Beach Volleyball

Rio 2016 venue: Copacabana Stadium (Copacabana Zone)
Competition dates: Aug. 6-18
Medal events: 2 (men’s and women’s team)
Olympic introduction: 1996 (Atlanta, Georgia)

Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Copacabana Beach will serve as the site of the beach volleyball competition at the 2016 Olympic Games. The U.S. Olympic Beach Volleyball Team will look to continue its storybook history of taking the gold, which saw Americans reach the top of the podium at every Olympic Games since beach volleyball was added to the Olympic program in 1996. 

This time around, the United States is sending two men's and women's teams to the Olympics that are new partnerships in the quadrennial. Among the 24 teams per gender at the Olympics, 2008 Gold Medalist Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena will be seeded third in the men's competition. The pair led the World Tour in 2016 with an 88.5-win percentage and are 31-10 against Olympic qualified teams.

Two-time Olympian Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson were close behind their compatriots in the rankings and will enter the Olympics seeded sixth overall. The pair are 40-37 against Olympic qualified teams and have continued to have success in tournaments leading up to the Olympics.

April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings battled through Walsh Jennings' shoulder injury and recovery to gain the top American spot in the rankings, finishing qualification with the third seed for the Games. In their last three events of qualification, the duo won gold on three occasions and currently sit with an impressive 54-15 record against Olympic qualified teams. Ross and Walsh Jennings make up the only pair on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Beach Volleyball Team where both partners have Olympic experience, with Walsh Jennings making her fifth Olympic appearance and owning three gold medals, and Ross returning for her second Olympic Games after taking silver in 2012. 

Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat will be making their Olympic debut together and as the only U.S. duo in 2016 where both partners are debuting at the Games. The pair secured its berth at the final event of Olympic qualification and will enter the Olympics as the No. 15 seed. Against a similar field to the Olympic competition, Fendrick and Sweat finished fifth at the 2015 FIVB Beach World Championships.

Each nation can send up to four teams to the 2016 Olympic Games, two per gender. Selection to the U.S. team was based on the pairs' results in FIVB international events and Olympic qualifying rankings. 

Athletes To Watch
Phil Dalhausser
Dalhausser started the Olympic qualification season with Sean Rosenthal as a partner, but switched to Nick Lucena in August 2015. With Lucena, the 2008 Olympic champion will be seeded third at the 2016 Olympics. The Rio 2016 Games would mark his third Olympics and first without Todd Rogers.

Jake Gibb 
Gibb and partner Casey Patterson will be seeded sixth at the Olympics in Gibb's third and Patterson's first appearance at the Games. Gibb finished fifth in 2012 and 2008, both with Sean Rosenthal. He partnered with Brigham Young University alum Patterson, giving them the Utah connection. The pair finished fifth at the 2015 World Championships. A two-time cancer survivor, he has a scar on his shoulder left from a bout with skin cancer in 2004.

Nick Lucena 
Lucena is making his first Olympic appearance, with partner Phil Dalhuasser. Upon switching to Dalhausser in August 2015, he picked up his first international gold at the Xiamen Open and finished with six gold and three silver medals toward Olympic rankings. He recently moved to Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife, Brooke, who is the Florida State University’s head beach volleyball coach.

April Ross  
Ross, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, enters the Rio Olympics with a new partner in Kerri Walsh Jennings. The pair will be seeded third at the Olympics. At the time of officially qualifying for the 2016 Olympics on June 12, 2016, the pair had a 53-14 record against the Olympic qualified field.

Kerri Walsh Jennings   
Four-time Olympian and three-time gold medalist, Walsh Jennings is on her way to her fifth Olympics and fourth on the sand. She injured her right shoulder on multiple occasions during the 2015 season, which cut the qualification season short for her and partner April Ross. She received her fifth shoulder surgery in September 2015 to repair a torn labrum and torn capsule and made a complete recovery to finish qualification with Ross to be seeded third at the 2016 Olympics. She is married to professional beach volleyball player Casey Jennings, and together, they have three children.

  • All four pairs on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Beach Volleyball Team are new partnerships to the quad:
    April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings joined in 2013.
    Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat joined in 2014.
    Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena joined in 2015.
    Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson joined in 2013.
  • The U.S. has won gold at every Olympic beach volleyball showing, either in men's or women's, since the sports inception in 1996.The U.S. has won three of the five gold medals in beach volleyball Olympic history, for both men and women. Team USA has the most Olympic gold medals out of any country and a total of nine medals, while host Brazil leads the all-time Olympic medal count with 11.
  • Kerri Walsh Jennings is making her fifth Olympic appearance – her fourth on the sand and first without long-time partner Misty May-Treanor. With May-Treanor’s exit from international competition after the duo’s remarkable three consecutive Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012), Walsh Jennings has switched partners to 2012 silver medalist April Ross. The duo is coached by Rio de Janeiro native and Pepperdine University beach volleyball assistant coach Marcio Sicoli.
  • For the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Kerri Walsh Jennings is going for her fourth gold medal, which would make her just the third American ever to win four gold medals in one event for a team sport. If Walsh Jennings wins any type of medal, she will be the most decorated beach athlete, male or female, in the sport. She is currently tied with long-time partner Misty May-Treanor with three gold medals, and Brazil’s Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos, who each have one gold, silver and bronze medal.
  • On the women’s side, Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross are the favorites for gold, at the time of their official qualification (June 12, 2016) the pair had a 53-14 record against the Olympic qualified teams.
  • Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross lead the FIVB World Tour for most team earnings for either gender, with $174,000 (as of June 12, 2016). On the World Tour, winnings for placements (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) are the same for both genders.

Men's Indoor Volleyball

Rio 2016 venue: Maracanãzinho Arena (Maracanã Zone)
Competition dates: Aug. 6-20
Medal events: 1 (men's team)
Olympic introduction: 1964 (Tokyo, Japan)

The United States has an Olympic legacy of success in men’s indoor volleyball. The U.S. men won the first gold medal for USA Volleyball in 1984 and repeated as champions in 1988. Team USA took bronze in 1992 before returning to the top podium spot at the 2008 Games. Some players from the 2008 team returned in 2012, finishing fifth in London.

In 2013, California native John Speraw took over as head coach and began making changes. While several veterans – such as outside hitters Matt Anderson and Reid Priddy – stayed with the team along with middle blockers David Lee, Max Holt and David Smith, Speraw also recruited even younger players. Micah Christenson took over as the team’s starting setter in 2013 when he still had two years remaining at the University of Southern California.

When Priddy – a three-time Olympian and 2008 gold medalist – was injured at the start of the 2014 World League, Taylor Sander – who had only recently finished his career at Brigham Young University – took over and led the team to the FIVB World League title, earning MVP honors. In 2015, outside hitter Aaron Russell joined the starting rotation less than a week after finishing his collegiate career at Penn State University.  

The U.S. men have found success under Speraw’s new system. Besides winning the 2014 World League title, the U.S. finished third at the 2015 World League and went on to surprise the volleyball world by winning the 2015 FIVB World Cup and qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

In 2016, Priddy returned from his injury to bring more veteran balance to the team, which now includes four Olympic veterans (Anderson, Lee, Priddy and Smith) and eight newcomers (Christenson, Holt, Thomas Jaeschke, Russell, Sander, Erik  Shoji, Kawika Shoji and Murphy Troy).

The 2015 World Cup victory puts the U.S. men, ranked fifth in the world, among the favorites at the Rio Games, but they should expect strong challenges from several other countries. The top challenge will come from host Brazil, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and will no doubt want to give its home crowd a gold medal in one of the country’s most beloved sports.

Athletes To Watch
Matt Anderson
Anderson is a four-time USA Volleyball Male Indoor Player of the Year and MVP of the 2015 World Cup, in which the U.S. won and qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games. He is considered one of the most versatile players in the world, excelling at both outside hitter and opposite positions. In 2014, Anderson was playing for a Russia club team when he took a break from the sport to deal with feelings of depression. He returned in 2015 and was named MVP at the World Cup.

Micah Christenson 
Christenson became the U.S. men’s starting setter while he was still playing in college at the University of Southern California. He was named Best Setter of the 2015 World Cup, and played this winter with one of Italy’s top professional teams. His middle name is Makanamaikjalani, which means "Gift from Heaven." Micah's parents gave him that name because his mother had to have surgery while pregnant with Micah and it was not known if he would survive.

Erik Shoji
The libero position is sometimes overlooked, but Shoji has made passing and digging his passion and he is key to any success the U.S. men might have in Rio. He is the brother of backup setter, Kawika Shoji, and their father, Dave Shoji, is the winningest coach in women’s volleyball at the University of Hawaii.


  • California native John Speraw was selected to lead the U.S. men’s national team in 2013 and quickly eschewed the traditional formula of only recruiting athletes with international experience. Starting setter Micah Christenson joined the team before his junior year at the University of Southern California and top outside hitter Taylor Sander was named to the team just weeks after competing in his final NCAA Men’s Division I Championship. With this approach, Speraw has put a premium on developing untapped potential and young talent – a long-term, sustainable approach invested in the team’s success for years to come.
  • Matthew Anderson, the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Volleyball Team at 25, has flourished into one of the top outside hitters in the world. Head coach John Speraw moved Anderson to the opposite position – a challenge he has embraced – to capitalize on his unique skill set. Anderson will play a key role in Team USA’s success at the 2016 Games, serving as a leader for Olympic newcomers.
  • Reid Priddy came back from a torn ACL in 2014 to make his fourth Olympic Team in 2016. The road to recovery was not easy, as he had a ligament removed in his good knee to replace the one in his injured knee.

Women's Indoor Volleyball

Rio 2016 venue: Maracanãzinho Arena (Maracanã Zone)
Competition dates: Aug. 6-20
Medal events: 1 (women's team)
Olympic introduction: 1964 (Tokyo, Japan)

The U.S. Women’s National Indoor Volleyball Team will be looking to make history at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which is shaping up to be the “Volleyball Olympics” with the popularity of the sport in host Brazil and its volleyball rivalries with Team USA.

Team USA, ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB ahead of No. 2 China and No. 3 Brazil, has produced a lot of firsts in the current Olympic quadrennial. Karch Kiraly, the first male or female player to win Olympic gold in both indoor and beach volleyball, took over the program in late September in his first head coaching position. In 2014, he guided the U.S. women to their first FIVB World Championship gold medal in 62 years, which also marked Team USA’s first gold medal in any of the three triple crown events – world championship, FIVB World Cup or Olympic Games.

Although the U.S. women’s indoor team claimed the Olympic silver medal at the 1984, 2008 and 2012 Games, the U.S. has yet to win Olympic gold. Led by its core group of veterans and seven newcomers to the team since 2013, the squad is eyeing the top the podium spot at the Rio Games.

The squad boasts several international superstars including setter Alisha Glass, 2013 and 2014 USA Volleyball Female Indoor Player of the Year; outside hitters Jordan Larson, 2015 USA Volleyball Female Indoor Player of the Year, and Kim Hill 2014 FIVB World Championship MVP; middles Foluke Akinradewo and Christa Dietzen; and libero Kayla Banwarth. Budding superstars include opposite Karsta Lowe, 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix MVP, outside hitter Kelsey Robinson, FIVB World Grand Prix second-best outside hitter; middle Rachael Adams, 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix best blocker, among other talented players waiting in the wings for their chance to shine.

After an infusion of youth in 2013 that resulted in a 25-6 record and mixed results throughout the season, Team USA began to put the pieces together in 2014. In the second year of the quad, the U.S. started the season 17-1 including four consecutive wins over then-No. 1 Brazil. However, Team USA again stumbled in the FIVB World Grand Prix and failed to make the final round. The U.S. used the added time to re-focus and change its serve away from jump serve to the float in preparation for the world championship in Italy against the best teams in the world. What resulted was Team USA’s first-ever world championship title to cap a 33-8 season.

In 2015, the U.S. secured a 41-6 overall record and claimed four gold medals in five tournaments, including the FIVB World Grand Prix, Pan American Games, NORCECA Championship and Pan American Cup. Yet Team USA’s bronze-medal finish at the FIVB World Cup – the first Olympic Qualifier that ticketed only the top-two teams to Rio – showed they still have areas to improve before the lead up to Rio.

The U.S. qualified for the Olympics by winning the NORCECA Olympic Qualification tournament Jan. 7-9 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The top-level team also went 8-1 in the FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary round earlier this summer to reach the six-team finals that had five Olympic-bound countries competing. Team USA came up one win shy of winning its seventh FIVB World Grand Prix title, losing to third-ranked Brazil in a thrilling five-set, gold-medal match in Bangkok on July 10. Since winning the 2014 FIVB World Championship, the Americans have won six of their last eight tournaments and reached the podium in each of those eight tournaments 

Athletes To Watch
Foluke Akinradewo
Akinradewo, one of the top middle blockers in the world, earned the silver medal with Team USA at the 2012 Olympic Games as she was second-best middle blocker of the tournament. She averaged 2.50 points with a .412 hitting efficiency, helping the U.S. win the 2014 FIVB World Championship.

Kayla Banwarth 
Banwarth, who joined Team USA in January 2011, became Team USA’s starting libero in 2013 when she was honored with USA Volleyball’s Female Indoor Most Improved Player Award. She was named the Best Receiver at the 2015 NORCECA Continental Championship, helping Team USA win gold. She earned back-to-back Pan American Cup gold medals in 2012 and 2013 as the starting libero.

Christa Dietzen
When healthy, Dietzen is one of most overpowering middle blockers in the world. A 2012 Olympic Games silver medalist, she has been limited in this quad due to injuries. However, she captained the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix and NORCECA Continental Championship. She was selected second-best middle blocker in the prestigious 2015 World Grand Prix.

Alisha Glass 
Glass, who was named USA Volleyball’s Female Indoor Athlete of the Year in 2013 and 2014, is considered one of the best setters in the world. She was named Best Setter at the 2014 FIVB World Championship as Team USA won the gold medal. Glass won three consecutive gold medals in the FIVB World Grand Prix (2010, 2011, 2012) and was named MVP of the event in 2010 and 2013.

Kim Hill
Hill, who almost did not attend the 2013 U.S. Women’s National Team Open Tryout that had 240 aspiring athletes dreaming to play for Team USA, has blossomed into an international star in a short time. She was named MVP of the 2014 FIVB World Championship as Team USA won its first-ever gold medal in the event, and just recently earned second-best outside spiker at the 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix. While competing at Pepperdine University, she became the first and only student-athlete to make the AVCA All-America first-team roster in both indoor and sand volleyball during the same academic year (2011-12).

Jordan Larson
Larson, an outside hitter who earned silver at the 2012 Olympic Games, has developed into an international star despite growing up in a town of 830 people. The Hooper, Nebraska, native was named USA Volleyball’s 2015 Female Indoor Athlete of the Year with consistent results for Team USA. During the 2015 club season, she led her Turkish club Eczacibasi to gold at the 2015 FIVB Club World Championship and 2015 European Champions League while earning MVP honors in both events.


  • The U.S. women’s national team has been one of the dominant programs for 30-plus years, yet it has never won a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Team USA has produced Olympic silver medals in each of the last two Olympic Games, falling to Brazil in both 2008 and 2012. Team USA also won silver in 1984 and 1992.
  • Karch Kiraly, considered the best volleyball player of all-time by FIVB and selected as its greatest volleyball player of the 20th century, is the only athlete to win Olympic gold medals in both indoor (1984, 1988) and beach volleyball (1996). After serving as an assistant coach with the U.S. women from 2009-12, Kiraly accepted the head coaching job for the U.S. women’s national team in September 2012. In his fourth year as head coach leading the program, Team USA holds a 118-23 overall record with eight tournament titles, including the 2014 FIVB World Championship, to become just the fourth volleyball player to win both a world championship gold medal as both a player and coach.
  • While the past two U.S. Olympic women’s indoor volleyball teams were loaded with veteran talent and earned silver medals, the current quadrennial has showcased a balanced mix of Olympians with new talent joining the team since 2013. Veterans include Olympians Foluke Akinradewo and Christa Dietzen at middle blocker, Jordan Larson and Megan Easy at outside hitter, setter Courtney Thompson, and libero Tama Miyashiro. However, they are being pushed by more than a dozen players who have joined the team since 2013 and are making an immediate impact on the squad, in addition to the other veterans who are aiming for their first Olympic Games. Among notable newcomers this quad are outside hitters Kim Hill (FIVB World Championship MVP), Kelsey Robinson (2015 FIVB World Grand Prix Best Outside Hitter), opposites Karsta Lowe (2015 FIVB World Grand Prix MVP) and Kelly Murphy (Team USA leading scorer in 2013 and 2014), and middle Rachael Adams (2016 FIVB World Grand Prix Best Blocker).