OMAHA, Nebraska — They range from the seasoned veterans, like 36-year-old Bethania De La Cruz and 34-year-old Allison Mayfield, to volleyball kids like Brooke Nuneviller and Paige Briggs, who were born in 2000.
But young and old, it was like the day before Christmas here Tuesday morning as the Omaha Supernovas gathered for practice at the College of Saint Mary.
“This is epic,” coach Shelton Collier gushed. “To say I’m excited would be an understatement.
“It’s an amazing opportunity, an amazing event, an amazing competitive opportunity. Also for fans all over the country, all over the world, this is going to be an epic event and we get to be part of it.”
That epic event is the inaugural match of the Pro Volleyball Federation, a new pro league that gets showcased Wednesday night in the CHI Health Center Arena when the Supernovas play host to the Atlanta Vibe. In a poll of the league’s coaches, Omaha was picked to be the favorite and Atlanta was second.
“It feels like it’s been a long time coming and now our first game is tomorrow,” said Omaha setter Sydney Hilley. “It’s super exciting.
The first match, which begins at 7 p.m. Central and can be streamed on WatchStadium.com, includes names any NCAA fan knows, sprinkled in with international stars and a few surprises.
Omaha boasts a Dominican Olympian in De La Cruz and Puerto Rican star setter in Natalia Valentin-Anderson, both of whom have excelled in Athletes Unlimited.
There are NCAA champions in Wisconsin’s Hilley and Danielle Hart and Kentucky libero Gabby (Curry) Thompson and a multitude of former NCAA stars like Tori Dixon (Minnesota), Gina Mancuso-Prosoki (Nebraska) and Jess Schaben-Lansman (Iowa State).
In between you have a couple of Penn State products in Nia Reed and Kendall White to recent grads Maggie Cartwright (Arkansas), Sophie Davis (James Madison) and Paige Briggs (Western Kentucky).
So for middle Tori Dixon, the 6-foot-4 2016 and 202 Olympic alternate, this has been a lot of fun.
“I haven’t played in the States in a while so it’s fun being here and having all the amenities, like Target and Starbucks right down the corner,” Dixon said with a laugh. “But it’s really nice. They take great care of us here.”
Dixon joined Athletes Unlimited last fall. Her pro career after she left Minnesota in 2014 has taken her to Azerbaijan, Japan, Italy and China for four years…