With the 2016-17 professional volleyball season complete, the 2017-18 season is already in the works as teams line up their talent for the upcoming year. The University of Minnesota has six alumnae that have already signed their professional contract for the upcoming season.
Tori Dixon returns to the court after missing the 2017 season due to a knee injury. After playing with the Toray Arrows in Japan, Dixon signed with Saugella Monza Team in the Italian A1 league. Dixon, who was injured in the winter of 2016, returns to the court after a year hiatus. The upcoming season marks the third professional campaign for Dixon, after she played with Baku (Azerbaijan) in 2014-15 and Toray. During her Gopher tenure, Dixon was a two-time All-American and All-Big Ten selection.
Daly Santana and Hannah Tapp will not only be Gopher teammates, but teammates as professional volleyball athletes as well. Santana and Tapp both signed contracts with II Bisonte Firenze, also in the Italian A1 league. Santana and Tapp are both coming off successful 2016-17 campaigns. Santana helped ASPTT Mulhouse win its first-ever French League championship. She was also named the league’s most valuable player. Tapp joined SC Schweriner following her college graduation in January 2017. In just her first professional volleyball season, Tapp helped Schweriner win its first championship in four years. Santana enters her third season playing professionally, as she represented her native land, Puerto Rico, in 2016. Both Santana and Tapp were also First Team All-Americans in 2015.
Sarah Wilhite is set to graduate in December 2017, but she’s already signed a contract to play with Busto Arsizio, also in the Italian A1 league. The 2017-18 season will be Wilhite’s professional debut, as she returned to school following the Gophers’ 2016 Final Four run. Going from never receiving an honorable mention award, Wilhite took a commanding leap in her game during her senior season. Wilhite was named the 2016 AVCA National Player of the Year, Minnesota’s first-ever in the program, and also the 2016 Big Ten Player of the Year. She capped off her career also on the Final Four All-Tournament Team. She is set to join the team this fall.
Erica Handley officially signed a professional contract with Nantes in the French league. Handley will be in her second year of professional competition. Following the Gophers’ 2016 Final Four run, Handley graduated from Minnesota and signed a contract to play in Poland with Bielsko-Biala. It marked her professional volleyball start and played there through the team’s playoff run. Handley will now play her second professional season in France and it set to join the team this August. Nantes is in the same league of Santana’s previous team, Mulhouse.
Lauren Gibbemeyer spent the last three seasons with Pomi Casalmaggiore and is joining Igor Gorgonzola NOVRA for the 2017-18 campaign,. Both Pomi and Igor are in the Italian League. With Pomi she won the league title and the Italian Super Cup in 2015. Prior to her time with Pomi, Gibbemeyer had stops in Japan (2011-12), Italy (half season in 2012) and Azerbaijan (2013-2014).
Paige Tapp is set to decide on a pro contract shortly.
A Pair of Former Gophers Earn Medals
Two former University of Minnesota volleyball players gained medals at the 2017 Pan American Cup yesterday, in Canete, Peru.
Gophers in the Pros: Nicole Branagh
Gophersports.com checked in with Gopher hall of famer and United States Olympian, Nicole Branagh.
Tapp Named to Pan Am Cup Roster
Paige Tapp was named one of 14 players that will represent Team USA at the Pan American Cup, June 17-25 in Peru.