COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (May 2, 2016) – Kim Hill was named most valuable player of the Turkish League playoffs after leading VakifBank to the title, while three Americans helped Volero Zurich to its 11th Swiss League title in 12 years. This week’s U.S. Women’s National Team Update incudes other player news from around the world.

DID YOU KNOW: Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minnesota) joined the U.S. Women’s National Team in May 2014 and has become one of the top rising middle blockers in the world in just her second year with Team USA. She was making a huge push to reach her dream of playing in the 2016 Olympic Games prior to tearing her ACL in January. Dixon hasn’t given up on the dream just yet.  Get to know Dixon better in the notes below and how she has already overcome some other challenges.

  • Had heart surgery in 2013 prior to her senior season at University of Minnesota to enable her to continue playing volleyball
  • Named Best Blocker in both the 2015 FIVB World Cup and 2016 NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament
  • As its youngest player on the roster, started six of 13 matches in the 2014 FIVB World Championship in which the U.S. Women won the gold medal. She converted 52.2 percent of her attacks into points during the tournament, along with a 0.24 service ace average
  • Helped U.S. win the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix title, starting eight of 14 matches with a 2.61 points per set average and a 42.9 kill percent
  • In her second international tournament, selected Best Blocker at 2014 Pan American Cup with a 0.74 block average.
  • Selected AVCA All-America First-Team in 2013 as a senior at University of Minnesota after being named second team in 2012
  • Majored in sport management at the University of Minnesota with a focus on communications
  • Leading scorer on the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team that captured gold at the 2008 NORCECA Girls’ Youth Continental Championship
  • Father David Dixon played 11 seasons in the National Football League including with the Minnesota Vikings, and is the second player from New Zealand to compete in the NFL

SUMMER TRAINING OFFICIALLY BEGINS TODAY: While training for the 2016 Olympic Games has been on-going since 2013, the U.S. Women’s National Team gets back to business today as the official start of the 2016 summer training block. Some athletes returned to the American Sports Centers in Anaheim, the official host city for the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams, well before today’s official start date to either train or rehab following a long professional club season. On the flip side, a handful of players will re-join the squad over the next 10-14 days as they still have commitments to their clubs with playoffs still on-going or taking a short break after returning home from six months on the road for club volleyball.

DIETZEN BACK IN USA: After completing her Turkish League season, U.S. Women’s National Team middle blocker Christa Dietzen (Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania) is back in the United States and in Anaheim getting ready for the U.S. Women’s National Team season. She took a few minutes away from the court to be interviewed by about a wide-ranging number of topics.

IMPROVING TEAM CHEMISTRY THROUGH EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS: In a recent blog, U.S. Women’s National Team libero Natalie Hagglund (Encinitas, California) delves into how good teams can become even better through effective communications and improving team chemistry. “Volleyball goes so much further than just the physical skills of the individual players on the court. Sure, you can occasionally win big matches or accomplish individual statistical goals by putting the most skilled players out on the court. However, I highly doubt that these six will be wearing a gold medal of some sort without having a deeper connection than just skill. So, what is the secret to a team’s success? How do you make a good team, a winning team? I get these types of questions a lot and for me, I think it’s pretty simple.”

OLYMPICS ON MIND FOR 4 PENN STATE ALUMS: Penn State has built a volleyball legacy by winning six of the last nine NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championships, and some of those Nittany Lions have showcased that they are among the best on the world stage as well. Christa Dietzen (Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania), Megan Easy (Boston, Massachusetts), Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) and Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan) have made the transition from college to international play look near seamless. But it has taken a lot of work. Dietzen and Easy are going for their second Olympic Games roster spots, while Glass and Fawcett have dreams to make their first trip to the Olympics come this summer. The Centre Daily Times, located in State College, Pennsylvania, takes a look into their backgrounds. For the story, click here.

WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM TAKES SPOTLIGHT ON NBC LOS ANGELES: The U.S. Women’s National Team were a significant part of NBC 4 Los Angeles’ coverage of the 100 Days Out coverage as the countdown to the 2016 Olympic Games hit the 100 mark on April 27. Although the team had not officially began its summer training, approximately 10 athletes were already training or working out at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim, California, the host city for both the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Volleyball Teams. NBC Los Angeles had two different segments on the U.S. Women’s National Team in its news coverage. Later that day, the USA Volleyball Foundation held a special 100 Days Out to include dinner at a Brazilian restaurant in Irvine followed by watching Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Segerstrom Center for the Arts with a special cast meet and greet after the performance.

HILL WITH TURKEY’S VAKIFBANK: Outside hitter Kim Hill (Portland, Oregon), the MVP of the 2014 FIVB World Championship, is playing for VakifBank in the Turkish League and CEV Champions League this winter. In the Turkish League playoffs, VakifBank went undefeated in the double round-robin four-team format to win the playoff title with a 6-0 record. In the first match of the second weekend, VakifBank defeated Eczacibasi 25-19, 25-22, 25-20 on April 28. Hill scored 12 points with all her points coming off kills without an error in 19 swings. She added a 76 positive reception percent on 21 chances. VakifBank won its fifth match of the playoffs on April 29 after a 27-25, 25-21, 21-25, 23-25, 15-11 victory. Hill charted 13 points with 11 kills on 34 swings, one block and one ace. She also handled 49 of the team’s 95 receptions with 69 positive reception percent. VakifBank closed out the playoffs undefeated with a 25-18, 25-15, 22-25, 25-16 victory over silver medalist Fenerbahce on April 30. Hill notched 16 points via 13 kills on 26 attacks and three aces. She was credited with a 69 positive reception percent on 26 chances in her final club match of the season. At the conclusion of the playoffs, Hill was named most valuable player of the Turkish playoffs.

LARSON, KREKLOW WITH TURKEY’S ECZACIBASI: Outside hitter Jordan Larson (Hooper, Nebraska) and setter Molly Kreklow (Delano, Minnesota) are playing for Eczacibasi of the Turkish League this winter, along with the CEV Champions League. In the Turkish League playoffs, Eczacibasi finished with the bronze through the double round-robin four-team format after winning two if six matches. Eczacibasi lost to eventual winner VakifBank 25-19, 25-22, 25-20 on April 28 to start the second weekend. Larson tallied nine points, all on kills via 22 attacks. Kreklow set the team to a 37 kill percent in the loss. Eczacibasi fell to Fenerbahce 20-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-22 on April 29 in the second match of the weekend. Larson contributed 15 points in the loss with 14 kills and an ace. She held a 67 positive reception percent on 18 chances. Kreklow helped Eczacibasi to a 43 kill percent for the match as she started the first three sets. Eczacibasi concluded the playoffs with a 25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 25-15 victory over Galatasaray on April 30. Larson piled up a match-high 24 points with 21 kills on 33 errorless attacks, two aces and a block. She also produced a 60 positive reception percent on 20 chances. Kreklow started the first two sets and helped Eczacibasi to a 43 kill percent. For the playoffs, Larson was named Second Best Receiver.

JACKSON WITH TURKEY’S GALATASARAY: Middle blocker Cursty Jackson (Los Angeles, California) is competing for Galatasaray of the Turkish League this winter. In the Turkish League double round-robin playoffs, Galatasaray finished fourth as it was unable to secure a victory in six matches. Galatassary lost to Fenerbahce 25-16, 21-25, 25-11, 25-22 on April 28 to open the second playoff weekend. Jackson pocketed 14 points with 10 kills on 24 swings, two aces and two blocks. Galatasaray came back from two sets down to VakifBank on April 29, but lost in five 27-25, 25-21, 21-25, 23-25, 15-11. Jackson amassed 12 points with 11 kills on 25 swings and a block. Galatasaray lost its final playoff match 20-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-15 to Eczacibasi on April 30. Jackson totaled seven kills on 18 swings in the finale match of the season.

AKINRADEWO, NATALIE HAGGLUND, VANSANT WITH SWITZERLAND’S VOLERO ZURICH: Middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo (Plantation, Fla.), libero Natalie Hagglund (Encinitas, California) and Krista Vansant (Redlands, Calif.) are playing for Volero Zurich in the Swiss League as well as the CEV Champions League. Volero, which won the Swiss League regular season and playoffs without dropping a single match, defeated Sm’Aesch Pfeffingen I 25-11, 25-17, 25-14 to sweep the best-of-three final round to win the Swiss League championship for the 11th time in 12 years. Throughout the course of the regular season and playoffs, Volero dropped just six sets in 31 matches and was never extended to five sets.

HILDEBRAND WITH POLAND’S IMPEL WROCLAW: Outside hitter Kristin Hildebrand (Orem, Utah) 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 Polish League playoff, Wroclaw won the best-of-five bronze-medal series in straight matches following a 25-21, 25-13, 19-25, 25-19 victory over Tauron MKS Dabrowa Gornicza on April 28. Hildebrand turned in three kills and an ace in the final match. She added a 47 positive reception percent on 15 receptions.

GLASS, ROBINSON, EASY, ADAMS ALL WITH ITALY’S IMOCO CONEGLIANO: Setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Michigan), the 2013 and 2014 USA Volleyball Female Athlete of the Year, outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Bartlett, Ill.), outside hitter Megan Easy (Boston, Mass.), a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, and Rachael Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio) are all playing for Imoco Volley Conegliano of the Italian Serie A1 League this winter. Conegliano, the top seed in the Italian Serie A1 playoffs, opened the best-of-five finals with No. 3 seed Nordmeccanica Piacenza with a convincing 25-17, 25-20, 25-23 victory on April 26. Glass set the team to an eye-opening 47 kill percent and .386 hitting efficiency (47-8-101) while turning in two individual kills on three swings and two blocks for four points. Robinson contributed 18 points with 16 kills on 38 swings, one block and one ace. She added a 62 positive reception percent on a team-leading 21 receptions. Adams pocketed eight points in the victory with five kills on nine swings and three blocks. Easy did not play in the match. Conegliano took a 2-0 lead in the series on April 28 with a 29-27, 25-21, 25-23 victory. Glass set the squad to a 42 kill percent and added three kills on five errorless swings. She also had a team-high 17 serves on the night. Robinson contributed a match-high 18 points with 17 kills on 41 swings and a block. She added a 65 positive reception percent on 1 team-best 31 chances. Adams knocked down nine points with six kills on 12 swings, two blocks and an ace. Easy was a sub in the third set, scoring a kill and block in limited action.  Congeliano was unable to close the series on April 30 as Piacenza rallied for a 23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 26-24 victory to remain alive. Robinson connected for 21 points in the loss, including 18 kills on 46 swings, two blocks and an ace. She was credited with a 65 positive reception percent. Glass set the team to a 43 kill percent along with two individual kills. Easy returned to the starting lineup and contributed 16 points on 15 kills via 30 attacks and a block. She handled 27 receptions with a 70 positive reception percent. Adams reached 10 points with seven kills on 13 attacks and three blocks. Congeliano will have its second chance to close out the series on May 2. If necessary, match five will be held May 3 to decide the Italian Serie A1 playoff title.

BARTSCH WITH GERMANY’S DRESDNER: Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch (Maryville, Illinois) is playing for Dresdner SC of the German Bundesliga and CEV Champions League this winter. Dresdner (20-4, 60 points), which captured the regular season title and top seed into the playoffs, split a pair matches in its best-of-five championship round series with Allianz MTV Stuttgart. Dresdner won match three 25-19, 25-27, 25-16, 25-20 on April 27 to go up 2-1 in the series. Bartsch scored 15 points in the victory and had a 53 positive reception on 30 chances. However, Dresdner was unable to close out the series in match four, falling 25-19, 19-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-10 on April 30. Bartsch recorded 17 points with 15 kills and two ace in the loss. The deciding match will now be played May 2 with the winner being crowned champion.