Women's Update: Who Will Be Next Star?

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | Dec. 14, 2015, 3:18 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 14, 2015) – The NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship takes center stage this weekend in Omaha with semifinals on Dec. 17 and the title match on Dec. 19. Who will be the next stars who will shine with the U.S. Women’s National Team? In the meantime, learn more about the current Team USA players in the latest weekly update.

DID YOU KNOW: Kim Hill has been a star for the U.S. Women since joining the team in 2013 right out of college. She helped Team USA win the 2014 FIVB World Championship and was selected the tournament’s most valuable player. Below may be some other details you may not know about her:

  • Hill almost did not attend the U.S. Women’s National Team Open Tryout in February 2013. After being talked into attending the tryout, she stood out among 240 athletes and was asked to join Team USA in May 2013. She later went on to start all 14 FIVB World Grand Prix matches in her rookie season and played in 95 of a possible 118 sets. She averaged 2.16 points per set in her first year.
  • Scored the winning point to give Team USA the 2014 FIVB World Championship title. She finished the season with 320 points, second most on the squad.
  • Hill was named USA Volleyball’s Female Indoor Most Improved Player of the Year for the 2014 season. For details on the honor, click here.
  • While competing at Pepperdine University, Hill became the first and only student-athlete to make the AVCA All-American first-team roster in both indoor and sand volleyball during the same academic year (2011-2012). She was a two-time AVCA All-America First-Team in sand volleyball at Pepperdine University and was named AVCA All-America First-Team and West Coast Conference Player of the Year as a senior playing indoor volleyball in 2011.
  • Learn more about Kim Hill in this video interview
  • Full Bio: CLICK HERE.

LARSON, BANWARTH, SYKORA IN OMAHA FOR NCAA FINALS: Jordan Larson and Kayla Banwarth, both University of Nebraska alumni, and three-time Olympian Stacy Sykora will be in Omaha signing autographs and meeting fans and coaches prior to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship semifinals at the CenturyLink Center on Dec. 17. Stop by and get your autograph at USA Volleyball from 5:15-6 p.m. CT at the CenturyLink Center main entrance. Further, Banwarth and Sykora will be doing a USA Volleyball Twitter takeover, giving fans at the NCAA Championship matches a chance to win free tickets to the 2016 NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament being held Jan. 7-9 in nearby Lincoln, Neb. Follow the USA Volleyball Twitter account (@USAVolleyball) for details as they come available.

SEASON-ENDING STATS: A total of 30 U.S. Women’s National Team players suited up for at least one international tournament for Team USA in 2015, and 19 of the athletes started at least 10 matches along the way that resulted in four gold medal and one bronze in five tournaments. Kayla Banwarth started a team-best 27 matches while Molly Kreklow played in a team-high 114 sets. Karsta Lowe led Team USA in scoring with a 3.28 average among players with at least 65 sets played, while Foluke-Akinradewo and Nicole Fawcett were right behind with 3.24 and 3.19 points per set, respectively. Tori Dixon led the hitting efficiency category at .462 followed by Akinradewo’s .434. Kim Hill led the service game with a 0.50 ace average and Akinradewo added 0.37 per set. Lowe averaged 2.84 kills per set and Fawcett turned in a 2.59 kill average. Dixon’s block produced a team-best 0.62 blocks per set. Banwarth held a team-leading 1.94 digs per set among players with at least 65 sets played, followed by Jordan Larson's 1.49 digs per set. For the individual season stats, click here.

GOT YOUR TICKETS YET FOR OLYMPIC QUALIFIER: The road to the 2016 Olympic Games will go through Lincoln, Neb., with the U.S. Women’s National Team hosting Canada, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament on Jan. 7-9. Have you got your tickets to watch all six matches in the Pinnacle Bank Arena? Come cheer on Team USA as it seeks one of 12 spots into the Olympic Games next year. For more information on this event, click here.

FIVB WORLD GRAND PRIX LANDING IN CALIFORNIA: The FIVB World Grand Prix will return to the United States in 2016 as the U.S. Women will host Japan, Turkey and Germany in a round-robin preliminary round weekend June 17-19 at the Long Beach State University Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif. The U.S., which is the defending World Grand Prix champions after hosting the 2015 Final Round in Omaha, Neb., will face Germany on June 17, followed by Japan on June 18 and Turkey on June 19. Team USA is scheduled to play at 7 p.m. PT on all three days, while the non-American matches are slated for 5 p.m. PT. For additional tournament details and tickets, click here.

THOMPSON WITH BRAZIL’S REXONA ADES: Setter Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash., Twitter, Instagram) has signed to compete for Rexona Ades in the Brazilian Superliga. In a battle of league-leaders, Rexona topped Praia Clube 25-11, 25-16, 25-21 on Dec. 8. Thompson set Rexona to a 47 kill percent during the victory and added one ace and an individual kill on one swing. In its second match of the week, Rexona edged Campinas Minas 17-25, 25-11, 20-25, 25-20, 15-10 on Dec. 11. Thompson started the first four sets and helped Rexona to a 33 kill percent for the match. Rexona (8-1, 24 points), now in sole possession of first place, faces seventh-place Sesi Sao Paolo (4-5, 13 points) on Dec. 15 and third-place Volei Nestle (7-2, 19 points) on Dec. 18.

KLINEMAN WITH BRAZIL’S PRAIA CLUBE: Opposite Alix Klineman (Manhattan Beach, Calif., Twitter, Instagram) is competing for Praia Clube in the Brazilian Superliga this winter. Praia Clube lost its second match of the season in a 25-11, 25-16, 25-21 setback to Rexona on Dec. 8 in a battle the top two teams in the league standings. Klineman tallied three kills on 15 swings in the loss. Praia Clube bounced back to sweep Concilig/Volei Baura 25-21, 25-17, 25-22 on Dec. 11. Klineman charted 11 kills on 32 swings with two blocks and an ace for 14 points. She added a 42 positive reception mark on 19 reception chances. Praia Clube (7-2, 21 points), now in second place, challenges 12th-place Sao Bernardo Volei (0-9, 0 points) on Dec. 15 and fifth-place Rio Do Sul (6-3, 16 points) in the next Brazilian Superliga matches.

AKINRADEWO, NATALIE HAGGLUND, VANSANT WITH SWITZERLAND’S VOLERO ZURICH: Middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla., Twitter, Instagram), libero Natalie Hagglund (Encinitas, Calif., Twitter, Instagram) and Krista Vansant (Redlands, Calif., Twitter, Instagram) are playing for Volero Zurich in the Swiss League as well as the CEV Champions League. In CEV Champions League Pool D action, division leader Volero (4-0, 12 points) overwhelmed Vizura Beograd 25-11, 25-23, 25-16 on Dec. 10. Akinradewo churned out six kills on 12 errorless swings to go with two blocks and two aces for 10 points. Vansant was a sub in the final two sets and scored four kills on 11 attacks. Hagglund was a sub in the final set. Volero will seek to remain undefeated when it takes on France’s RC Cannes (0-4, 1 point) on Jan. 21 in the next Champions League match. Volero improved to 9-0 in the Swiss League blanking then-third-place Viteos NUC I 25-17, 25-16, 25-18 on Dec. 12. Volero, which has not lost a set in the Swiss League, challenges second-place TS Volley Dudingen (7-2, 21 points) on Dec. 19 in the next Swiss League match.

HILL WITH TURKEY’S VAKIFBANK: Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Ore., Twitter, Instagram), the MVP of the 2014 FIVB World Championship, is playing for VakifBank in the Turkish League and CEV Champions League this winter. In the European Champions League Pool B, group leader VakifBank (4-0) eased past Calcit Ljubljana 25-19, 25-8, 25-17 on Dec. 9 to remain undefeated. Hill and other regular VakifBank starters did not play in the match. VakifBank challenges Poland’s PGE Atom Trefl Sopot (3-1, 9 points), in second place in Pool B, on Jan. 20 in its next Champions League match. VakifBank swept Idman Ocagi 25-10, 25-18, 25-17 on Dec. 13 for its 11th straight Turkish League win to start the regular season. Hill produced 11 points in the victory with eight kills on 19 errorless attacks, two aces and a block. She chipped in a 69 positive reception percent on 16 chances. VakifBank, now 11-0 on the season with a one-point lead over second-place Fenerbahce, will begin the second round of the schedule in first place as the league resumes in the new year.

LARSON, KREKLOW WITH TURKEY’S ECZACIBASI: Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Neb., Twitter, Instagram) and setter Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minn., Twitter, Instagram) are playing for Eczacibasi of the Turkish League this winter, along with the CEV Champions League. In European CEV Champions League Pool C action, Eczacibasi lost to Poland’s Chemik Police 25-22, 25-19, 25-27, 25-21 on Dec. 10. Larson scored 10 points with eight kills on 23 swings and two blocks. She had a team-high 25 receptions with a 56 positive reception percent without an error. Kreklow set Eczacibasi to a 32 kill percent and added a block. Eczacibasi (2-2, 7 points), now in third place but within two points the pool leader, will seek to avoid a Champions League losing streak as it faces Czech Republic’s Agel Prostejov (0-4, 0 points) on Jan. 19. In the Turkish League, Eczacibasi overcame a slow start to defeat Sariyer 23-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-9 on Dec. 13. Larson started just the first set and subbed in the third set while producing three kills and a 75 positive reception percent on eight chances. Kreklow was a sub in the first and third sets and scored one ace on four serves. On the opposite side of the net, American Regan Hood Scott provided 10 points with nine kills on 30 swing and an ace. Eczacibasi begins the second half of the season that starts in 2016 in fourth place in the Turkish League standings.

JACKSON WITH TURKEY’S GALATASARAY: Middle blocker Cursty Jackson (Los Angeles, California, Twitter, Instagram) is competing for Galatasaray of the Turkish League this winter. In CEV Cup action, Galatasaray opened its 8th Final Round home-and-home series with VKD GENT Dames with an impressive 25-16, 25-22, 25-16 victory on Dec. 12. Jackson compiled nine points with seven kills on 16 attacks, one block and one ace. The teams meet again on Dec. 16 to conclude the series for the right to advance to the 4th Final Round. Galatasaray had its four-match Turkish League win streak snapped by Fenerbahce with a 25-22, 25-23, 25-19 setback on Dec. 13. Jackson collected nine kills on 18 attacks and an ace for 10 points in the loss. Galatasaray enters the second half of the season that starts in 2016 in third place.

DIETZEN WITH TURKEY’S FENERBAHCE: Middle blocker Christa Dietzen (Hopewell Township, Pa., Twitter, Instagram) is competing this winter for Fenerbahce in the Turkish League and CEV Champions League. In European CEV Champions League Pool E action, group leader Fenerbahce (4-0) remained undefeated by sweeping Poland’s Impel Wroclaw 25-23, 25-22, 25-18 on Dec. 9. Dietzen contributed seven points in the win, including four blocks, two kills on eight attacks and an ace. Fenerbahce moves into the fifth leg of the Champions League Pool E to play Azerbaijan’s Telekom Baku (0-4, 0 points) on Dec. 21. Fenerbahce won its sixth straight Turkish League match by blanking third-place Galatasaray 25-22, 25-23, 25-19 on Dec. 13. Dietzen did not suit in the victory. Fenerbahce, now in second place and trailing league-leader VakifBank by just one point, enters the second half of the season on a streak.

GLASS, ROBINSON, EASY, ADAMS ALL WITH ITALY’S IMOCO CONEGLIANO: Setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich., Twitter, Instagram), the 2013 and 2014 USA Volleyball Female Athlete of the Year, outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill., Twitter, Instagram), outside hitter Megan Easy (Boston, Mass.), a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, and Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio, Twitter, Instagram) are all playing for Imoco Volley Conegliano of the Italian Serie A1 League this winter. Conegliano won its third straight Italian League match with a 25-23, 25-22, 25-15 victory over sixth-place Savino Del Bene Scandici on Jan. 13. Easy led Conegliano with 18 points with via 17 kills on 43 errorless swings to go with an impressive 78 reception percent on 27 chances. Robinson added 14 points with nine kills on 32 swings, three blocks and two aces. She chipped in an 82 positive reception percent on 17 chances. Adams charted nine kills on 18 attacks and four blocks for 13 points in the win. Glass set the squad to a 35 kill percent and added a block. Conegliano (8-3, 24 points), now atop the league standings with a one-point lead over Igor Gorgonzola Novara (8-2, 23 points), is idle next week before closing out the first half of the season on Dec. 22 against 13th-place Il Bisonte Firenze (1-9, 3 points).

GIBBEMEYER, LLOYD WITH ITALY’S POMI CASALMAGGIORE: Middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn., Twitter, Instagram) and setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, Calif., Instagram), the MVP of the Pan American Games, are playing for Pomi Casalmaggiore of the Italian Serie A1 league this winter and the CEV Champions League. In CEV Champions League Pool C, Casalamaggiore turned back Agel Prostejov 25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 25-12 on Dec. 9. Gibbemeyer scored a team-high 18 points with 11 kills on 23 attacks, four blocks and three aces for a well-rounded performance. Lloyd set Casalmaggiore to a 45 kill percent and scored five individual points with three blocks and two kills on two swings. Casamaggiore (3-1, 9 points), now in first place in Pool C, meets second-place Chemik Police (3-1, 8 points) on Jan. 20 in the next Champions League match. In the Italian Serie A1, Pomi Casalmaggiore edged Nordmeccanica Piacenza 25-21, 19-25, 25-17, 25-16 on Dec. 13. Gibbemeyer scored eight points with five kills on 16 attacks, two blocks and an ace in the victory. Lloyd set the squad to a 35 kill percent to go with five individual blocks and one kill for six points. Casalmaggiore (7-3, 23 points), now in third place in the Italian League, will seek to extend its win streak on Dec. 19 against 13th-place Il Bisente Firenze (1-9, 3 points) before concluding the first half on Dec. 22 against ninth-place Club Italia (4-6, 12 points).

LOWE, JENNA HAGGLUND WITH ITALY’S BUSTO ARSIZIO: Opposite Karsta Lowe (Rancho Sante Fe, Calif., Twitter, Instagram), MVP of the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix, and setter Jenna Hagglund (West Chester, Ohio, Twitter, Instagram) are competing for Unendo Yamamay Busto Arsizio of the Italian Serie A1 League this winter. Busto Arsizio (4-6, 12 points), in a ninth-place tie, was idle this past week. The squad closes out the first half of the season with matches against ninth-place Club Italia (4-6, 12 points) on Dec. 19 and fifth-place Nordmeccanica Piacenza (6-4, 20 points) on Dec. 22.

DIXON WITH JAPAN’S TORAY ARROWS: Middle blocker Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn., Twitter, Instagram), Best Blocker in the 2015 FIVB World Cup helping Team USA to the bronze medal, is playing her first season in the Japan V-League with Toray Arrows. Toray downed NEC Red Rockets 25-18, 25-11, 25-16 on Dec. 12 to avoid a losing streak. Dixon tallied seven kills on 11 errorless swings to go with three blocks and an ace for 11 points. Toray won its second match of the weekend with a 25-20, 25-19, 25-17 win over Toyota on Dec. 13. Dixon slammed nine kills on 11 errorless attacks and added two blocks and one ace for 12 points. For the weekend, she converted 16 of her 22 attacks without an error. Toray (11-4, 32 points), now in second place one point behind league-leader Hisamitsu Springs, takes on fourth-place NEC Red Rockets (6-9, 23 points) on Jan. 9 followed by seventh-place Denso (6-9, 15 points) on Jan. 10 after the holiday hiatus. Dixon has maintaine a photo gallery of her season-long experiences with Toray. To view the gallery, click here.

PAOLINI WITH JAPAN’S HITACHI RIVALE: Middle blocker Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich., Twitter, Instagram), a middle blocker on Team USA, is playing her second consecutive season with Hitachi Rivale of the Japan V-League. Hitachi lost a heartbreaking 26-24, 22-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-9 match to last-place Toyota on Dec. 12. Paolini scored 28 kills on 46 attacks with just three hitting errors to go with five aces for a 33-point performance. Hitachi answered the loss with a 25-23, 18-25, 26-24, 25-22 victory over NEC Red Rockets the following day. Paolini charted 17 kills on 40 swings and five blocks for 22 points in the win. Hitachi (10-5, 27 points), now in third place, meets seventh-place Ageo Medics (5-10, 16 points) on Jan. 9 followed by last-place Toyota (4-11, 13 points) on Jan. 10 after the holiday hiatus.

MURPHY WITH JAPAN’S AGEO MEDICS: Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill., Twitter, Instagram), Team USA’s leading scorer in 2013 and 2014, is playing her second season in the Japan V-League with Ageo Medics. Ageo knocked off sixth-place Denso 25-21, 25-16, 25-21 on Dec. 12 for its second straight win. Murphy hammered 17 kills on 40 attacks to go with three aces and two blocks for 22 points. However, Ageo was unable to extend the win streak after falling to fifth-place Okayama 25-16, 25-17, 25-17 on Dec. 13. Murphy was limited to six points in the loss with five kills on 36 attacks and one ace. Ageo (5-13, 16 points), which moved up one spot to sixth place, challenges third-place Hitachi (10-5, 27 points) on Jan. 9 and league-leader Hisamitsu Springs (11-4, 33 points) on Jan. 10 after the holiday hiatus.

LICHTMAN WITH CHINA’S SICHUAN: Outside hitter Cassidy Lichtman (Poway, Calif., Twitter), an outside hitter on the U.S. Women’s National Team, is competing professionally for Sichuan of the Chinese professional volleyball League this winter. After dropping its first playoff match in the Group II round robin, Sichuan picked up two key playoff victories last week starting with a 25-23, 22-25, 25-19, 25-21 win over Henan Xin Yuan on Dec. 8. Lichtman scored a team-high 18 points to offset phenom Zhu Ting’s 31 points in the loss. Lichtman tallied 12 kills on 33 swings and six aces on 26 serves in the victory. She added five digs in the match. Sichuan also defeated Dianchi Lake 25-21, 25-17, 25-21 on Dec. 12. Lichtman charted five points in the win with four kills on seven attacks and another ace. Sichuan ended the Group II playoff in a tie for first with Shandong, but lost the tiebreaker based on set ratio.

FAWCETT WITH CHINA’S FUJIAN: Opposite Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio, Instagram), most valuable player of the NORCECA Championship leading Team USA to gold in 2015, is playing for Fujian in the Chinese professional league. Fujian lost to Beijing Automotive 25-20, 25-17, 25-12 on Dec. 8 for its second consecutive Group I round robin playoff match. Fawcett collected a team-high 13 points in the loss with 13 kills on 44 attacks. Fujian concluded the Group I round robin with a 25-23, 25-15, 25-23 loss to Shenzhen on Dec. 12. Fawcett contributed 12 points with nine kills on 30 attacks, two blocks and an ace in the loss.

HILDEBRAND WITH POLAND’S IMPEL WROCLAW: Outside hitter Kristin Hildebrand (Orem, Utah, Twitter, Instagram) is competing this winter for Impel Wroclaw in the Polish League and CEV Champions League. In CEV Champions League Pool E, Impel Wroclaw dropped a 25-23, 25-22, 25-18 match to group leader Fenerbahce on Dec. 9. Hildebrand tallied four kills and a block in the loss while adding 24 receptions with a 33 positive percent. Impel Wroclaw (1-4, 4 points), in third place, will look to break its losing streak in the Champions League on Jan. 20 against second-place Dresdner (3-1, 7 points). In the Polish League, Impel Wroclaw (9-2, 24 points), which is now in sole possession of third place, looks to win a seventh straight Polish Orlen Liga match on Dec. 14 versus 12th-place KSZO Ostrowiec (0-11, 2 points).

BARTSCH WITH GERMANY’S DRESDNER: Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch (Maryville, Ill., Twitter) is playing for Dresdner SC of the German Bundesliga and CEV Champions League this winter. In CEV Champions League Pool E action, Dresdner pulled out a 25-21, 20-25, 25-21, 17-25, 15-7 victory over Azerbaijan’s Telekom Baku on Dec. 10. Bartsch contributed 20 points in the victory with 16 kills on 41 swings, three blocks and an ace. She added a 58 positive reception percent in the win. American teammate Gina Mancuso tallied 15 points in the win, while Katie Slay chipped in 11 points. Dresdner (3-1, 7 points), in second place in Pool E, faces Poland’s Impel Wroclaw (1-3, 4 points) in the next Champions League match on Jan. 20. In the German Bundesliga, Dresdner blanked Aachen 25-17, 25-11, 25-16 on Dec. 12. Bartsch secured a match-high 17 points with 12 kills on 20 attacks and a block. Second-place Dresdner (8-2, 24 points) returns to Bundesliga action on Dec. 22 against 13th-place VCO Berlin (0-11, 1 point).

STEVI ROBINSON WITH GERMANY’S STUTTGART: Libero Stevi Robinson (Hermosa Beach, Calif., Twitter, Instagram) is signed to play for Allianz MTV Stuttgart of the German Bundesliga, which is also playing in the CEV Champions League. Stuttgart defeated Kopenicker SC Berlin 25-23, 28-30, 25-17, 25-22 on Dec. 13.. Robinson did not suit for the match. Stuttgart (7-4, 20 points), which moved up two spots to fourth place in the German standings, takes on league-leader Schwerin (11-1, 31 points) on Dec. 19 in the next German Bundesliga match. In CEV Champions League Pool A, Stuttgart (1-3) won its first match in Pool A by defeating Azerbaijan’s Lokomotiv Baku on Dec. 9. Robinson did not suit for the match. Stuttgart seeks a second straight win in Champions League action on Jan. 20 when it faces pool leader Dinamo Kazan (4-0, 12).