Women's Indoor Volleyball Preview

The U.S. women’s national indoor volleyball team is ranked No. 1 in the world as it heads into the Olympic Games seeking its first gold medal.

In June, Team USA won the FIVB Volleyball Nations League for the third time in the tournament’s three editions, beating rival Brazil in the final. The VNL is the top annual women’s international volleyball tournament.

The Americans also earned a silver medal at the 2019 FIVB World Cup, one of the sport’s premier competitions, and finished fifth at the world championships one year earlier.

The U.S. women qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games in their first opportunity by winning Pool C in the Tokyo Women’s Volleyball Qualification Tournament with victories over Kazakhstan, Bulgaria and Argentina on Aug. 2-4, 2019, in Bossier City, Louisiana. The winners of the six qualification tournaments joined the five continental winners contested in early January 2020 and host Japan to complete the 12-team Olympic field.

The Tokyo roster has a core of four Olympians, including three outside hitters, Jordan Larson, Kim Hill and Kelsey Robinson, and middle Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson. The roster also features experience and depth at nearly every position. Jordyn Poulter and Micha Hancock have won major international tournaments for Team USA. At the opposite position, Annie Drews had a breakout campaign in 2019 as she was named Most Valuable Player of the 2019 VNL, Best Opposite of the 2019 FIVB World Cup and USA Volleyball’s Female Indoor Player of the Year. Outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley was named MVP at the most recent VNL, repeating the honor she also earned in 2018.

With the professional club season extending well into May 2019, U.S. coach Karch Kiraly and his staff tested out several new players at the 2019 VNL and placed younger players into larger roles than they held in previous years. What resulted was four players making their FIVB-level debuts who went on to make the Olympic team in middles Chiaka Ogbogu and Haleigh Washington, opposite Jordan Thompson and Poulter. Each were members of the U.S. team that won a 2019 VNL gold medal. Ogbogu, Poulter and Washington were all part of the silver-winning World Cup team.

Updated on June 29, 2021. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

• The U.S. is the only country to win an Olympic medal in each of the last three Olympic Games — yet the team has never won an Olympic gold medal.


• U.S. coach Karch Kiraly 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 to 2012, Kiraly accepted the head coaching job for the national team in September 2012. After leading Team USA to its first-ever world championship in 2014, he became just the fourth volleyball player to win a world championship gold medal as both a player and coach.


• Young players had a significant impact on the national team in 2019. A total of eight players made their FIVB-level debuts that season and made an immediate impact in the 2019 VNL gold medal. Among the newcomers were three collegians including Jordan Thompson (University of Cincinnati). Prior to the 2019 season, the U.S. women had not used a collegiate-eligible player in a FIVB-level event since 2008.

• Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson is a two-time Olympian who earned a silver medal in 2012 and a bronze in 2016. She has been one of the top middle blockers in the world since becoming a full-time member of Team USA in 2009. Gunderson, 33, was named to the Olympic Games Rio 2016 Dream Team after registering 0.56 blocks per set and scoring 104 points. After being named USA Volleyball’s Co-Female Player of the Year in 2018, she missed the entire 2019 international season as she gave birth to her son Olukayode Gunderson on Thanksgiving Day.

• Jordan Larson is a two-time Olympian (silver in 2012, bronze in 2016) and a member of the U.S. national team since 2009, including helping the Americans win their first-ever world championship title in 2014. She was selected MVP of the 2015 FIVB Club World Championships and led her then-club Eczacibasi of Turkey to the prestigious European Champions League title the same year. Larson, 34, is nicknamed the “Gov” or “Governor” for her popularity in Nebraska, where she grew up in a town of under 1,000 and later went on to star at the University of Nebraska.

• Kelsey Robinson, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, is a versatile athlete who has played multiple positions for Team USA. Typically an outside hitter for the U.S., she switched to libero for the 2018 season and helped the Americans win the annual VNL title. At the end of 2018, Robinson was named USA Volleyball’s Co-Female Indoor Player of the Year. Robinson moved back to her familiar outside hitter position for the 2019 season to help the U.S. win another gold medal in the VNL. Adding to her versatility, Robinson has created a very popular YouTube channel and website giving fans an inside look into being a professional athlete. Both sites are run by herself and her fiancé Robert Cook.

• July 25, 2021: Women’s Olympic competition begins with preliminary round play; U.S. faces Argentina in opener
• July 27, 2021: U.S. vs. China
• July 29, 2021: U.S. vs. Turkey
• July 31, 2021: U.S. vs. Russian Olympic Committee
• August 2, 2021: U.S. vs. Italy
• August 4, 2021: Quarterfinals
• August 6, 2021: Semifinals
• August 8, 2021: Bronze- and gold-medal matches