Women's Update: Hill Wins Club Worlds; Dixon Returns in Red-Blue

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | May 15, 2017, 11:34 a.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (May 15, 2017) – A busy week for the U.S. Women’s National Team players as the program held its first of four Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmages and four players competed in the annual FIVB Women’s Club World Championship – one walking away with gold. The scrimmage marked the return of middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota, Twitter, Instagram), who hit the court for the first time since an ACL injury in January 2016. Five additional players begin training in Anaheim this week, including two just finishing college with major honors on their resume. Further, tickets went on sale for the USA Volleyball Cup as the U.S. Women will host Brazil in Anaheim at the end of August.

HILL SPARKS VAKIFBANK TO FIVB CLUB WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE

The annual FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship featured four U.S. Women’s National Team players participating in the event. Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon, Instagram) helped lead Turkey’s VakifBank to the title with a 25-19, 25-21, 25-21 victory over Brazil’s Rexona-SESC in the title match held in Kobe, Japan. Hill scored 13 points in the championship match, including 12 kills on 30 attacks.

Hill finished the tournament ranked 12th in scoring with 62 points (49 kills, 5 blocks, 8 aces). She finished as the second-best server with a 0.47 ace average per set. Hill ranked fifth in best receiver with a 49.6 efficiency percent.

The bronze medal match featured three Americans aiming to arrive on the podium. In the end, middle Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida, Twitter, Instagram) sparked Switzerland’s Volero Zurich to a 25-22, 25-15, 22-25, 23-25, 15-12 victory over Turkey’s Eczacibasi, which had outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska, Twitter, Instagram) and middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio, Twitter, Instagram) on the roster. Akinradewo tallied 16 points in the bronze-medal match with 12 kills on 21 swings, three blocks and an ace.

Akinradewo ranked 20th in scoring, compiling 53 points with 45 kills, four blocks and four aces. Akinradewo held a .569 hitting efficiency for the tournament on 72 attacks. Larson tallied 47 points in the tournament with 40 kills, 4 blocks and three aces for 22nd in scoring. Adams contributed 22 points in the tournament.

FIRST 2017 RED-BLUE RECAP

The U.S. Women’s National Team held its first Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage of the season on May 12 with 21 players seeing action at Murrieta Mesa High School in Murrieta, California.

“Our first Red-Blue of the new four-year Olympic cycle was a big success from the promotional side - huge thanks to Dana Burkholder, Forza1 and Murrieta Mesa High School for hosting us to kick off the Quad,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “From a competitive side, we challenged everyone to find solutions quickly in the 15-point set only format, and USA’s problem-solving improved as the evening progressed. On the process side, we faced a good challenge trying to stick with our daily ‘USA good’ mental approach under match-like conditions. Finally, we’ve taught myriad new technical and tactical concepts during the first two weeks of official training, and we were excited to see some of that learning on display at the Red-Blue.”

RED-BLUE MATCH STATS

Opposite Liz McMahon (Liberty Township, Ohio), a newcomer to the USA gym, led all scorers with 16 points as she totaled 10 kills with a .273 hitting efficiency. She added team-bests three aces and three blocks in her three sets of action. Outside hitter Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) charted 11 points with seven kills, three blocks and an ace in three sets.

Opposite Krystal Rivers (Birmingham, Alabama) hit .429 with nine kills on 14 attacks while adding an ace. Opposite Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Illinois, Twitter, Instagram), a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, turned in nine points with eight kills and a block. Madi Kingdon (Phoenix, Arizona) contributed eight kills and an ace for nine points.

Middle Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota, Twitter, Instagram), playing in her first action since tearing her ACL in January 2016 following a promising 2015 season, chalked up five kills with a .364 hitting efficiency and three blocks for eight points in one set. Prior to her injury she was named the best blocker of the 2015 FIVB World Cup and the best blocker of the 2016 NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Outside hitter Sonja Newcombe (Lake Arrowhead, California) and Opposite Kadie Rolfzen (Papillion, Nebraska) each notched seven points. Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch (Maryville, Illinois), a 2016 Olympic alternate, totaled six points.

The offense was run by four setters, three of whom were making their debuts with the senior national team in a Red-Blue match or any international contest. Three liberos also saw action as they were wearing a USA uniform for the first time at the senior national team level.

The Red-Blue lasted five sets with each set played to 15 points instead of the normal 25 in sets one through four.

TORI DIXON RETURNS TO THE COURT

After nearly 16 months, Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota, Twitter, Instagram) returned to the court playing the game she loved.

Dixon had been named best blocker at the 2015 FIVB World Cup and 2016 NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournaments and was primed for consideration to make her first Olympic Games roster. Three weeks after helping the U.S. qualify for the Olympics at the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament, the tide unfortunately changed on a court in Japan as she played for Toray Arrows, her professional team in the Japan V-League.

In her second to last regular season match with Torary, Dixon went up for a swing and powered down a kill lie she had so many times before. However, this time was different as she landed awkwardly on her left leg and immediately grimaced in pain. Doctors would confirm she tore her ACL and her Olympic dreams were in jeopardy.

Dixon had surgery on her knee, and made a cautious comeback after months of rehab to see if she could be ready in time. When it was evident she would not be recovered in time for the Olympics, she eased back on the timetable to get ready for 2017.

Dixon was around her U.S. teammates as much as she could be during the summer leading up to the Olympics, then spent time between Anaheim rehabbing and her home in Minneapolis. This past winter she elected to not play professionally overseas and concentrate on getting herself ready, including fine tuning her technique to help avoid similar injuries.

Dixon had the first Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage date – May 12 at Murrieta Mesa High School in Murrieta, California – circled on the calendar, which would mark her return to playing in a USA uniform after months of rehabbing in near obscurity while her teammates continued their professional careers. And getting in that first action felt like old times.

“Yes, it felt great to be on the court again,” Dixon said. “I've been in Anaheim training and working with our coaches, strength coaches and athletic trainers for such a long time it was awesome to be able to go out and play free knowing that I've done the work to play at a high level without pain or problems.”

Dixon played in four sets during the Red-Blue, compiling five kills on 11 swings and just one attack error to go with three blocks for eight total points. Yet, as one of the veterans among a current training roster laden with fresh faces looking to impress the coaching staff, Dixon was on the court providing the leadership needed for other players to develop.

“I think I played well, but no matter what, there's always things that need to be worked on,” Dixon said. “I was doing my best to help the younger players as much as possible to elevate the play and I think overall it was a good first scrimmage for a lot of players, myself included.”

UPDATED U.S. WOMEN’S TRAINING ROSTER

The U.S. Women’s National Team, ranked No. 2 in the world after a bronze-medal finish at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, will have 25 players training at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim – the official host city for both the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams – by this coming Wednesday with five additional players joining the training squad including two athletes coming out of college with prestigious honors.

Outside hitter Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie, Minnesota), who will join the team on Tuesday, won the 2016 AVCA and espnW Division I Player of the Year after leading University of Minnesota to the NCAA semifinals in December. Setter Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois) was selected the 2017 Sullivan Award winner for the best amateur athlete in all sports after becoming the first player at University of Wisconsin to earn four straight AVCA All-American awards. Along with athletic traits, the Sullivan Award goes to athletes who display strong leadership, character and sportsmanship.

Middle Carly Wopat (Santa Barbara, California), who played this past winter with Toray in the Japan V-League, returns to the U.S. Women’s National Team roster on Wednesday after training with Team USA last summer. Libero Kristen Hahn (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), who was part of the 2014 NORCECA World Championship Qualification Tournament roster, and outside hitter Aiyana Whitney (Norwood, New Jersey) began training with the National Team today. Hahn played collegiately for Iowa State, while Whitney competed for Penn State and played professionally with MTV Stuttgart in Germany this past winter. Additional players will be added to the 2017 training roster following the completion of their pro leagues overseas and short rest or finishing their college’s academic year. Training rosters are subject to change weekly with new athletes added or removed. Team USA works out weekdays from approximately 8:30-11:30 a.m. All practices at the American Sports Centers are open to the public.

Player (Position, 2016-17 Pro Club, College, Hometown)
Inky Ajanaku (Middle, Rehabbing in USA, Stanford, Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Rhamat Alhassan (Middle, College Senior-to-Be, Florida, Glenarden, Maryland)
Michelle Bartsch (Outside, Bolzano (Italy), Illinois, Maryville, Illinois)
Amanda Benson (Libero, Final Season in College, Oregon, Litchfield Park, Arizona)
Madi Bugg (Setter, NUC (Switzerland), Stanford, Apex, North Carolina)
Lauren Carlini * (Setter, Final Season in College, Wisconsin, Aurora, Illiniis)
Megan Courtney (Outside, Wroclaw (Poland), Penn State, Dayton, Ohio)
Lexi Dannemiller (Setter, Schweriner (Germany), Michigan, West Chester, Ohio)
Tori Dixon (Middle, Rehabbing in USA, Minnesota, Burnsville, Minnesota)
Kristen Hahn (Libero, Did Not Compete, Iowa State, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Micha Hancock (Setter, Wroclaw (Poland), Penn State, Edmond, Oklahoma)
Morgan Heise (Libero, Final Season in College, SMU, Hempstead, Texas)
Madi Kingdon (Outside, IBK (Korea), Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona)
Molly McCage (Middle, Wiesbaden (Germany), Texas, Spring, Texas)
Liz McMahon (Opposite, Dresden (Germany), Illinois, Liberty Township, Ohio)
Kelly Murphy (Opposite, Henan (China), Florida, Wilmington, Illinois)
Sonja Newcombe (Outside, Sichuan (China), Oregon, Lake Arrowhead, California)
Val Nichol (Setter, MTV Stuttgart (Germany), Purdue, Normal, Illinois)
Amber Rolfzen (Middle, Dresden (Germany), Nebraska, Papillion, Nebraska)
Kadie Rolfzen (Opposite, Dresden (Germany), Nebraska, Papillion, Nebraska)
Hannah Tapp (Middle, Schweriner (Germany), Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
Sarah Wilhite * (Outside Hitter, Final Season in College, Minnesota, Eden Prairie, Minnesota)
Aiyana Whitney (Outside Hitter, MTV Stuttgart (Germany), Penn State, Norwood, New Jersey)
Justine Wong-Orantes (Libero, Final Season in College, Nebraska, Cypress, California)
Carly Wopat ^ (Middle, Toray (Japan), Stanford, Santa Barbara, California)
Notes: * Wilhite and Carlini begin on May 16; ^ Wopat begins on May 17

TICKETS FOR USA VOLLEYBALL CUP VS BRAZIL NOW ON SALE: The U.S. Women’s National Team hosts Brazil on Aug. 27 and Aug. 29 in Anaheim as part of the USA Volleyball Cup, and you can now get the hottest volleyball of the summer ticket through TicketMaster by clicking here. The Americans will host their South American rivals in the two-match series at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena just a couple miles from where Team USA trains in Anaheim – the official host city of the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams. The U.S. is ranked No. 2 in the current FIVB world ranking after earning bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games. Brazil, which lost to eventual 2016 Olympic Games champion China in a five-set match in the quarterfinals in Rio, is ranked No. 4 in the world. The two teams met in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games gold-medal match with the Brazilians winning both matches. “Brazil has built one of a handful of legendary programs in international volleyball, and this year’s USA Volleyball Cup matches will be a wonderful opportunity for American fans to see both programs live,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said. “Every time we square off across the net, it’s a battle - both teams test each other, and learn, and we cherish experiences like that. We’ll see you in August!” The USA Volleyball Cup opening match will have first serve at 4 p.m. PT on Aug. 27, while the Aug. 29 match will start at 7:30 p.m. PT.

U.S. WOMEN TO HOST CANADA IN FRIENDLY MATCH: The U.S. Women’s National Team will host the Canadian Women’s National Team in a friendly match on June 13 at JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano, California. The match will start at 7 p.m. PT and tickets will be available for purchase at the door one hour prior to the match. The USA-Canada match will represent the first contest against an international opponent for Team USA since it won bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games. Both the USA and Canada will travel later in the week to Peru for the XVI Pan American Cup that is from June 16-25.

RED-BLUE SCRIMMAGE SCHEDULE: The U.S. Women’s National Team will officially begin its summer training block on May 1, and already have several Red-Blue intrasquad matches lined up for fans in Southern California to watch the team get ready for summer competitions. In addition, fans are welcome to attend training sessions at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim. The U.S. Women typically train Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. PT.

  • May 19: at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School (San Juan Capistrano, California), 7 p.m. PT
  • May 26: at Santiago Canyon College (Orange, California), 6 p.m. PT (doubleheader with U.S. Men’s National Team)
  • June 2: at Kennedy High School (La Palma, California), 7 p.m. PT