Anna Dixon recalls the Cayman Islands trip she took with her family some years ago, but outside of that ...
Kansas State’s incoming freshman volleyball player and Louisburg native had never traveled outside the country.
So when she graduated a semester early from Louisburg High School and joined the Wildcats’ squad in January, a move that has taken her to Brazil for exhibition matches and training sessions and Mexico as part of the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team, she’s begun to feel herself change.
After all, in 2017, only 4,487 people lived in the Kansas City suburb. Getting out helps.
“Coming from a small town, I haven’t gotten to go out and experience a ton,” Dixon said, “but I’ve gotten to see a couple different countries now, and understanding different cultures, respecting their culture down there, seeing how it’s different from here in the U.S. So I think for me, it’s getting to understand and meet other people, and learn what their upbringing was like and how it’s different from mine here in KC.”
Since the calendar year began, Dixon has been on something resembling a tour of new experiences. When K-State visited Brazil in late May, Dixon and the Wildcats enlisted the services of former team official Carla Bernardes, a Sao Paulo native who speaks Portugese, to help the team interact with locals.
At other times, Dixon and teammates employed Google Translate, at restaurants and elsewhere. Results varied, she said. Her exposure to new ways of life stayed more consistent.
“I think it was a lot to take on, just graduating high school early,” said Dixon, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter. “At times, it was hard with the time management, but I’ve gotten to experience a lot of cool things in the last six months. I’ve met and made a lot of relationships with lots of different kinds of people, even the girls down in Brazil. A lot of them are here in Mexico now, and even though we don’t speak the same language, we still try to communicate with each other. It’s been cool. I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot as a player and as a person.”
New experiences aside, Dixon has accomplished lots as her volleyball career turns collegiate.
Across her four years at Louisburg, Dixon racked up more than 2,000 kills and led the Wildcats — also purple and white, funny enough — to back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Class 4A state tournament. For her efforts, Dixon was a finalist for the 2018 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year award, while Under Armour made her an All-America Honorable Mention selection.
Dixon, who also secured two first team all-state honors at Louisburg, played her club volleyball for KC Power and received a top-50 recruit classification from PrepVolleyball.com.
“Growing up, most of my team, we had been playing together and going to school together even since kindergarten,” Dixon said, “so being able to grow up with a school, with each other, with the same people was an amazing experience.”
Most recently, and this is the reason why she spoke for this story from Mexico, she made the 12-woman U.S. Women’s Junior National Team. For those out of the loop: That’s no small feat. To earn such recognition and punch her ticket to Mexico, Dixon had to clear a number of hurdles.
The first was making the squad’s training team, which consisted of 20 players who competed in a training camp July 6-12 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
There, team officials whittled the roster of 20 players down to the 12 who would represent the U.S. at the 2019 FIVB Women’s U20 World Championship from July 12-21 in Leon Guanajuato & Aguascalientes, Mexico.
“I was pretty nervous. I didn’t really know what to expect because there were so many great athletes at the tryouts,” Dixon said. “I was really excited. I didn’t want to be done playing with those girls, because we had just started to build a lot of those relationships. I was stoked hearing that I got to go compete for a gold medal.”
As of Tuesday, the Americans are in good standing. They swept Cuba on Sunday, 25-20, 25-23, 25-20, and moved on to the second stage of group play, where they’ll square off with Japan, Poland and Turkey.
For Dixon’s part, her best match came on Sunday, when she carded five kills in Team USA’s sweep of Mexico.
She says she’s enjoying it all and learning lots from it.
Just don’t ask her to speak Spanish.
“I realized what life was life was like outside of a small town,” Dixon said, “especially in Rio (de Janiero). It’s not a very wealthy area, so I think it motivated me and the rest of the K-State volleyball team to give back more to the countries that don’t have a lot.”