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Third time’s a charm? Larson eyes gold for U.S. women’s indoor volleyball

By Erin Slinde, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication | July 29, 2021, 3:30 p.m. (ET)

Jordan Larson of of the U.S. women's volleyball team rises above the net to spike the ball against China during the 2020 Olympic Games.

Going to the Olympics is a dream for many athletes. But qualifying for three? 

Few have had that experience. Jordan Larson (Nebraska, volleyball) is one of them. 

Her drive to be one of the best volleyball players in the world has also fueled a desire to add a gold medal to the silver and bronze the U.S. women’s indoor team collected in 2012 and 2016, respectively. 

“We talk about it but at the end of the day, the conversations that we’re having as a team is how can we make each other better and have those small things lead to good volleyball,” Larson told the Associated Press. “While the gold is a focus of ours, it’s not our end all, be all.”

The United States has never won a gold medal in women’s indoor volleyball at the Olympics, but came into these Games ranked No. 1 in the world. Larson said there may be some expectations to win gold, but that is not the team’s focus. 

The U.S. women are off to a strong start and remain undefeated after defeating Turkey Thursday.

Larson is used to seeing top-notch international competition. She has played professionally for 13 years in China, Turkey and Russia, countries with some of the highest level athletes to ever play the game.

This past year, she decided to stay in the United States as she was the Athletes Unlimited inaugural champion for her performance in the five-week-long season of the new women's professional volleyball league in the United States. Although Larson was able to play, many of her teammates did not receive the same opportunity to compete due to the pandemic. 

“We're really eager as much of us didn't get to compete last year,” Larson said. “We're really excited to get back in the gym and train hard. We've been working a lot off the court with (team culture) and how do we get better there.”

Many of the skills Larson has developed came from her time at Nebraska. She is one of three players on this year’s U.S. roster to be alumni of Nebraska volleyball and one of eight – three-fourths of the roster – to come from the Big Ten.

“My choice of going to Nebraska I think set me up best for success because obviously playing in front of dozens of people and getting used to that environment was really crucial,” Larson said. “At the University of Nebraska they did a good job of understanding my goals and where my aspirations were and kind of setting me up for success in that way.”

In Team USA’s first match, Larson had 10 kills, also adding a block and an ace to help the team sweep Argentina in the first match. Larson also stood out in the highly anticipated match against China with 11 kills and one block.

Not only does Larson help the team with her smart and dynamic swings in the outside hitter position, but she also guides the team on serve receive to help run a deadly offense, especially in the match versus China. 

“That was one of the best passing matches that we’ve had in a long, long time, which allows us to run the offense that we want to run,” Team USA coach Karch Kiraly told USA Volleyball.

Erin Slinde, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Erin Slinde is a journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a collaboration between the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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