Rise Continue to Build Inaugural Roster

Rise Continue to Build Inaugural Roster

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Rise on Friday announced the signings of outside hitter Erika Pritchard (PRIT-churd) and setter MacKenzi Welsh.

Pritchard most recently competed for VBC Cheseaux in Switzerland during the 2022-23 season, capturing a bronze medal at the Swiss Cup. She began her pro career in France during the 2021-22 campaign with Vandceuvre Nancy Volleyball. At the college level, the 6-foot-3 hitter spent one season at Penn State University (2021-22) and four at the University of Maryland (2017-21). She became Maryland’s all-time leader in points with 1,790 and ranked second all time in kills with 1,526.

“Erika was a standout player the minute she took the floor in the Big Ten and continued to gain credibility throughout her career. Erika was known for her physicality both with her attacking and blocking, but it was her continued growth in the backcourt that helped her gain All-Big Ten recognition from the coaches,” Rise head coach Cathy George said. “She went on to the Swiss League and was the No. 1 scorer before she suffered an injury. Erika has a huge upside, and we look forward to her continued growth.”

The Middletown, Md., native was named a 2020 First Team All-Big Ten member when she placed first in the conference in points (339.5), second in kills (285), fifth in aces (27), seventh in points per set (4.13), and eighth in kills per set (3.48). As a sophomore, Pritchard earned a sport on the First Team All-Big Ten, AVCA All-North Region Team and the Volleyball Magazine All-American Honorable Mention Team when she paced the Big Ten with 4.32 kills per set and ranked second with 552.5 points. In addition, her 493 kills in 2018 ranked second in a single season at Maryland. As a freshman, Pritchard led the Big Ten with 48 service aces and 0.42 aces per set.

“Having the opportunity to play pro volleyball in the U.S. is incredibly exciting to me. It is truly special because I get to stay in my home country and be part of the Pro Volleyball Federation’s very first season,” Pritchard said. “I am grateful for the ability to help grow this new league and support the growth of women’s volleyball in the U.S.”

Welsh played collegiately at the University of Michigan from 2016-19, where she became a two-time AVCA All-American Honorable Mention (2019, 2016) and a two-time AVCA North All-Region member (2019, 2016). In addition, the 6-foot-1 setter was named to the 2019 First Team All-Big Ten and the 2016 All-Big Ten Freshman Team. Welsh concluded her collegiate career with 5,223 assists, which ranked third in Michigan history.

“MacKenzi has been successful at every level. Her accomplishments in juniors, college, USA and professional volleyball have been a testament to her ability, will to win and love for the game.” George said. “She is well trained and can run a high-level offense. Setters need to be generals on the court, and MacKenzi prepares to be the best she can be for the team’s success in every area.”  

The Bolingbrook, Ill., native has spent three years playing professional volleyball in Puerto Rico (2022-23; 2019-20) and Peru (2020-21). Welsh has also competed with the U20 USA National Team and earned a gold medal at the 2017 U20 Pan American Cup. She collected two AAU National Titles in 2015 and 2013 for Sports Performance Volleyball Club in Aurora, Ill.

“To be able to play professionally in the U.S. is almost surreal. I was elated to find out that I could play pro volleyball not only in the U.S. but two hours away from home. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Welsh said. “I am grateful to be part of something that is helping the sport of volleyball make roots in the professional sports world in the United States.”

Founded in December 2022 as the first Pro Volleyball Federation franchise and Grand Rapids’ first major-league women’s sports team, the Grand Rapids Rise will make their debut at Van Andel Arena in January 2024. Led by longtime Michigan State and Western Michigan head coach Cathy George, the Rise’s 14-player roster will play 24 games (12 home, 12 away) during their inaugural season. The team is operated by DP Fox Sports & Entertainment and owned by Dan DeVos, who is also co-owner and CEO of the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins. Visit grrise.com.