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Former Gophers volleyball players help trailblaze the Pro Volleyball Federation in inaugural year

The Pro Volleyball Federation launched Jan. 24 with two Gophers playing in the inaugural game.
Image by Eleanor King
Gophers volleyball huddles together during a match against Rutgers on Oct. 20, 2023.

Former Gophers libero Kylie Murr was among the first few Gophers to play professional volleyball in the inaugural season of the Pro Volleyball Federation (PVF).

When Murr started her college career, there was no professional women’s volleyball league in the U.S.. Now she is joined by 109 other professional volleyball athletes competing in the league.

“I started hearing about it and I immediately knew that that’s something that I wanted to do,” Murr said.

There are currently four former Gophers playing professionally in the PVF. 

Athletes Unlimited is the other professional women’s volleyball league in the U.S. 

Athletes Unlimited features 44 professional athletes who compete for five weeks with teams changing weekly. Athletes score points weekly and the top four players with the most points become the captains the following week and select their teams.

League One Volleyball is another professional league based in the U.S. that will launch in November with teams in Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Madison, Omaha and Salt Lake City.

Former Gopher and now middle blocker for the Omaha Supernovas Tori Dixon said the growth of professional volleyball in the U.S. is “a dream come true.”

“We don’t have to go overseas and kind of sell our souls a little bit,” Dixon said.

Thirty-five college athletes were drafted to the PVF to play professionally for the first time alongside women, like Dixon, who played professionally since the end of their college careers.

Dixon said she helps many of the young women on her team with a variety of skills, from reading the game to filling out a tax form. Murr is on the other end of the spectrum, going from being the “old lady” on the Gophers last year to the “baby” on the Thrill.

“I just love to listen to all the older girls [and] what they have to say,” Murr said. “Some of them have been playing pro longer than I’ve even been playing volleyball.”

Head coach of the Vegas Thrill Fran Flory said from a coaching standpoint there has to be a process of progression for the younger players.

The Thrill has a 10-or-more-year age gap between their oldest and youngest player. Flory said there can’t be a one-size-fits-all method of coaching with so many different players of different ages and skill levels.

“We’re not going to get from point A to point B in one step,” Flory said. 

Former Gopher and now middle blocker for the Atlanta Vibe Regan Pittman took a break from volleyball after college and is now returning to the court for the Vibe in the PVF.

Flory, like Pittman, didn’t coach after she retired from LSU.

“I was kind of just enjoying life,” Flory said. “[I took] a break from the sport and it was wonderful.” 

Flory said the game has changed a lot since she was last on the sidelines, with players more educated on the sport and executing at a high level. She said the rules at the professional level allow for less error since NCAA rules allow for 15 substitutions per set while the PVF allows for eight.

Dixon played professionally overseas and said the atmosphere around the PVF is far different from playing in Europe. She said part of the different atmosphere stems from the PVF being a start-up league with little expectations.

Europe has a well-established marker for professional volleyball, Dixon said. In the U.S., people are just happy to have attention put on women’s volleyball.

The closest team to Minneapolis right now is the Omaha Supernovas, who play 379 miles from Maturi Pavilion.

For Dixon, the nearly six-hour drive to get home to Minneapolis is far more convenient than the 15-hour flight from when she played overseas. 

“I love the state of Minnesota,” Dixon said. “That’s still my home.”

In 2025, the league plans to have teams in Dallas, Indianapolis and Kansas City, Missouri.

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