Rise Add Former All-Americans Symone Abbott, Kayla Caffey

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Rise on Wednesday announced the signings of outside hitter Symone Abbott (AB-it) and middle blocker Kayla Caffey (CA-fee).

Abbott, a Northville, Mich., native most recently competed for CBF Balducci HR Macerata in Italy during the 2022-23 campaign. She has spent the past seven years playing professionally in Italy, France, Turkey, Greece, and Puerto Rico. During the 2018-19 season, Abbott was named the Best Outside Hitter in the French Cup when she helped guide Saint-Raphael Var to a first-place finish. The 6-foot-1 hitter also won the 2021-22 Nomikeia Tournament with AO Thiras in addition to finishing in second place in the Greek Cup.  

“Symone is a terminal, six rotation outside hitter. Her nickname at Northwestern was ‘Symone Slam’ for a reason. She is a strong athlete with a heavy arm,” Rise head coach Cathy George said. “She has been overseas for quite some time now and has continued to grow in her game. Symone is versatile and has played on both the right and left side. Her growth mindset has her seeking out ways to continue to enhance her game.”  

Abbott played her college years at Northwestern University from 2014-17 and was named a 2017 AVCA All-American Honorable Mention. During her senior year, she paced the Big Ten with 10.72 attacks per set, ranked third with four kills per set and fourth with 4.49 points per set. In 2017, she was also named to the First Team All-Big Ten and the AVCA All-Region Team. Abbott concluded her career as a Wildcat with 1,613 kills (3.71 kills per set) and 1,750.5 points (4.02 points per set).

“I can’t wait to thank the people who created and funded the Rise in person and explain just how much it means,” Abbott said. “There’s a lot that goes into playing overseas every year and a lot of players quit because of the hardships that come with it. Now, those hardships are dust in the wind, and I can just be happy playing the sport I love.”  

Caffey joined the Rise following her rookie pro season with Criollas de Caguas in Puerto Rico during the 2022-23 campaign. In 2022, the Chicago native helped guide the University of Texas to a NCAA National Championship and a Big 12 title. During that season, the 6-foot blocker averaged 1.07 blocks per set and notched 1.98 points per set. She spent the 2020-21 season at the University of Nebraska, where she ranked fourth in the Big Ten with a hitting percentage of 0.376. As a Cornhusker, Caffey was named a Second Team AVCA All-American and a AVCA North All-Region Team member when she aided Nebraska to the NCAA National Championship game.

“Kayla is a big jumper, very athletic, with a dominant presence at the net. Her experiences while playing at high-level programs in college will serve her well as she continues her professional career,” George said. “While in Puerto Rico, Kayla really excelled in blocking, which will make her a force to be reckoned with.”

Caffey began her collegiate career at the University of Missouri and competed for the Tigers from 2016-19. In 2019, she ranked second in the SEC and ninth nationally with a 0.408 hitting percentage. Her 0.417 hitting percentage in 2019 conference-only games ranked second in the SEC. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Caffey garnered a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team when her 130 blocks ranked fifth in the conference, which also placed 10th all time in a single season at Missouri. Caffey also registered 109 block assists, which tied for eighth all time in single-season program history.

“I am so incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to play professional volleyball at home and be part of the Pro Volleyball Federation’s inaugural season. Volleyball is such a large part of our world, and we all know how competitive, exciting, and the level of physical strength it takes to compete at a high level,” Caffey said. “To think that volleyball will finally be played professionally on American soil shows the shift in women’s sports, specifically volleyball, and the growth that has been made in the last decade.”

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.