Thompson signs with Rio’s Rexona-Ades; Vansant joins Akinradewo with Zurich’s Valero
|Rexona-Ades, one of the world's elite professional volleyball teams, announces the signing of Courtney Thompson|
Less than one year before Rio de Janeiro hosts the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil’s best professional volleyball team will be led by American Olympian Courtney Thompson. Thompson, a former Washington All-American, tells Volleyblog Seattle she has signed a contract starting this fall with Rexona-Ades, one of the world’s elite women’s volleyball pro teams.
“It really is a dream,” says Thompson. “This is a job I’ve been eyeing for years.”
Since her final season at Washington in 2006, Thompson has played professionally in Puerto Rico, Poland and—for the past two seasons—with Switzerland’s Volero. As captain of the Zurich team, she’s led her club to the final four of both the European championships and last month’s world club championships. On May 10, Thompson directed Volero to a 3-0 victory over Rexona-Ades to claim the bronze medal.
During her career with the US National Team—including the 2012 London Olympics—Thompson has played three times in Rio de Janeiro, but has never been in Brazil for an extended period. “I know I’m going to be challenged,” she says. “I want to be challenged.” In particular, she’s excited to be part of the quick tempo play that is a hallmark of Brazil’s best teams. “I love that style of play,” she says.
In 2002, as a Washington freshman, Thompson searched cable TV to find whatever volleyball she could find. Right away, she was drawn to Brazil’s men’s team, coached by Bernardo Rezende. "Bernardinho", as he is known, became a legendary coach for both men and women, and is the man who decided to put his next Rexona-Ades team in the hands of Thompson.
Make no mistake, this announcement is a huge affirmation of Thompson’s talent. Few Americans get a chance to play in Brazil, where passion for volleyball is second only to soccer. In the past two Olympics, Brazil has defeated USA for the gold, and the two teams will be the favorites again next summer. Thompson will be entering the lion’s den, with a chance to increase her value to Team USA even more.
MIYASHIRO AND THOMPSON TO FACE CHINA
|Olympian Tama Miyashio|
Later this week, Thompson and her former Washington—and Olympic—teammate Tama Miyashiro travel to Honolulu, where Team USA will face China in the first two of four international friendlies. Miyashiro will be playing in front of family and friends in her native state.
The rosters for the Hawai’i matches also features the return of Olympian Megan Easy, now married and formerly known as Megan Hodge, and the international debut of UCLA grad Karsta Lowe. China, coached by former USA head coach Jenny Lang Ping, fell 3-1 to USA in the gold medal match of the 2014 World Championships.
After matches June 5 & 6 in Honolulu, China and USA will meet June 9 in Irvine and June 12 in San Bernardino. Rosters for the final two matches have not yet been announced.
VANSANT, AKINRADEWO TO ZURICH
-Volleyblog Seattle photo
by Leslie Hamann
As Thompson leaves Zurich, two other Americans will be donning Volero uniforms this fall: former Washington All-American (and 2013 National Player of the Year) Krista Vansant, and Olympian Foluke Akinradewo (the 2007 National Player of the Year.) Vansant (2014), Akinradewo (2008) and Thompson (2006) are all former winners of the Honda Sports Award as the best collegiate volleyball player in America.
VANSANT, MIYASHIRO AND THOMPSON ON GRAND PRIX ROSTER
In just her first year as a member of Team USA, Vansant was one of 25 players named to the preliminary roster for the 2015 Grand Prix Tournament. The Grand Prix—last won by USA in 2012 with Thompson as the setter—is a grueling weeks-long tournament that sends teams around the world for three preliminary rounds, with the top six teams advancing to the Finals. Brazil is the two-time defending champion.
Thompson and Miyashiro are also on the preliminary roster, from which 12 players will be selected for each round. USA travels to Ankara July 3-5 to face Italy, host Turkey and Belgium. The Americans then go to Kalingard July 10-12 to play host Russia, Turkey (again) and Serbia. The final preliminary round is July 16-18 in Hong Kong, where USA will meet Japan, Thailand and China.
For the first time ever, the Grand Prix Finals will be in the United States, July 22-26 in Omaha.
This year’s World Cup is August 22-September 6, with all matches in Japan. USA is the defending champion, and the tournament is the first opportunity for teams to grab one of the qualifying slots for the 2016 Rio Olympics.