Women's Update: Titles, Playoffs and a Tribute

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | Feb. 29, 2016, 10:53 a.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Feb. 29, 2016) – The U.S. Women’s National Team had five players advance to the prestigious European Champions League Playoff 6 Round last week, while one led her squad to the South American Club Championship title and another Team USA member paced her squad to the German Cup title and was named most valuable player. Check out the full U.S. Women’s Weekly Update for other team news as the players are competing around the globe with their club teams and an emotional video tribute created by the U.S. Women's National Team for Ellen Toy.

DID YOU KNOW: Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) started her U.S. Women’s National Team career with a bang in 2013 as she developed into the go-to offensive player in her first two years with Team USA.

  • Led the U.S. Women in scoring in 2013 and 2014. In her rookie season in 2013, she scored 314 points with a 3.53 scoring average. IN her second season, she scored team highs of 370 points and 4.35 points per set.
  • Scored a team-best 157 points during the 2014 FIVB World Championship helping Team USA to the gold medal
  • Named most valuable player and Best Spiker of the 2013 NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship
  • Finished 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round ranked second in Best Spiker with a 45.0 kill percent
  • Helped Hoosier Exterminators win the first-ever Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Championship in 2012
  • Three-time AVCA All-America (first team in 2010 and 2011, second team in 2009) while playing at University of Florida as a setter-hitter running a 6-2 offense
  • Finished seventh in Florida history in sets played (447), eighth in kills (1,306), eighth in assists (2,671, 10th in aces (126) and 10th in points (1,567.5) while registering 30 career triple doubles
  • Selected as a finalist for the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS award.
  • Led U.S. Women’s Junior National Team to a fourth-place finish at the 2007 FIVB Women’s Junior World Championship, earning the tournament’s Best Server award
  • Helped her youth club team Sports Performance to an 84-0 record over a three-year period, earning MVP honors after her team won the 2007 USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships 18 Open division title following the 16 Open title in 2006.
  • Mother played volleyball at Illinois State University
  • Video: Meet Kelly Murphy
  • Full Bio

NATALIE HAGGLUND LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE: Natalie Hagglund (Encinitas, Calif.) has launched her own personal website at nataliehagglund.com. Find out more about her life growing up on the beach in Encinitas, playing at University of Southern California and the U.S. Women’s National Team, a few silly facts about herself, her latest blogs, photos of herself traveling the world, her own forum to communicate with her, how to eat like a local in California and Zurich where she currently plays pro volleyball, and more.

Related: U.S. Women's Home Page | FIVB World Grand Prix Tickets (June 17-19 in Long Beach)

U.S. WOMEN PAY RESPECTS TO ELLEN TOY IN BIRTHDAY VIDEO MESSAGE: Ellen Toy became as much a part of the U.S. Women’s National Team as any player on the squad, providing an inspiring message to give back to others even in the face of adversity. An accomplished club and high school volleyball coach in Pennsylvania, Ellen battled stomach cancer in the last few years. While the U.S. Women’s National Team was globetrotting the world in the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix, her story reached Team USA in Serbia and Ellen and her husband Tim became entrenched in the team ever since after a few emails, tweets and videos sent back-and-forth. After being informed her cancer had returned and given a year to live with treatments, that did not set her back from being an inspiration to others. After a bit of good news from the doctors, the couple even traveled via car from Pennsylvania to Omaha to watch Team USA win the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix, not fully knowing how Ellen would handle the hours in the car. (Read the blog on the decision to by clicking here, along with an FIVB story and video with the Toys at the World Grand Prix) Ellen and Tim were accepted into the full Team USA just as if they were family that weekend, even by the players’ parents. When Ellen no longer could coach, she and Tim set up the We Serve First Foundation as a way to continue giving back to the sport they love. The Foundation helps young kids to participate in club volleyball and camps that they would not otherwise be able to attend. (Read more on We Serve First Foundation) As Ellen was approaching her 55th birthday on Feb. 25 and her health deteriorating, Tim was thinking of a special way to deliver the best birthday present and that involved her beloved National Team family. The U.S. Women sent an emotional video wishing Ellen a happy birthday. In the video, Christa Dietzen told Ellen, “Know while I am thinking and praying for you, I want to thank you for always showing us how to serve others despite our own difficulties. I am thinking and praying for you, Ellen.” Courtney Thompson, with her voice cracking with emotion, said “I want to wish you happy birthday. I know you are with loved ones. I just want to thank you for what you mean to our team, and let you know that you will always be in our hearts forever. We will continue to keep you with us in all our adventures. Thank you, we love you so much.” To view the full video tribute, click here. The message arrived to Ellen prior to her birthday. She passed away three days before reaching her 55th birthday. Rest in peace, Ellen. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made in Ellen’s memory to the We Serve First Foundation, c/o First Commonwealth Bank, 152 Grant Ave., Vandergrift, PA 15690.

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, Volero advanced to the Playoff 6 Round by downing Azerbaijan’s Lokomotiv Baku 21-25, 25-18, 25-14, 25-19 on Feb. 25 one week after being upset in five sets at Baku. After Lokomotiv came back from a 21-16 deficit to win the opening set 25-21 on a 9-0 run, it was all Volero the rest of the match. Akinradewo powered down eight kills on 13 errorless attacks while serving two aces and putting up a block for 11 points. Vansant was a sub in the first and third sets. Volero will now face Turkey’s VakifBank in the home-and-home Playoff 6 round with matches on March 10 and a return date to be announced. Volero, which ended the Swiss League regular season at 18-0 and just one set loss, opened the playoffs by defeating Viteos NUC I 25-18, 25-21, 25-12 on Feb. 27. Volero topped Sm’Aesch Pfeffingen 25-15, 25-20, 25-16 on Feb. 28 to improve to 2-0 in the playoffs. Volero continues the playoffs on March 2 against Volley Koniz.

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, Dresdner lost to Dinamo Moscow 25-17, 25-13, 25-21 on Feb. 24 in its second home-and-home Playoff 12 Round match to fall out of the playoffs. Bartsch scored was held scoreless in the opening set and came out of the match to start the second set. On Feb. 28, Dresdner edged Allianz MTV Stuttgart 25-22, 20-25, 25-18, 17-25, 15-10 to win the German Cup Championship. Bartsch was selected the most valuable player after collecting 20 points in the title match with 18 kills on 41 swings, one block and one ace. She handled 40 of her team’s 93 reception attempts with a 58 positive percent. In the German Bundesliga, Dresdner was idle with the German Cup finals on the schedule. Dresdner (18-4, 54 points), which remains in first place in the league standings with a two-point lead over second-place Schweriner, returns to German Bundesliga on March 2 against 12th-place Thurigen (4-18, 14 points).

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, Fenerbahce swept its Playoff 12 home-and-home series with Poland’s Chemik Police following a 25-21, 25-16, 25-14 victory on Feb. 23. Dietzen contributed four kills on six errorless attacks and two blocks for six total points in the victory. Fenerbahce now advances to the Playoff 6 series to play Russia’s Dinamo Moscow in a home-and-home series on March 9 and a return date to be announced. In the Turkish League, Fenebahce lost to fourth-place Eczacibasi 22-5, 25-21, 18-25, 26-24, 15-13 on Feb. 27. Dietzen was a sub in the second and fourth sets, registering one block. Fenerbahce (16-2, 49 points), which had its first-place lead trimmed to two points, plays ninth-place Halkbank on March 5 in the next Turkish League match.

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, Eczacibasi lost to VakifBank 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 on Feb. 24 to lose both its home-and-home matches in the Playoff 12 Round. Larson scored a match-high 15 points with 13 kills on 34 swings and two blocks. She chipped in a 67 positive reception percent on six chances. Kreklow was a sub in the third set. In the Turkish League, Eczacibasi rallied to defeat league-leader Fenerbahce 22-25, 25-21, 18-25, 26-24, 15-13 on Feb. 27. Larson scored 15 points with 11 kills on 33 swings to go with two blocks and two aces. She chipped in a 75 positive reception percent on 12 chances. Kreklow moved back into the starting setter role and led Eczacibasi to a 38 kill percent as a team while picking up an ace and individual kill for two points. Eczacibasi (14-4, 40 points), which moved up into a tie for third place, faces sixth-place Bursa B.Sehir on March 5 in the next Turkish 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, VakifBank swept its Playoff 12 Round home-and-home series with Turkish rival Eczacibasi following a 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 victory on Feb. 24. Hill did not play in the match. VakifBank now advances to the Playoff 6 Round where it will face Volero Zurich in a home-and-home series on March 10 and a return date to be announced. In the Turkish League, VakifBank swept Salihli 25-21, 25-23, 25-18 on Feb. 27. Hill scored six kills on 16 swings, one block and one ace for eight points. She handled a team-best 35 receptions with a 51 positive percent. VakifBank (16-2, 47 points), now in second place and just two points behind league-leader Fenerbahce, takes on Sariyer on March 5.

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 advanced to the CEV Cup semifinals after sweeping the home-and-home series with Poland’s Impel Wroclaw following a 15-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-17 victory on Feb. 24 to close out the Challenge Round series. Jackson connected for four kills on 12 attacks and two aces for six points in the victory. Galatasaray will now face Germany’s Schweriner in the semifinal home-and-home series on March 8 and March 12. In the Turkish League, Galatasaray lost its second straight five-set match after falling to 10th-place Idman Ocagi 26-24, 21-25, 17-25, 25-19, 15-13 on March 27. Jackson pocketed 11 points in the loss with six kills on 13 swings, three aces and two blocks. Galatasaray (14-4, 40 points), now in a third-place tie, challenges eighth-place Nilufer on March 5.

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 12th straight match by sweeping third-place Igor Gorgonzola Novara 25-16, 25-22, 25-22 on Feb. 28. Glass set Conegliano to a stellar 51 kill percent and .374 hitting efficiency (50-13-99) while chipping in two individual kills, one block and one ace. Robinson connected for 14 points with 12 kills on 33 swings and two aces. She was 50 percent positive on eight receptions. Adams contributed 11 kills on 16 attacks with just one hitting error to go with two blocks for 13 points. Easy notched 10 kills on 20 attacks with just one error. She was credited with an amazing 73 positive reception percent on a team-best 30 reception chances out of the team’s overall 53 receptions. Conegliano (17-3, 49 points) will seek its 13th straight win on March 2 when it faces 11th-place Club Italia (6-13, 18 points), followed by a March 6 contest against fifth-place LIU JO Modena (13-6, 37 points).

FAWCETT WITH ITALY’S NOVARA: Opposite Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio, Instagram), most valuable player of the 2015 NORCECA Championship and the 2016 NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament, transferred to Italy’s Igor Gorgonzola Novara after completing the short-season Chinese professional league. In the CEV Cup Challenge Round, defeated Azerbaijan’s Azeryol Baku 25-23, 26-28, 25-23, 25-18 in the second match of the Challenge Round home-and-home series on Feb. 23 to force a golden set to see which team advanced to the semifinal round. However, Azeryol held off Novara 15-13 in the golden set after leading 14-11. Fawcett, continuing to play outside for Novara as opposed to her opposite position she holds with the U.S. Women’s National Team, started the first three sets and totaled six kills on 18 swings, four blocks and an ace for 11 points. In the Italian Serie A regular season, Novara suffered a 25-16, 25-22, 25-22 setback to league-leader Imoco Conegliano on Feb. 28. Fawcett recorded 11 points with seven kills on 24 swings, three blocks and an ace. Novara (14-5, 40 points), in fourth place, returns to Italian League action on March 2 when it challenges sixth-place Savino Del Bene Scandicci (11-8, 33 points), followed by a March 5 contest against eighth-place Unendo Yamamay Busto Arsizio (8-12, 25 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 the Italian Serie A1, Pomi Casalmaggiore rallied from a first-set loss to defeat fifth-place LIU JO Modena 23-25, 25-22, 25-15, 27-25 on Feb. 28. Gibbemeyer pocketed 12 points with five kills on 19 swings and seven blocks. Lloyd turned in three blocks and two kill son six attacks while setting Casalmaggiore to a 29 kill percent. Casalmaggiore (14-5, 43 points), now in second place, faces 12th-place Suidtrol Bolzano (3-16, 10 points) on March 2 followed by Savino Del Bene Scandicci on March 5. Casalmaggiore has also been selected to host the semifinals and finals of the CEV Champions League April 9-10, thus bypassing the Playoff 12 and Playoff 6 rounds.

LOWE, JENNA HAGGLUND WITH ITALY’S BUSTO ARSIZIO: Opposite Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa 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. Unendo Yamamay edged Il Bisonte Firenze 25-19, 17-25, 25-22, 26-24 on Feb. 28 to bounce back from a loss last week. Lowe notched 21 points with 19 kills on 52 swings and two aces. Hagglund set her team to a 34 kill percent and added two individual kills on seven attempts, one ace and one block for four points. Busto Arsizio (8-12, 25 points), now in eighth place, will seek its second straight win on March 2 against ninth-place Metalleghe Sanitars Montichiari (8-12, 23 points) followed by fourth-place Igor Gorgonzola Novara (14-5, 40 points) on March 5.

THOMPSON WITH BRAZIL’S REXONA-ADES: Setter Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash., Twitter, Instagram) has signed to compete for Rexona-Ades in the Brazilian Superliga. Rexona-Ades took a break from the Superliga to compete in the South American Club Championship last week and took home the title. Rexona dominated its two pool match opponents with sweeps over Argentina’s GELP (25-8, 25-8, 25-9) and Bolivia’s Olympic (25-11, 25-7, 25-13) on Feb. 24 and Feb. 26, respectively. Rexona-Ades powered past Argentina’s Villa Dora in the semifinals with a 25-14, 25-13, 25-16 victory on Feb. 27. In the South American Club Championship gold-medal match, Rexona-Ades downed Peru’s San Martin 25-16, 25-22, 25-17. By winning the tournament, Rexona-Ades has qualified for this year’s FIVB Women’s Club World Championship. In the Brazilian Superliga, Rexona-Ades (20-1, 57 points) has already clinched the regular season title with only one match remaining, that being March 4 against third-place Volei Nestle (16-5, 47 points).

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 knocked off Sao Bernardo Volei 25-18, 25-15, 25-17 on Feb. 26 in its second to last regular season match. Klineman converted 12 of 25 attacks into points without an error to go with four aces and two blocks for a team-high 18 points. She added 15 receptions with a 46 positive reception percent. Praia Clube (17-4, 51 points), now in second place in the league standings, takes on sixth-place Rio Do Sul (12-9, 33 points) on March 4 to close out the regular season.

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 defeated Okayama 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-19 on Feb. 28 to close out the top six playoff round in first place. Paolini scored 19 points with 17 kills, one block and one ace in the victory. By claiming the top spot in the playoff round, Hitachi receives a bye next weekend and will face the March 6 semifinal winner of Toray and Hisamitsu Springs on March 12 in Tokyo.

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. Murphy and her teammates move into the V-League Challenge Match playoffs by facing JT Marvelous on March 5-6 at Hitachinaka Sports Park Gymnasium. Ageo finished eighth in the top division, while JT Marvelous won the second division. Murphy ended the regular season ranked second in scoring with 507 points and a 6.03 per set scoring average. She averaged 5.42 kills per set, also second in the league. Murphy held a 17.3 serve efficiency for second-best in the league, while having 26 aces for third-place.

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 before the squad dropped to the CEV Cup. In the CEV Cup Challenge Round, Impel Wroclaw lost its second straight Challenge Round match to Turkey’s Galatasaray with a 15-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-17 setback on Feb. 24. Hildebrand was a sub in the second and fourth sets, recording one kill on five sweeps while holding a 45 positive reception percent on 11 chances. In the Polish League, Impel Wroclaw swept ninth-place Legionovia 25-23, 25-22, 25-8 on Feb. 27. Hildebrand, who subbed into the second set and started the third set, totaled five kills on 14 attacks with six receptions. Third-place Impel Wroclaw (16-3, 43 points) resumes Polish League action on March 5against fifth-place Budowlani Lodz (11-8, 33 points).