By Aaron Hutton for

When all the women’s pro volleyball leagues are up and running, two cities will have two competing franchises.

Already there were two announced in Atlanta, one each by the Pro Volleyball Federation and League One Volleyball.

Previously, PVF told us about its team in Omaha. Now, LOVB announced it, too, will have an Omaha team.

We’ve also got some PVF news and a couple of interviews.


The Omaha announcement brings the total number of LOVB cities announced to five (also Atlanta, Houston, Madison and Salt Lake City) with one more expected before the inaugural season starting November of 2024. 

The Omaha team will be affiliated with LOVB’s Premier Nebraska club program.

From the LOVB/Omaha news release

“This market embodies our community-up approach in action and we are thrilled to be introducing a whole new level of competition to passionate fans in the region,” LOVB CEO Katlyn Gao said.

” … Premier Nebraska. The league’s pro athletes will train alongside the club’s players, giving club athletes the opportunity to learn from, witness, and build even stronger ties with pro players they admire. Currently the highest ranked club with an all female leadership group, Premier Nebraska continues to make its mark on the sport as one of only three clubs in 2023 to qualify a team in the highest division of each age group for USAV Girls Junior Nationals.

“LOVB’s announcement will also further the league’s ties to some of the greatest athletes in the region … (including) Justine Wong-Orantes and Kelsey Robinson, who both hail from the University of Nebraska. The league also has a relationship with NIL athletes like Lindsay Krause, Lexi Rodriguez and Harper Murray. Lindsay, a Premier alum, is currently an outside hitter for the famed Husker program. Lexi is the 2021 AVCA National Freshman of the Year and two time AVCA All American, and Harper is a freshman outside hitter, and the Gatorade National Player of the Year. These athletes will connect with the local LOVB clubs, through in person clinics, and appearances as well as virtual connections.

“At Premier, we pride ourselves in our people, our product, and our relationships, and now as the anchor club for LOVB’s pro league in Nebraska, we are incredibly humbled to be bringing an all new path to pro volleyball to the city of Omaha,” said Shannon Smolinski oft Premier. “As volleyball continues to grow at all levels, and at a rapid pace, LOVB’s community-first model is creating all new opportunities for our sport, our city and our state and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this momentous moment in Nebraska’s history.”

Pro Volleyball Federation

The PVF held a three-day coach’s summit, during which the Orlando franchise announced it would be called the Valkyries, taking inspiration from Norse mythology rather than Greek or Roman like the Grand Rapids and Columbus franchises.

Orlando also named George Manias its president and COO. He has over 25 years of sports buisness experience in both marketing and management with teams including the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightining of the NHL and Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA.

Coach Shelton Collier has hired one of his former Georgia Tech players as an assistant.

Laura ‘Bird’ Kuhn spent the past five years as the head coach at Texas A&M. She previously was an assistant at Kansas, App State and Miami (FL).

“I anticipate that she will serve many rolls with us both on and off the court and that she will also connect well with the players,” Collier sasid.

Said Kuhn: “Working along side Coach Collier, who recruited me to play at Georgia Tech, and now, getting to build the first-ever pro volleyball team in Nebraska together is something special.”

Shortly after our last update, Valeria León was announced to join the Columbus Fury. The former Ohio State University libero (2013-17) has spent the last five seasons with four different teams in her native Puerto Rico. This will be her first time being coached by fellow Puerto Rican Angel Perez.

The Dallas team will compete in the PVF’s second season. We visited with co-owners Evan Stone and Armond Sadoughi.

VBM: Knowing that league executive Stephan Evans lives in the area, I was surprised Dallas wasn’t announced for 2024.
Stone: Honesty,  we were aiming for the first season early on, but, as we were doing our due-diligence, there were just so many things we wanted to look into and strategize. By the time we decided this was as good of an opportunity we initially thought it was, and the league gave us our approval, the other teams were already two days into signing free agents.
We want to present the best product available to our city. So, we decided that by waiting another year we will be able to give the best presentation and winning program that will give ticket-buyers the desire to become emotionally invested.
VBM: Do you have experience in sports buisness? Why volleyball?
Stone: I have two daughters who are about to play at the D-III level. One is a setter, the other a hitter. My wife is also a former player. One of our other partners had experience launching a pro league as an investor in the original XFL, so, we’re not going in blind.
Sadoughi: But this is about more than financial investment. Dallas is in the top three markets for club volleyball in the country. We’re investing in an untapped sports market. Girls and young women haven’t traditionally followed pro sports in America, but society is at a point where it’s proven they can. Participation and personalities like (Iowa basketball player) Caitlyn Clark are that proof. So, this is an investment in civic pride amoung women, and, an investment in a platform for female athlete roll-models. Not to mention the excitement of the game itself. 
Stone: The expectation is this will become the highest level of volleyball. Period. 
I’ve been in the venture-capital game long enough to know that when people tell you it’ll never work, you’re on to something. We’re on to something, here. I think the fact that AU (Athletes Unlimited) and League One are also on the scene is a good sign, also.
VBM: So what is your strategy for your roll-out? Will you be making announcements during the ’23 season? Or, do you wait for the next off season?
Sadoughi: The stage we are at now is planning the milestones. You want to build that momentum and excitement. 
Stone: Like we said: The highest level. We are going to get the BEST players and coaches and do this right. 

For more information on Dallas’ newest pro team visit

We recently also visited with new Grand Rapids assistant coach Bill Walton. Walton, who coached at the University of Houston for 24 years and most recently has been a club and TV-announcing fixture in the Texas city, will work for former Michigan State coach Cathy George.

VBM: Did you ever face Cathy George when she was a player at Illinois State?
Walton: No. But I was up for the coaching position at one time for Illinois State. If I had gotten the position, I would have been her coach.
VBM: You moved to the University of Houston in 1986 and Cathy started coaching at the University of Texas – Arlington in ’89. Did you face her during that period?
Walton: Yes. Every year. Unfortunately,  no memories stand out to me of that period. I couldn’t tell you our win-loss record against each other or anything. But, we’ve faced off several times. 
VBM: Let’s fast-forward to the present and the Pro Volleyball Federation?
Walton: A couple of years ago I was watching the MasterCoaches YouTube podcast and my curiosity was peaked … I was doing some research into A5’s relationship with League One Volleyball and that brought to my attention some movement by other organizations seemingly interested in forming professional volleyball in the states. Near the end of my research I learned about Dave Whinham and Stephen Evans, and, just as I was learning about their sports-buisness experience, PVF was announced.
After I was a guest on the Master Coaches Show to share what I found out about LOVB, I looked more into PVF. I think this seems pretty financially viable than previous attempts. They have capital. These ownerships have to show a five-year financial plan.
The founders are looking at the growth the NCAA Volleyball ratings have had the last few years and see this period between the 2020 gold-medal Olympics and the 2028 L.A. Olympics as an ideal time frame to build the league.
VBM: How did you get hired?
Walton: Cathy and I were both regulars on the MasterCoaches Show when PVF started to make moves. The other hosts and I had no idea Cathy was up for one of the coaching positions when we had (PVF CEO) Jen Spicher on as a guest. And then, a week later, she was announced.
You have to admire Cathy. She’s the first coach of the first team in the first professional women’s volleyball league in over two decades. She’s recruiting players with no evidence of player compensation, media coverage, level of competition or other players who have signed and she’s done an amazing job. She’s wrangled a dozen players by herself without any help.
During all of this, she’d give me calls. I think she thought there might be a team coming to Houston and didn’t want to interfere with me getting a head-coaching position.
But once it was announced Dallas wouldn’t be starting until the second season, she approached me about joining her.”
VBM: Have you been to Michigan?
Walton: Every summer in my youth. I’ve spent time at Camp Pinewood north of Muskegon. I was a waterfront leader and trip guide there. I’ve done the ‘Michigan Circle’ camping during my high school years. And, I’ve been at sports camps at Western Michigan University. I’ll have some friends who live in the area I’ll need to catch up with.”


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