-of-three semifinal round series to play top-seed Rebecchi Nordmeccanica Piacenza on April 19 and April 22, and if necessary, on April 26 in the series tiebreaker.

FAWCETT WITH PONCE IN PUERTO RICO: Opposite Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio), who was part of two gold medal-winning U.S. teams this past summer, transferred to Ponce of the Puerto Rico Super League after the completion of her Korea Volleyball League season. Ponce opened the double round-robin quarterfinal playoffs with a 28-30, 25-14, 25-23, 25-18 victory over Catano on April 9. Fawcett contributed a match-high 34 points with 28 kills, four aces and two blocks in the victory. She added 17 digs in the match. American Airial Salvo added 18 points and 22 digs in the victory. Ponce improved to 2-0 in the playoffs with a 26-24, 20-25, 25-21, 25-23 victory over Carolina. Fawcett pocketed 18 kills and 13 digs in the victory. Salvo added a team-high 22 points. Ponce edged Catano 25-20, 20-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-8 on April 13 to go 3-0 in the playoffs. Fawcett contributed 19 kills, four blocks and two aces for 25 points to go with 13 digs for a double-double. Salvo charted 21 points in the win. For Catano, Hannah Werth tallied 15 points in the loss. Ponce closes out the Pool A quarterfinals on April 16 against Carolina. The top two teams from Pools A and B advance to the semifinals.

HOOKER-COULTER WITH CAGUAS IN PUERTO RICO: Destinee Hooker-Coulter (San Antonio, Texas), who paced the U.S. to the 2012 Olympic Games silver medal while earning Best Spiker, is back on the volleyball court after giving birth to her daughter Keitany on Dec. 12, 2013. She was signed by Caguas Criollas of the Puerto Rico Super League in March of 2014 after missing most of the 2013 season. In her first match back, she scored six kills to help Caguas to a 25-23, 27-25, 25-22 victory over Humacao on April 8 to open the double-round robin quarterfinal round. Her teammate Falyn Fonoimoana chipped in a match-high 15 points. On the other side of the net, 2008 U.S. Olympic silver medalist Kim Willoughby notched 15 points. In the second playoff match, Hooker-Coulter collected 12 kills and two blocks as part of a 14-point effort as Caguas was edged 25-19, 17-25, 25-18, 23-25, 16-14 on April 11. Fonoimoana added a match-high 29 points. On the opposite side of the net, past U.S. National Team member Shonda Cole scored a team-high 23 points and Diane Copenhagen added 15 points. Caguas blanked Humacao 25-15, 25-15, 25-17 on April 12. Hooker totaled seven points with six kills and a block in the win. Fonoimoana paced Caguas with 16 points in the win. Caguas concludes the Pool B quarterfinals on April 15 against Mayaguez. The top two teams from the two pools advance to the semifinals.

THOMPSON WITH VOLERO ZURICH IN SWITZERLAND: Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.), a silver medal-winning setter on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, arrived in mid-November to play for Volero Zurich in the Swiss League. After winning the Swiss League double-round robin playoffs with a 10-0 record, Volero capped the Swiss League with consecutive victories over Volley Koniz to win the Swiss Championship best-of-three final round. Having won the first match the previous week, Volero left no doubt in the series with a 25-23, 25-14, 25-17 victory on April 12. Volero has now won the Swiss League national title in nine of the past 10 years. Volero’s season is not over yet as it will host the FIVB Women’s Club World Championships May 7-11 in Zurich. The event will also include powerhouse clubs such as Russia’s Dinamo Kazan, Brazil’s Sesi-Sao Paulo and Molico/Nestle.

LARSON-BURBACH WITH DINAMO KAZAN IN RUSSIA: Jordan Larson-Burbach (Hooper, Neb.), an outside hitter with the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, is competing once again for Dinamo Kazan in the Russia Super League. Following its first loss in the Russia Super League while not playing its regular starters, Kazan bounced back to defeat Ufimochka 25-13, 25-20, 27-25 on April 10. Larson-Burbach collected three kills on eight attacks while chipping in a 50 reception percent in limited action the first two sets. Kazan closed out the regular season on April 14 with a 25-23, 25-22, 25-20 victory over Uralochka-NTMK. With the match not affecting the outcome of the league standings, Kazan played lots of different combinations with Larson-Burbach notching three points in the course of the match with a 79 positive reception percent on 14 chances. Kazan, which finished 19-1 in the regular season, heads into the quarterfinal round playoffs against No. 8 seed Fakel (7-13). The first match is scheduled for April 20, followed by April 23.

NEWCOMBE WITH TYUMEN IN RUSSIA: Sonja Newcombe (Lake Arrowhead, Calif.), an outside hitter on the U.S. Women’s National Team, is playing for Tyumen in the Russia Super League. Tyumen was edged by Odintsovo 15-25, 25-22, 25-20, 18-25, 15-11 on April 10 in the second-to-last regular season match. Newcombe was credited with two kills on six errorless attacks as a reserve in the third set. She added a 67 positive reception on six attempts in the set. Tyumen ended the regular season on April 14 with a heartbreaking 25-20, 12-25, 20-25, 27-25, 15-7 loss to Hara. Newcombe totaled 15 points with 13 kills on 32 attacks, one block and one ace. She added a 47 positive reception percent on 34 chances. Tyumen, which ended the regular season 8-12, will be the No. 7 seed in the quarterfinal round series against No. 2 Omichka (16-4). The opening match takes place April 20, followed by April 23.

HILDEBRAND WITH AMIL IN BRAZIL: Kristin Hildebrand (Orem, Utah), an outside hitter with the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, is playing this winter with Volei Amil in the Brazil Super League. Volei Amil lost consecutive close matches to Unilver in the Brazil Super League best-of-three semifinals. In the first match, Unilever won a tight 25-23, 30-28, 21-13 match (sets are won at 21 points, leading by two) on April 8. Hildebrand recorded seven kills and a block for eight points in the loss. In the second match on April 12, Unilever rallied past Amil 12-21, 21-15, 21-15, 18-21, 16-14 to advance to the championship match. Hildebrand provided Amil with nine kills and an ace for 10 points.

ALISHA GLASS WITH FENERBAHCE IN TURKEY: Setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) is competing this winter with Fenerbahce in Turkey. On the heels of capturing the CEV Cup title, Fenerbahce edged Eczacibasi 18-25, 25-11, 25-27, 25-18, 15-7 on April 11 in the Turkish Cup. Fenerbahce swept Galatasaray 25-12, 25-16, 25-22 on April 12 in the second match of the round-robin semifinals. Fenerbahce won the first two sets against Vakifbank inf the finale, only to lose 20-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-18, 15-12 on April 13. Glass did not suit in any of the matches. The Turkish League playoffs resume semifinals with Fenerbahce playing Eczacibasi on April 17 and April 20, and if necessary, on April 22 to decide the best-of-three series to advance to the finals. The opposite semifinals has Galatasaray facing VakifBank.

BANWARTH, DIXON WITH RABITA IN AZERBAIJAN: Libero Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa) and Tori Dixon are part of Rabita Baku for the 2013-14 club season. In the Azerbaijan Super League, Rabita Baku won its best-of-three semifinal round series with a 27-25, 25-21, 25-19 victory in the second match on April 9. Dixon scored a team-high 16 points with 15 kills and a block. Rabita Baku opened the final round against AzerYol Baku on April 14 by coming back from an opening set loss to win 26-28, 25-20, 25-21, 25-19. Dixon tallied five kills, two aces and a block for eight points. In the second match of the finals on April 15, Rabita Baku downed AzerYol 25-16, 20-25, 25-16, 25-19.