COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (Jan. 9, 2017) – This week’s U.S. Women’s National Team update highlights 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Kayla Banwarth, who begins her post-National Team career at her alma mater as an assistant coach. The update also features a blog by Natalie Hagglund on being versatile for success and other team news from around the globe.

BANWARTH TAKES JOB WITH ALMA MATER: Kayla Banwarth (Dubuque, Iowa, Twitter, Instagram), a bronze medalist with the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, has accepted an assistant coach position with her alma mater, University of Nebraska. Banwarth said “I am extremely honored to rejoin the Nebraska volleyball program as a coach. I want to thank Coach (John) Cook and the rest of the staff for this opportunity. I look forward to learning and growing both as a coach and a person. It’s great to be back in Lincoln.” Banwarth, who was a volunteer assistant coach for the Pepperdine men’s volleyball team last spring, was a walk-on at Nebraska and became the starting libero midway through her freshman season. She ended her career as the all-time digs leader before out-going Husker senior Justine Wong-Orantes surpassed the mark.

HAGGLUND BLOGS ON KEYS TO SUCCESS: U.S. Women’s National Team libero Natalie Hagglund (Encinitas, California, Twitter, Instagram) recently wrote a blog for her website discussing how players can better their chances to being successful in volleyball. According to her blog, Hagglund writes the ability to be versatile in many ways helped her career and she believes other athletes can benefit from the same tactic. “I am worried that we put too much emphasis on being great at one skill with the intention of being noticed in that position,” Hagglund wrote. To compensate for this, Hagglund believes “The younger e can learn to develop in every skill, the better, more valuable we will be in the long run.”

GET TO KNOW TWO-TIME OLYMPIAN BUCK-CROCKETT: Rita Buck-Crockett, a member of the 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Teams, is part of the 2017 Texas Sports Hall of Fame class. Buck-Crockett, along with Flo Hyman, will be the first two volleyball players inducted into the TSHOF with the formal enshrinement on Feb. 21 in Waco, Texas. After being named to the All-World Team in 1982, she helped Team USA win silver at the 1984 Olympic Games. Buck-Crockett, a member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame, was equally successful on the sand as she teamed with Jackie Silva to win the World Beach Volleyball Championship, and in the process becoming the first African-American woman to earn the title. After her playing days, Buck-Crockett turned to coaching. She served as head coach at University of Iowa from 1998 to 2004, then as associate head coach at Florida State University in 2004-2005. Buck-Crockett currently is the head coach at Florida International University as its indoor and beach volleyball head coach. She was named the 2015 AVCA Sand Volleyball Coach of the Year. For a full article on her induction, click here.

LLOYD, GIBBEMEYER WITH ITALY’S CASALMAGGIORE: Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, California, Instagram), a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist setter for Team USA, and middle Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minnesota, Twitter, Instagram) have returned to Italy to compete for Pomi Casalmaggiore in the Italian Serie A1 league and the CEV Cup. Casalmaggiore lost to Liu Jo Nordmeccanica Modena 25-18, 25-22, 25-16 on Jan. 5 to open its Italian Cup quarterfinal home-and-home series in Modena. Casalmaggiore begins the Italian Serie A1 regular season second half on Jan. 15 against Club Italia Crai (1-10), which is in last place of the 12-team Serie A1 league. Casalmaggiore came back to win the second match 25-15, 25-19, 25-19 on Jan. 8 at its home facility. Lloyd set the squad to a 43 kill percent and added four blocks and one individual kill. Gibbemeyer added six kills on 11 swings and five blocks for 11 points in the win. With both teams winning at home 3-0, a golden set was played to decide which team would advance to the Italian Cup semifinal. Casalmaggiore held an 8-6 advantage at the side switch, but Modena came back to win 18-16. In CEV Cup action, Casalmaggiore will face Maccabi XT Haifa in the 16th Final Round with dates of the home-and-home series with the first match set for Jan. 12 and the return match on Jan. 26.

BARTSCH WITH ITALY’S BOLZANO: Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch (Maryville, Illinois, Twitter), an alternate on the U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, is competing for Sudtirol Bolzano in the Italian Serie A1 this winter. During the Italian Cup quarterfinals, Bolzano lost to Imoco Volley Conegliano 25-23, 25-22, 28-26 on Jan. 5 in Bolzano to start the home-and-home quarterfinal round. Bartsch scored a team-best 12 points with eight kills and four aces while handling 19 service receptions with a 74 positive percent. In the return match on Jan. 8, Conegliano swept the series with a 25-18, 30-28, 25-16 victory. Bartsch totaled nine points with seven kills, one block and one ace in the match. Bolzano (4-7, 12 points), now in seventh place in the Italian League regular season, begins the second half on Jan. 15 against third-place Igor Gorgonzola Novara (7-4, 23 points).

LARSON, ADAMS WITH TURKEY’S ECZACIBASI: Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska, Twitter, Instagram) and middle Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio, Twitter, Instagram), both members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team that won bronze in Rio, are playing for Eczacibasi of the Turkish League and as part of the European Champions League this winter. Eczacibasi begins the Turkish Cup Finals with a quarterfinal match against Halkbank on Jan. 15. In the Turkish League, Eczacibasi (8-3) is in second place in the Turkish League standings. In European Champions League action, Eczacibasi (1-0) returns to action on Jan. 10 against Turkish rival VakifBank (1-0).

HILL WITH TURKEY’S VAKIFBANK: Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon, Instagram) a bronze medalist on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, returns this winter to play for Turkey’s VakifBank and in the European Champions League. In a break from Turkish League action, VakifBank takes on Nilufer in the Turkish Cup quarterfinals on Jan. 15. VakifBank is 11-0 through the first half of the regular season. In the European Champions League, VakifBank (1-0) resumes action on Jan. 10 against Turkish rival Eczacibasi (1-0).

ROBINSON, LOWE WITH CHINA’S BAIC MOTORS: Outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Illinois, Twitter, Instagram) and opposite Karsta Lowe (Rancho Santa Fe, California, Instagram), both members of the 2016 bronze-winning U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, are in China this winter playing for BAIC Motors Beijing. BAIC Motors, after winning its first match of the playoffs, has dropped four straight following a tough 23-25, 25-19, 22-25, 25-20, 15-9 match to Shenzhen on Jan. 7. Robinson tallied eight points in the match and Lowe did not enter the contest. BAIC Motors will look to end the skid on Jan. 10 as it plays Sichuan prior to a Jan. 14 rematch against Shenzhen.

HANCOCK WITH POLAND’S IMPEL WROCLAW: Setter Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma, Twitter, Instagram), who played for the U.S. Women during the 2016 Pan American Cup and set the tournament record for aces in a match and tournament, is playing for Poland’s Impel Wroclaw in the Orlen Liga. Wroclaw started out the 2017 portion of its Orlen Liga regular season with a 25-23, 27-29, 25-15, 25-16 victory over 11th-place KSZO Ostrowiec on Jan. 4. Hancock set her team to a 48 kill percent and added four individual kills on 10 errorless attacks and one ace for five points. American teammate Megan Courtney added 13 points, all kills on 28 swings and just two errors. Wroclaw continued its winning ways with a 25-21, 28-26, 25-18 sweep of eighth-place LKS Comercecon Lodz on Jan. 8. Hancock notched eight points with four kills on six errorless attacks, three aces on 16 serves and one block while setting her squad to a 41 kill percent. Courtney turned in nine kills in the win. Wroclaw, in second place with a 11-4 record and 36 points, will challenge 13th-place BKS Profi Credit Bielsko-Biala on Jan. 13 in its next league match.

AKINRADEWO WITH SWITZERLAND’S VOLERO ZURICH: Middle Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Florida, Twitter, Instagram), the Best Blocker in the 2016 Olympic Games after leading the U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team to a bronze medal, is playing for Volero Zurich in the Swiss League and in the European Champions League. Volero, currently undefeated in the Swiss League at 13-0 with a two-point lead over second-place Sm’Aesch Pfeffingen, was idle last week and does not return to the domestic league action until Jan. 14 when it faces VC Kanti Schaffhausen. In the CEV Champions League, Volero (1-0) will face Dinamo Moscow (1-0) in the second leg of Pool B on Jan. 12.

CRIMES WITH TURKEY’S SARIYER: Middle Alexis Crimes (Rancho Cucamonga, California, Instagram), an alternate to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, is competing for Sariyer in the Turkish League this winter. Sariyer is in ninth place in the league standings with a 3-8 record.