Former NCAA player of the year Sarah Pavan has signed a three-year contract to play volleyball for an Italian women’s team a short drive from Aviano Air Base.

Sarah Pavan, a 6-foot, 5-inch Canadian who led the University of Nebraska to the 2006 NCAA title, will play for Spes Volley of Conegliano, which is currently tied atop the standings of the second division of Italy’s professional volleyball league. The top two teams from the second division automatically move up to the top division.

With the signing of Pavan, the Conegliano team — sponsored by Zoppas Industries — obviously has plans to move up. Matteo Masat, the club’s general manager, said the team will play in a new 4,000-seat stadium next season, which is when Pavan will join the team.

“It’s quite a coup,” Masat said. “No one like her has ever signed to play with a second-division team.”

Pavan, who couldn’t be reached for comment, led the Cornhuskers to a No. 5 ranking and the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament last fall. In her junior year, she was chosen as the sport’s player of the year, and after the season earned Honda-Broderick Cup honors as the top female collegiate athlete for 2007. She was a four-time All-American.

There are 12 teams in Italy’s top professional league and — unlike its basketball counterpart — not many players from North America are on the rosters. Only four teams currently field American players.

Pavan is expected to visit her new team this week, but isn’t set to play until the season starts again in the fall.

More information (in Italian) can be found on the team’s Web site. Information on the league is available in English and Italian at:

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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