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Kathryn Plummer Looks Back on a Historic College Career

PITTSBURGH, PA – DECEMBER 21: Kathryn Plummer #2 of the Stanford Cardinal cuts down the net after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship held at PPG Paints Arena on December 21, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

A member of the U.S. Volleyball and Beach Volleyball National team, Kathryn Plummer is the only player in history to have won FIVB World Championship medals in both beach and indoor. In 2019, Plummer was part of the US national team that won the Pan American Cup in Peru. An alum of Stanford University’s volleyball and beach volleyball teams, Plummer is a three-time NCAA champion and a recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award, which is annually given to the best American amateur athlete. Most recently, she played for the Italian professional volleyball team Saugella Team Monza. 

After graduating from Stanford shortly after winning your third NCAA championship title, you chose to join a professional volleyball team in Italy. What made you decide to play overseas?

For women’s volleyball, there’s not much opportunity to play professionally in the United States as of now. The Italian professional volleyball league is very competitive – I knew I would be surrounded by the best players in the world. I wanted that challenge.

Playing Italy was definitely a challenge. First of all, it’s a challenge in and of itself to be away from home: You’re in a whole different culture, people are speaking a different language. You’re being coached in a different language. Additionally, the process of transitioning from a collegiate athlete to a professional player is quite a process. From finding an agent to finally negotiating a contract there were various steps involved before I finally got to visit the team. Between the NCAA semifinal and the championship during my final season at Stanford, I squeezed meetings with four or five agents in my hotel room all while preparing for the national championship.

With all this said,  I’m glad I got to go to play overseas. I’m young, and I want to learn new things.

How was your season affected by the pandemic? What are your plans moving forward?

By the end of February, our games started to get postponed, and competing seemed no longer to be an option. At that point, pretty much all we could do was just practice, and I ultimately made the decision to return home in the United States. The league was officially canceled when I arrived back in the U.S.

Hopefully, I will be able to play next season, but with various international tournaments that were originally planned for this summer have been canceled much is up in the air.

Ok. So let’s backtrack a little bit to when you first started playing volleyball. Did you grow up playing both beach and indoor volleyball in high school?

Growing up, I was the “sporty” girl. I played basketball, soccer, softball – everything that you could imagine.

I grew up in Southern California, where men’s volleyball is a big part of the culture. My older brother played volleyball. I was the little sister that wanted to go to everything, all the practices, all the games. In a way, I was kind of forced into watching it. I decided to try it myself and first started playing volleyball when I was 10. I really loved it, and soon began to exclusively dedicate my time to the sport … Although I guess in high school, I was on the track and field team, but it was more of a hobby than anything else.

Were you really tall as a kid or did you hit a growth spurt later on?

Yeah, I was really tall. My parents are 6’8″ and 6’3″, and my brother is 6’7″. We’re a very tall family.

You were recruited by various universities. What made you ultimately decide to go to Stanford?

My recruiting process started pretty early – I got my first offer in the seventh grade. Academics and athletics are most important to me, and Stanford excelled in both.

But the thing that drew me in the most was that when I visited Stanford, I felt that I could be myself. Everyone at Stanford is kind of quirky, and weird – they all have their own little thing that makes them unique. At other schools, I felt like I was trying to put on this facade to fit in with their program, but at Stanford, everyone was different in their own ways – I felt like I could really thrive there.

Well you definitely did thrive over there! You started your Stanford athlete career by winning a national championship your freshman year. What was that experience like?

I’ve talked about this with my teammates from class many times –  it was kind of a blur. I think we were just immensely joyful.

The other championships that we won together throughout our Stanford experience felt different than our first. Our freshman year was one of just pure happiness because we were giddy freshmen that didn’t really know the gravity of what we had accomplished. We were following a lot of senior leadership.

What type of expectations did you set for yourselves following such a great first season?

As a team, we talked about trying to not listen to the expectations that other people were putting on us. The next three years, I think we pushed ourselves for a strong season because we knew that we could hold ourselves to high standards, as opposed to pushing ourselves to meet any sort of external pressure cast upon us.

In your second season at Stanford your team’s campaign to the finals was cut short after losing to Florida 3-2 in the NCAA semi-finals. What was that experience like?

Pretty much throughout my entire sophomore season, our team breezed through. We had a tough preseason – we did really well. We had a tough conference – we did really well.

I think by the NCAA championships, we let the expectations that were set upon us starting from our successful 2016 season creep in a little bit. We didn’t feel like we were just playing a volleyball game – we felt the pressure to follow up a championship win from the previous year.

We just weren’t a cohesive group. Both Florida and Stanford played good volleyball, but our competitor was more of a cohesive team than we were.

Following the season, we sat down and really tried to bring together our whole team. We sought to find ways to support every member of our team  – I thought this was really important and allowed us to have a lot of success the next two years.

You won three national championships during your time at Stanford. Is there one that is most memorable?

I definitely think my senior season was the most special. All of the seasons were really awesome, but senior year was most memorable because it was the last time I was in a Stanford uniform, the last where my parents watched me play in college and the last I was going to get to play together with my teammates. It was a very bittersweet, happy yet sad moment. My teammates and I were crying because we were happy that we won the championship, but also sad because we knew it was over. Our whole four years – and everything we built in those times was over.

Why do you think your class on the team has been so successful as a unit? 

We were best friends off the court too, which is nice, but that is by no means necessary to have a successful team. I think we embraced different leadership roles on our team. As for myself, I tried to lead by example – I tried to figure out how to score. Other people had different types of leadership styles: For example, Morgan Hentz was a leader that kept everyone accountable; She made sure that everyone was doing their job. Jenna Gray was the goofy one that lightened the mood when it was too tense. Audriana Fitzmorris was the very intellectual, analytical one. Everyone came together to form a very cohesive group. We worked really hard to figure out ways to support and communicate if people were struggling. There were many tough conversations in the process, but I think it came together at the end.

What was your academic experience like at Stanford? Stanford is a very academically competitive institution as it is athletically – was anything particularly challenging? 

I studied Human Biology. My sophomore year was tough, because I was taking the core classes for my major which was hard.

But after that, I really liked my courses,  because I could take the classes that were very applicable to my interests. I’m very interested in how the body works in exercise and sports. I took a bunch of anatomy and human performance classes, which was really cool. As an athlete, I started to understand my own body better at the biological and molecular level.

You also played on the Beach Volleyball team as a freshman and sophomore at Stanford. How did you balance playing two sports?

It was tough to play competitively for two seasons in one academic year, but it was also nice to be able to get a little breath of something fresh. It was really tough in the winter quarters, because I was practicing for both indoor and beach.

I eventually made the decision that I wanted to start my professional career in indoor and maybe transition to beach later on in my career, because beach is a lot more forgiving to your body when you’re older. So, following my sophomore year I solely focused on playing for the indoor team.

What are your future goals for the sport? 

Since I was little, it has been my dream to go to the Olympics. I’m going to be playing professionally at least until 2024. There’s a lot of things that will unfold up until that point, but I want to try to make the Olympic team. Then we’ll see what I want to do, but that’s way far away. There’s always a professional career in beach volleyball –  you can get paid for that, which is nice. I also just might have a normal job and work in an office. Who knows?

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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