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Katie Spieler Strikes Volleyball Gold on Snow in Russia

Katie Spieler diving Click to view larger
Katie Spieler dives for a ball during final of the international snow volleyball tournament in Moscow, Russia. (CEV Snow Volleyball photo)

This was not your typical snowball fight.

Instead of firing hand-made balls of snow at opponents, local pro beach volleyball player Katie Spieler and three teammates were blasting serves and spikes for Team USA in freezing Moscow, Russia last week.

Spieler, a Dos Pueblos High alum who starred on the beach volleyball team at the University of Hawaii and is now a professional player on the AVP Tour, combined with fellow AVP players and Californians Karissa Cook, Katie Hartong and Allie Wheeler to win the gold medal at the European Volleyball Federation’s (CEV) Snow Volleyball Tour event.

The Americans won the tournament, going 5-0 and beating the Russia team of Olga Filina, Anna Romashova, Elizaveta Terenteva and Elizaveta Novikova in the final, 15-8, 13-15, 15-10. The second set loss was their first in the tournament.

In the semifinals, the U.S. women beat Lithuania, 15-6, 15-5.

An American team consisting of Lloy Ball, Tomás Goldsmith, Kevin Owens and William Robbins finished tied for ninth in the men’s tournament.

The competition was three against three, with the fourth player being a substitute.

It marked the first time USA Volleyball teams competed in a sanctioned international snow volleyball competition. The received a wild-card entry into the tournament.

Playing on snow covered courts and in sub-freezing temperatures, the players wore thermal clothing and soccer cleats to provide some grip on the snow.

“Playing snow volleyball for the first time ever was so much fun,” said Spieler in an email to Noozhawk. “The 3 v 3 aspect was a totally different dynamic than beach volleyball doubles — there was more reading involved, a little more specialization of position and more camaraderie as a team.”

On dealing with the cold, (the final was played in a light snow with the temperature around 17 degrees), Spieler, a defensive dynamo on the sand, said: “It was a little bit of a learning curve in terms of playing in heavy snow gear, but after a few games we got used to moving in extra layers.”

On setting the ball: “I actually preferred hand setting over bump setting because the location of set was easier with my hands and the referees were not calling hand sets strictly,” she said.

Spieler and Cook were partners on the AVP Tour this past summer and enjoyed a successful season, finishing fourth in the tour point rankings. The had a career-best third-place in a tournament along with a fifth- and four seventh-place finishes. Internationally, they won zonal tournament in Martinique in October.

Katie Spieler snow serving Click to view larger
Dos Pueblos alum Katie Spieler prepares to serve on the snow court. (CEV Snow Volleyball photo)

All those events were played in warm weather.

Competitive snow volleyball has been played in Europe for about a decade and the CEV officially recognized the sport in 2015.

Will the sport become part of the Winter Olympic Games in the future?

Fabio Azevedo, the general director of the FIVB, the sport’s international governing body, told the Associated Press that snow volleyball will join the Olympics “as soon as the discipline has an amazing relevance in the world.

“We have our road map, we have our timeline,” he continued. “We really believe it is premature now to mention anything about Winter Olympic Games. I cannot say to you 2026 is realistic or not.”

Spieler said a chance to play volleyball in the Winter Olympics would be cool.

“I would totally consider playing this in the Winter Olympics and hope the sport gains momentum,” she said. “Every moment on the court was a fun one!”

Team USA wins gold in snow volleyball Click to view larger
The USA team of Katie Spieler, left, Allie Wheeler, Karissa Cook on Katie Hartong celebrate winning the gold medal at the international snow volleyball tournament in Russia. (CEV Snow Volleyball photo)

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