Cross-Battle Enshrined into International Hall

Oct. 18, 2014, 11:56 p.m. (ET)

Watch Induction Ceremony: CLICK HERE

HOLYOKE, Mass. (Oct. 18, 2014) – Four-time U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team standout Tara Cross-Battle was one of six individuals enshrined into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame as part of its 29th induction class on Saturday evening in the birthplace of the sport, Holyoke, Mass.

The Class of 2014, hailing from five different countries and three continents, also included female player Roza Salikhova of the former USSR, female beach volleyball great Sandra Pires of Brazil, indoor coach Joop Alberda of the Netherlands and leader Miloslav Ejem of Czech Republic. The International Volleyball Hall of Fame now has a total of 121 inductees representing 21 different countries.

“It is an honor to have Tara Cross-Battle, Sandra Pires, Roza Salikhova, Nalbert Bitencourt, Joop Alberda and Miloslav Ejem join the International Volleyball Hall of Fame family as part of this year’s diverse induction class, made unique and lasting impressions on our sport. The International Volleyball Hall of Fame is honored to memorialize their accomplishments here in Holyoke,” Volleyball Hall of Fame Executive Director George Mulry said. “They have all made unique impacts on our sport creating lasting legacies for future generations to look back on with admiration. Volleyball is truly a global sport and it is special when people from around the world are able to travel to Holyoke and experience the birthplace of their beloved sport.”

Cross-Battle became the United States’ first four-time Olympic Games volleyball player having competed in the Games in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. In her debut Olympics, she helped the United States to the bronze medal in Barcelona. Cross-Battle competed in three FIVB World Championships (1990, 1994, 2002), winning the bronze medal in 1990 and the silver medal in 2002.

“I want to thank the International Volleyball Hall of Fame committee who voted for me – this is a great honor and a dream come true,” Cross-Battle said. “As a little girl, I grew up in a basketball family and I didn’t think volleyball would be in my future. The first time I saw volleyball I was in the sixth grade, and I was dribbling my basketball across the playground. In California there was a net in the grass and these girls with this white ball and they were doing something over the net. I looked over and I said to myself, ‘that looks like a silly sport.’ … I am so blessed and filled with joy right now. To think this journey went from a silly game to the Hall of Fame.”

Alberda guided Netherlands to the gold medal at 1996 FIVB World League, and that success continued on into the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games as the Dutch won their first-ever Olympic Games gold medal. He was proclaimed the Best Volleyball Coach in the world after the two gold-medal performances, and the Dutch chose the 1996 Olympic performance the top sports moment of the 20th century.

“Becoming Olympic Games champions is changing your life,” Alberda said. “People have a different approach, you have a different atmosphere and sometimes people feel you speak the truth. I want to thank the International Volleyball Hall of Fame and the whole organization and volunteers. They do an extraordinary job. This is my second time here, and I feel at home. I feel at home because everything smells with respect for the past, looking forward to the future, connecting people and we know volleyball is a sport with a huge dependency on people and that makes this sport very special.”

Nalbert was a multi-dimensional player equally skilled as a passer and attacker on Brazil’s dominating teams of the early 2000s. He was part of Brazil’s Triple Crown of gold medals in winning the 2002 FIVB World Championship, the 2003 FIVB World Cup and the 2004 Olympic Games.

“I would like to thank the Hall of Fame. It is a great honor for me to be inducted and to realize one more dream. My country Brazil has had many great volleyball players, and to be the third indoor volleyball to receive this honor with Bernard Rajzman and Mauricio Lima, means a lot to me. I would like to congratulate all the other inductees who are here – Joop, Tara, Miloslav, Roza, and especially my Brazilian friend Sandra for this special prize. You all deserve this honor. In summing up my 27-year career, the first word that comes into my head, is Passion. Passion made me start playing volleyball. Passion made me risk become a professional player. Passion made me overcome many injuries. Passion gave me motivation to wear the Brazilian uniform. Passion makes me work as a sports commentator. Passion gave me the opportunity to be here in the Volleyball Hall of Fame.”

Ejem has been a leader within the FIVB for over three decades and passed on his technical knowledge to countless up-and-coming coaches. He served on the FIVB Coaches Commission for nearly 30 years with stints as both the commission president and secretary. Ejem, a member of the FIVB Technical Commission from 1994 to 2002, held a spot on the FIVB Board of Administration from 1998 to 2002. Ejem shared or independently authored approximately 30 books, including the FIVB Coaches Manual.

“There are two types of volleyball people,” Ejem said. “One type are those who promote volleyball by their marvelous motor skills. The other part are those who develop the sport through their organizational skills, communications and coaching abilities. Joop and myself were in the second group. It was a long time ago that I had to make a decision – to be an average player maybe in the Czech top division or to try to attend to be a good coach. I know I decided very good. Since my childhood I liked the game. I liked the players that we had those days in Czech Republic. They were top of the world players. They were unfortunately handicapped by the fact we did not have Olympic Games then, just World Championships until 1964. So they were big, big idols. But as I said before, I knew I could not reach their level, so I showed my love for the game in other ways.”

Sandra helped usher in beach volleyball at the Olympic Games and was a dominant force on the sand for many years. She and Jackie Silva won the inaugural Olympic Games beach volleyball gold medal in 1996. Four years later Pires teamed with Adriana Samuel to win the silver medal at the 2000 Olympic Games.

“Wow, what a feeling it is to be here tonight,” said Sandra, who had 22 closest family and friends in attendance. “In this outstanding group, we all grew to love and respect this sport called volleyball. To be in the Volleyball Hall of Fame is everybody’s dream and the highest place one can be. I must thank everyone with the Volleyball Hall of Fame for making this dream come true. I learned all the lessons that this sport has to offer – teamwork, discipline, persistence and that has all stayed with me until today. Volleyball still moves me today.”

Salikhova was a dominant attacker for the USSR in the late 1960s and through most of the 1970s. She earned gold medals at both the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games as the USSR was in a class of its own during that period. In between the two gold medals, Salikhova helped the USSR to the 1970 FIVB World Championship gold medal and later captured the silver medal at the 1974 FIVB World Championship.

“I feel very excited and proud to be entering the International Volleyball Hall of Fame,” Salikhova said. “I feel really proud to be part of a team that won two Olympic Games gold medals. I have three of my teammates from those Olympics already inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame. I am proud of our team for not losing major tournament over six years. Our team was unique because all of our players could play all the positions well.”

The induction class is elected via a vote of current International Volleyball Hall of Fame inductees. A short biographical sketch on each inductee and the Court of Honor can be found below with an excerpt from their acceptance speech. In addition to the inductees, the Volleyball Hall of Fame honored Mizuno as its William G. Morgan Award recipient and Rob Slavin with the Mintonette Medallion of Merit award.

The Induction Gala Dinner and Ceremony, presented by Spalding, is part of a two-day calendar of events recognizing the six individuals along with the special Court of Honor representatives. On Friday evening, the six inductees attended an invite-only Mayor’s Reception, presented by the Dowd Agencies, at the historic Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke. Earlier on Saturday the inductees took part in the Ring and Plaque Ceremony presented by Holyoke Medical Center at the Volleyball Hall of Fame Exhibit Hall. Prior to the Induction Gala Dinner and Ceremony, Mizuno presented a cocktail hour Induction Meet and Greet for the public to interact with the inductees. The induction weekend was capped by an Induction After-Party at the Volleyball Hall of Fame with live entertainment and socializing with the honorees.

2014 Volleyball Hall of Fame Inductee Biographical Sketches

Joop Alberda (The Netherlands)

The architect of the highly successful Netherlands Men’s National Volleyball Teams of the 1990s, Joop Alberda soon became a legendary figure within the program and the sport. Finding inspiration from the strategic coaching methods of 1988 Hall of Famer and then-U.S. Men’s National Team coach Doug Beal, whom he met in 1985, Alberda always had a sense of the system of training and coaching style necessary to be successful on the volleyball world stage.

His coaching background started in the early 1970s when he was a player as he was fascinated by the statistics and strategy behind the sport. Being a physical education teacher, he invested time to increase his knowledge by attending numerous clinics and championships around the world.

Coaching started in University Teams and resulted in being appointed as Junior National Team coach in the beginning of the 1980s. The selection of those junior teams resulted in laying the foundation for future Netherlands teams.

After 1986 Alberda was responsible for a National League runner up team between 1986 and 1990. At the end of the 1980s he assisted the Netherlands Men’s Team. To update his knowledge of coaching he spent time close to the heart of Italy’s Mediolanum Milan club coached by Doug Beal. There he found the inspiration and knowledge to take the challenge to make the Dutch squad into an Olympic champion against respected rivals as Italy, USA, Brazil, Russia and more.

Building on the groundwork laid by another Hall of Fame coach Arie Selinger, who led the Netherlands to the silver medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona Spain, Alberda took the program to new heights in the mid-1990s.

He guided the Netherlands to the gold medal at the 1996 FIVB World League and that success continued on into the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games as the Dutch won their first-ever Olympic Games gold medal in one of the sport’s most thrilling finals, topping favorite Italy 3-2.

Alberda was proclaimed the FIVB Best Volleyball Coach in the world after the two gold-medal performances and the Dutch public chose the 1996 Olympic performance the top sports moment of the 20th century.

After his golden mission, Alberda was approached by the Dutch Olympic Committee to serve as its Technical Director. Serving in that role from 1997 to 2004, the visionary Alberda was responsible for all sports-related issues such as innovation, coaching, Olympic facilities and programs. His direction of “Performance 2000” led to a record 25 Dutch medals at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. He later served as the technical director for the Dutch Volleyball Federation from 2006 to 2010.

Alberda is now a well-known public speaker, tapping his extensive strategic and management experience to present on topics such as change management, time management, inspirational leadership and successful collaboration.

Nalbert Bitencourt (Brazil)

Known as the “eternal captain,” Nalbert Bitencourt was a multi-dimensional player equally skilled as a passer, defender and attacker on Brazil’s dominating teams of the early 2000s.

A volleyball athlete from 1984 to 2009, Nalbert began his professional career in 1992 by winning the FIVB Youth World Championship in 1991. He followed that feat with a first-place finish at the FIVB Junior World Championship in 1993 and later winning the FIVB World Championship in 2002. Nalbert was the first player in the world to be a youth, junior and senior world champion.

Nalbert played professionally in three countries. He played nine seasons for Brazilian clubs, four years in Italy, and one season in Japan. But it was always while playing for the Brazilian National Team that Nalbert would reach his greatest achievements.

He was part of Brazil’s Triple Crown of gold medals in winning the 2002 FIVB World Championship, the 2003 FIVB World Cup and the 2004 Olympic Games. During that Triple Crown run, Nalbert additionally helped Brazil capture the 2001 and 2003 FIVB World League titles to go with the 2002 World League silver medal.

He was selected as Brazil’s Sportsman of the Year in 2002.

After fighting to recover from shoulder surgery, it seemed Nalbert might not be ready to compete in the 2004 Olympics. But he overcame the pain and realized his dream of Olympic gold. His dedication, determination and spirit of leadership earned Nalbert the title of “eternal captain” of the Brazilian Men’s National Team.

Nalbert also found success playing two seasons on the FIVB Beach Tour finishing as a high as fourth place at a Grand Slam event.

Tara Cross-Battle (United States)

Not just one of the greatest players in the history of American volleyball, Tara Cross-Battle was one of the best players in the world.

From a young age, Cross-Battle was no stranger to winning. She earned two California state championships her junior and senior years of high school. Cross-Battle was also named to Volleyball Monthly magazine’s Fab 50 list of the top high school players in the country.

Cross-Battle was a two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA Division I Player of the Year and a four-time AVCA All-America selection at Long Beach State University. She was named to the All-Decade team for the 1980s as she led Long Beach State to the school’s first-ever national title in 1989 as the 49ers finished 35-2 overall. Cross-Battle set records in the NCAA for career kills with 2,767, which included a personal-best and school-record 47 kills in a single match. Her senior year, she received the Honda Award for volleyball, an award given to the most outstanding collegiate female athletes.

Her dominance continued on the U.S. Women’s National Team where she was an all-around skilled passer and world-class hitter. She became the United States’ first four-time volleyball Olympian, competing in the Games in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004.

In her debut Olympics, she helped the United States to the bronze medal in Barcelona. She competed in three FIVB World Championships (1990, 1994, 2002), winning the bronze medal in 1990 and the silver medal in 2002. She was instrumental in the United States winning gold medals in the 1995 and 2001 FIVB World Grand Prix, along with bronze medals in the 2003 FIVB World Cup and World Grand Prix. She was named Best Scorer and Most Valuable Player of the 1995 FIVB World Grand Prix. In 2001, Cross-Battle led the U.S. to the NORCECA Continental Championship and was named most valuable player in the tournament.

Cross-Battle played professionally overseas in Italy and Brazil from 1992 to 2003. After her retirement from playing she became a juniors coach back in her home state of Texas. She currently serves as head training coach for Houston Juniors Volleyball Club, which captured the 17 National Division silver medal in the 2014 USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships.

Miloslav Ejem (Czech Republic)

A former player, coach, referee, teacher, researcher, author and administrator, Miloslav Ejem has been a leader within the FIVB for over three decades and has passed on his technical knowledge to countless up-and-coming coaches.

Ejem began playing volleyball in 1948 for various clubs in the former Czechoslvakia and was a winner of the Czechoslovak Youth Championship and runner-up of the Czechoslovak Junior Championship.

He coached from 1953 until 1975 and then again from 1982 to 1984 including various men’s and women’s teams in the former Czechoslovakia, and also Iran and Finland. While coaching, he was also a certified referee from 1955 to 1976 including five years in the Czechoslovak first division.

After graduating from Charles University’s School of P.E. and Sport in 1958 with a specialization in volleyball and basketball, Ejem began his administrative career path. He served as a member and later chairman of the Methodology and Scientific Committee of the Czechoslovak Volleyball Federation from 1960-1982 and 1984-1992 - chairman and member of their administrative board from 1973 to 1982.

He also served on the FIVB Coaches Commission for nearly 30 years with stints as both the commission president and secretary. Since 1970, he has lectured at more than 70 countries around the world for the FIVB, IOC and the Olympic Solidarity program.

Ejem was a member of the FIVB Technical Commission from 1994 to 2002 and held a spot on the FIVB Board of Administration from 1998 to 2002. He helped organize several top world volleyball events in his native country such as the Women’s Championship and the European Championships. He served on many FIVB control committees and as the event technical delegate for World Cups as well as the 1992 and 2000 Olympics, Senior World Championships and many Youth and Junior World Championships.

Ejem is a lifelong learner and has a passion for sharing his knowledge. He has shared or independently authored approximately 30 books, including the FIVB Coaches Manual, and over 100 volleyball technical articles.

Sandra Pires (Brazil)

Sandra Pires helped usher in beach volleyball at the Olympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta and was a dominant force on the sand for many years.

After playing one FIVB SWATCH Tour event in 1993, Sandra skipped the 1994 international season to play on the United States’ AVP domestic tour with fellow Hall of Famer Jackie Silva as the pair won three events along with posting eight podium placements and 10 “final four” finishes. Sandra was named the AVP Rookie of the Year in 1994. Sandra and Jackie returned to the SWATCH tour in 1995, which led to consecutive annual FIVB Tour Champion titles. The duo continued their international success with gold medals at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games and the 1997 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships at Los Angeles.

For four seasons together on the FIVB SWATCH tour, Sandra and Jackie won over 84 percent of their matches going 139-26 and winning 12 of their 18 title matches. The pair never finished below fourth in 29 SWATCH stops with 28 podium placement, remarkable feat of consistency.

Sandra later joined forces with Adriana Samuel at the start of the 1998 SWATCH season as the pair played together through the 2000 season. Sandra and Adriana finished fourth at the 1999 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships before claiming the bronze medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games where Sandra was honored by her country’s Olympic Committee by becoming the first woman to carry the Brazilian flag into the opening ceremonies.

After playing with Tatiana Minello and Leila Barros the next two seasons, Sandra teamed with Ana Paula Connelly in 2003 to pursue a spot in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Highlighted by the 2003 FIVB Tour Champions award for most points accumulated over the season, Sandra and Ana Paula qualified for the 2004 Olympics where they placed fifth.

Sandra won 20 FIVB titles and reached the medal podium in 110 FIVB events.

Sandra is still involved with beach volleyball events as a commentator for Globo Sport TV. She covered the London 2012 Games and the 2012 Brazilian national tour among other events.

Roza Salikhova (Russia)

Roza Salikhova was a dominant attacker for the USSR in the late 1960s and through most of the 1970s.

Her passion for sports began while in school, but she did not begin practicing volleyball until she was a young adult. She would watch and learn from other more experienced players and quickly found herself in the team’s starting lineup after only six months playing for Uralochka, one of the nation’s top clubs!

In 1966, Salikhova joined the Soviet Union’s Women’s National Team and began to work harder than she ever had before. Her drive and determination once again paid off as she became a member of the starting six.

Together with fellow Hall of Famers Inna Ryskal, Nina Smoleeva, and Lyudmila Buldakova the team earned gold medals at both the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games as the USSR was in a class of its own during that period – one of the dominant teams in the history of the sport.

In between the two gold medals, Salikhova helped the USSR to the 1970 FIVB World Championship gold medal and later captured the silver medal at the 1974 FIVB World Championship.

In 1970, Salikhova moved to Moscow and played for Dynamo Moscow for seven seasons. During her professional career she won six USSR championships, along with six European Champions Cup titles between 1970 and 1977.

Her medal collection also includes gold medals at the 1967 and 1971 European Championships along with the inaugural FIVB World Cup in 1973. Salikhova was presented the USSR Honorable Master of Sport in 1968 and was later honored with the Order “Sign of Honor.”

While her playing career came to an end in 1977, Salikhova shared her passion for the sport with young players and went on to coach from 1980 to 2004.

Rob Slavin – Mintonette Medallion of Merit

Rob Slavin has been a staple of New England volleyball for nearly 30 years. In 1989, Slavin started the volleyball program at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston, Mass., and coached there until 2010. Over his career at Sacred Heart, Slavin accumulated 424 career wins, 14 league titles and 11 Mayflower League Coach of the Year honors. Slavin was named Boston Globe Coach of the Year in 1999 and Brockton Enterprise Coach of the Year three times. He has coached 16 All-State players and made 21 consecutive MIAA postseason tournament appearances including 6 Sectional Finals.

Slavin has been a member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) since 1992 and served on the High School All-American Committee since its inception as both the state and Region 1 Representative. He has also served in the National Coach of the Year selection process for the past six years and attended the AVCA Convention every year since 1994. Slavin currently serves on the AVCA Board of Directors as that organization’s Treasurer and High School Representative.

In addition, Slavin served as president of the Massachusetts Girls Volleyball Coaches Association (MGVCA) from 1999-2011 and currently serves on its executive committee. With Slavin at the helm, the MGVCA membership increased from 28 members to over 250. He also helped establish a website for the Association, a Hall of Fame, and an extremely popular annual clinic that features some of the top coaches nationwide. In addition, Slavin formed key partnerships with the AVCA, Reebok International, MaxPreps and the Volleyball Hall of Fame among others to ensure the future and growth of the organization. For his hard work and dedication, Slavin was honored with induction into the MGVCA Hall of Fame in 2006.

Morgan Award - Mizuno

Mizuno Corporation was established in Osaka, Japan in 1906 by Rihachi Mizuno. In the century since, Mizuno has worked steadily toward the development of sports in Japan and throughout the world. Today, Mizuno USA is located in Norcross, Ga., and continues to manufacture and distribute high quality golf, baseball, softball, running, track & field and volleyball equipment, apparel, and footwear.

Since their founding, they have taken special pride and pleasure in being able to participate in the exciting world of sports and providing sports equipment of the highest quality. Each and every one of their employees is guided by the ideal of true sportsmanship. That was true over 100 years ago and is still true today. It is evident in their corporate philosophy which, simply stated, is "Contributing to society through the advancement of sporting goods and the promotion of sports."

Mizuno products are synonymous with success and their product development strategy is to create products with features that enhance athlete performance and are unique to only Mizuno. These technological advancements make their sporting equipment and apparel go the extra mile and keep you in tip top playing form no matter the sport or the conditions. They believe in making products that work in harmony with your body, helping you to be the best athlete you can be.

Mizuno USA has been providing continuous support for, and promotion of, the sport of volleyball for over 25 years and a sponsor of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame Induction Celebration. Mizuno USA continually supports events, tournaments, leagues, and entire teams and pushes us all to ‘Never Settle.'