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New Pro volleyball league off to hot start

The Pro Volleyball Federation Logo The Pro Volleyball Federation has now broken the world record for the highest total fan attendance at a pro volleyball event. Photo Courtesy of the Pro Volleyball Federation

In just its first season, the Pro Volleyball Federation is already setting records. The league’s debut game on Jan. 24 between the Omaha Supernovas and the Atlanta Vibe drew an attendance of 11,624, surpassing the record of over 10,000 spectators for women’s professional volleyball set at the 2016 Olympic qualifier in Lincoln, Nebraska. The PVF broke its own record with 11,918 fans on Feb. 18 and then again on March 16 with 12,090 fans. All three record-breaking matches were held at the CHI Health Center in Omaha.

PVF teams are located across the country, but the Midwest is home to more than any other region. Of the seven teams currently playing, three are located in the Midwest: the Supernovas, the Columbus Fury and the Grand Rapids Rise. Teams based in Kansas City and Indianapolis will join the league in 2025.

According to Rob Carolla, PVF’s vice president of public and media relations, the PVF did not specifically target the Midwest. However, he believes the concentration of teams shows the interest this region has in professional volleyball.

“It’s obvious, just looking at the collegiate ranks, that the Midwest loves volleyball,” Carolla said. “Look at what the University of Nebraska did last summer. Look at what the University of Wisconsin does on an annual basis with their fan base and their attendance.”

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln set the world record for women’s sports attendance in August of 2023, drawing 92,003 spectators to watch the Cornhuskers face off against the University of Nebraska Omaha at Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium. 

Drake volleyball alum Haley Bush, a key part of the Bulldogs’ lineup this past season, now plays for the Guaynabo Mets in Puerto Rico. The Mets are one of the seven professional teams that play in Puerto Rico. 

Bush wasn’t sure about playing professionally when she first joined Drake’s roster in 2019, but losing a season to COVID-19 got her interested in playing beyond college. 

“My sophomore [and] junior year, I considered it, and then I was really fully set that I want to play pro by my senior [and] fifth year,” Bush said.

Before the PVF was formed, there were few professional volleyball opportunities in the continental U.S. Most players, including Bush, joined teams overseas. 

According to Bush, Puerto Rican teams are now losing players due to the opportunities opening up in the United States. She believes it’s an amazing time to be a volleyball player and fan in the U.S.

“From what I’ve seen on social media, it seems like that fan base has grown so much,” Bush said. “It’s not just little girls who are playing volleyball. It obviously includes them and it shows all that they can do with their ability, but it’s also anyone, any age range — male, female, anything. It’s amazing, and I can’t wait to see how far it grows.”

The PVF’s rise in the U.S. comes at the same time as support for women’s sports is growing. In addition to Caitlin Clark moving the spotlight to the women’s NCAA basketball tournament this March, Kansas City is now home to the first stadium in the world dedicated to a women’s sports team.

“There’s no doubt about it, there’s definitely a huge interest in women’s sports right now,” Carolla said. “We are proud to be part of that because we are giving all these women who play in our league the opportunity to earn a living wage playing the sport they love here in the United States in front of their friends and family.”

According to the PVF’s website, the 14 players on each team’s final roster will earn at least $60,000 for the 2025 season, and top players will earn up to a $175,000 base salary. All players can earn bonuses for earning awards and qualifying for the four-team postseason championship. The champion team will split a $1,000,000 prize pool. Players receive medical benefits through the league as well.

In addition to receiving pay from the league, players can also earn money through sponsorships and brand deals.

One of the PVF’s goals is to make the game more interesting for fans. PVF games are played with a serve clock, which limits the amount of time players have to serve, and sophisticated cameras instead of line judges. Carolla believes these changes will speed up the game and help the PVF build their fanbase.

“I think the thing that will really impress people is just how good the game is, how fast the game is,” Carolla said. “I’ve seen volleyball at different levels, and this is just another level. These athletes are so talented — they hit, block and everything is fast and hard and exciting.”

Next year, Bush plans to either continue her professional career in Puerto Rico or take an opportunity to play in the PVF. She is also developing her coaching skills with the goal of eventually becoming a college coach.

“[The] plan is volleyball,” Bush said. “I don’t know how long I want to play. I want to play for a little bit until either the passion runs out, which I don’t think it will for a while, or my body can’t take it.”

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