Lausanne, Switzerland, October 17, 2014 - The 17th edition of the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship, which saw the United States claim the title of world champions for the first time in the history of the competition, also turned the spotlight on Kimberly Hill. The 24-year-old was rewarded for her outstanding performances with the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and Second Best Outside Spiker awards.
The format of the 2014 World Championship, which took place in six cities across Italy from September 23-October 12, saw coach Karch Kiraly’s team play 13 matches to claim the title. Hill’s outstanding contribution to her team’s campaign included 159 points, an average of 3.61 points per set in the 44 sets USA played during the tournament. The personal Most Valuable Player and Second Best Outside Spiker awards crowned her consistently superlative performances, which also saw the United States women’s team collect their first-ever title at a major competition (Olympic Games, FIVB World Championship, FIVB World Cup).
Hill is only in her second year with the senior national team, after making her international debut at the Pan American Cup in 2013. She has been a key member of coach Karch Kiraly’s team this season, however, also starting seven of nine matches in the FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round in August. Winning the World Championship, however, represents a big step up, and the first days following the tournament have done little to dim Hill’s celebratory mood. “The best way to describe it is just pure joy. This team worked so hard this summer and had some rough moments, so to see all of the hard work pay off was such a proud moment for USA volleyball.”
The United States went into the World Championship as one of the pre-tournament favourites, but were always going to have to play at their best to compete with the top women’s teams in the world, including reigning world champions Russia, Olympic champions Brazil and hosts Italy. Hill believes her team’s ability to bounce back from difficult situations was crucial: “I think key moments for us were when we were down in a set or even lost a set during a particular match and found a way to bounce back and win. It not only empowered us to believe we could fight back, but it showed other teams that we would never give up.”
The United States also dropped two matches during the championship, losing in straight sets to Brazil in Pool F, before succumbing to hosts Italy in their first Pool G match. “Those losses were really tough for us, but ultimately we knew we couldn’t let them get in the way of our goals. Karch told us after the matches that it was important for us to move on and focus on the next task at hand and that’s what we did and I think it proved how mentally tough we were.” And the United States team were soon back on their feet, defeating Russia on the day after their loss to Italy, and winning against Brazil in the semifinals.
The MVP award, which went to Russia’s Ekaterina Gamova at the 2010 edition of the World Championship, puts Hill in a select group of players. But she is quick to point to the role played by her teammates and coaches in this achievement. “It’s such a huge honour, I still can’t believe it. All I can say is that it’s a tribute to the nature of our team and our programme and the work ethic that is so important to USA volleyball. There’s a standard in the USA volleyball gym that requires everyone to give 100% all the time, so the credit really goes to my teammates and coaches always pushing me to get better.”
Looking back at the tournament, one moment stands out. “Of course my favorite moment was after winning gold and stepping up onto the podium with all of my teammates. I just felt so proud standing up there in front of thousands of people with the girls that have become family to me.”
With important milestones on the volleyball calendar just around the corner, Hill and her teammates have good reason to believe they can again be successful at the top events in the sport. But asked about her ambitions for the future, Hill has a more pragmatic goal: “Really just continue to get better. While we’re thrilled with this victory and so incredibly proud of it, there’s still work to be done for USA volleyball!”