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Volleyball star Kim Hill regroups after Olympics/

COURTESY: USA VOLLEYBALL - Kim Hill, from Portland Christian High, and the U.S. women's volleyball team, had to settle for bronze at Rio de Janeiro, but she says it was an incredible and unforgettable experience.The phone call came late one night from Istanbul, the voice on the other end Kim Hill.

The 6-4 former Portland Christian great had just arrived in Turkey in preparation for her second season with Vakifbank, which she led to the Turkish championship and a runner-up finish in the CEV Champions League EuroCup last season.

There is little down time for Hill, a member of the U.S. team that earned a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.

After the Olympics, Hill spent about three weeks in the United States, most of it in California.

“I had a couple of weddings and some things to do,” she says.

Hill made two brief stops in Portland to see her parents, Rick and Terri Hill.

“The good thing was, they were able to be in Rio along with two of my sisters, Shelby and Kelsey,” Hill says. “It was really incredible that they were there.”

The U.S. women, who earned silver medals in the previous two Olympics, were favored to win gold at Rio. A seminfinals loss to Serbia in a five-set thriller derailed those hopes.

“We had our eyes only on the gold,” says Hill, 26, the Most Valuable Player in the 2014 World Championships. “We still believe we were capable. It was heartbreaking to lose.”

The U.S. had beaten Serbia in four sets in pool play, but the Serbians prevailed 20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 16-25, 15-13 in the rematch. The Americans led 13-10 in the final set, only to have the Serbians run off the final five points.

“They were a really good team,” Hill says. “Whoever was on that day was going to win. We thought we had it. They went on a little run and stole it right out from underneath us. It was just one of those things. It was their day.”

China went on to beat Serbia for the gold medal. The U.S., meanwhile, regrouped to defeat the Netherlands in four sets for the bronze.

Hill, who started for the U.S. throughout the tournament, led the team in scoring against the Netherlands with 13 kills on 34 attacks, four aces and two blocks.

“I have a new respect for bronze-medal matches,” she says. “It may be the hardest thing to do in sports — playing after losing a chance to play for the gold.

“Less than 48 hours later, we had to gear up again and play to win. We did a good job, but it wasn’t easy. We wish we’d come out with gold, but to get a medal is still pretty awesome.”

Hill calls her first Olympics “an incredible experience — unforgettable. Rio is an amazing city. They did a really good job overall in hosting the Games.”

Pregame reports were that the Rio Games would be hampered by polluted water, the Zika virus and crime.

“We didn’t see much of that at all,” Hill says. “From our perspective, Rio and the U.S. did a great job. Everywhere we went, we had security and military personnel. We saw a handful of mosquitoes, and some areas of the country are not the best, but we really enjoyed our experience.”

Hill, who has been with the national team for three years after an outstanding career at Pepperdine, bonded with her teammates in Rio.

“That’s what made the experience so incredible — the group that was there, the trust we built and the family we have become,” she says. “The result wasn’t what we wanted, but it felt really special, for sure.”

Hill intends to play professionally and for the U.S. national team through the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. That will include participate in the 2018 World Championships and the 2019 World Cup.

“These last couple of years, it’s still really crazy to me,” she says. “I feel so fortunate. I’m having a blast.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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