U.S. Olympian Sarah Sponcil Joins Rise

U.S. Olympian Sarah Sponcil Joins Rise

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Rise on Monday announced the signing of setter/libero and U.S. Olympian Sarah Sponcil (SPAWN-suhl).

Sponcil has been a member of Team USA Beach Volleyball for the past five years. Paired with Kelly Claes, the duo earned a coveted spot on Team USA after winning gold at the FIVB World Tour in Sochi and Ostrava in 2021. Sponcil and Claes went on to become the youngest team to ever represent the USA in beach volleyball in the Olympics, taking ninth place at the Tokyo Games. The 27-year-old has been part of the Association of Volleyball Professionals Tour (AVP) for the past six years and part of the Federation Internationale de Volleyball Tour (FIVB) for the last five seasons. Sponcil partnered with Terese Cannon and took home gold at the 2022 AVP Tour Hermosa Beach tournament and silver at the FIVB World Tour in Cape Town. In 2023, Sponcil and Cannon garnered a silver medal at the FIVB World Tour Ostrava and a bronze medal at the FIVB World Tour Itapema. Sponcil was also crowned the AVP Defensive Player of the Year in 2022 when she averaged 7.1 digs per set.

“Sarah is the all-around volleyball player, having played every single position except for middle blocker. She has an extensive background in beach volleyball, which may be slightly different from the indoor game, but she is a natural at whatever she does and I am sure she will be ready to play come January,” Rise head coach Cathy George said. “Sarah has represented Team USA at the Olympics, and the mindset you must develop in order to compete at that level is extraordinary. Sarah has big goals, whether it’s to play in the Olympics, indoor or outdoor, and I love the confidence and mentality she brings to our club.”

Sponcil had a historic collegiate career, becoming a two-time national champion in beach volleyball at UCLA in 2018 and 2019, claiming the first national title for the Bruins in the sport. In 2018, Sponcil was named to the VolleyMob All-American First Team, the VolleyMob Pair of the Year with Lily Justine, and to the AVCA All-American Honorable Mention Team. From 2014-17 she competed at Loyola Marymount University, finishing ninth in school history with 1,193 kills and 3.43 kills per set, and seventh with 3,063 attacks. In 2017, Sponcil was named the WCC Player of the Year and an All-WCC First Team member while with LMU beach volleyball. In the indoor season of 2017 at UCLA, she ranked third in the country with 1,325 total assists and second with 11.23 assists per set. In 2016, Sponcil captured a gold medal for Team USA Beach Volleyball at the Four Nations U21 Tournament with Torrey Van Winden. She also finished fourth at the 2016 FIVB U21 World Championships, which was the highest finish from the U.S.  As a freshman at LMU in 2014, Sponcil was named to the WCC All-Freshman Team and earned AVCA Pacific South Region Freshman of the Year honors.

“I’ve had the honor of playing against some of the best beach volleyball athletes around the world on the FIVB and at the Olympics. So, to be able to play indoor professionally in the U.S. with the best American and international athletes is going to be a dream come true,” Sponcil said. “I couldn’t be more excited to get back to playing on the hardwood, competing with some of the best talent in volleyball and bringing some beach flare to the indoor court. The goal in 2024 is a championship and I can’t wait to step foot in that gym.”

The Rise will begin their inaugural Pro Volleyball Federation season in January. Fans can reserve their season tickets now by clicking here, with single-game tickets set to go on sale later this fall.

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.

Photo by UCLA Athletics