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U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball History

2012 | 2008 | 2004 | 2000 | 1996 | 1992 | 1988 | 1984 | 1980 | 1976 | 1972 | 1968 | 1964
All-Time Women's Olympians | Past Olympic Results | Past Olympic Rosters | All-Time Olympic Games Series Records

London, 2012
Finish: Silver
Record: 7-1 (5-0 pool play, 2-1 finals)
Team: Danielle Scott-Arruda, Tayyiba Haneef-Park, Lindsey Berg, Tamari Miyashiro, Nicole Davis, Jordan Larson, Megan Hodge, Christa Harmotto, Logan Tom, Foluke Akinradewo, Courtney Thompson, Destinee Hooker. Head Coach: Hugh McCutcheon.

The U.S. Olympic Women's Volleyball Team was poised to write a new chapter into its history books in London as it was in search of its first-ever Olympic Games gold medal on the heels of a silver-medal finish in 2008.

The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB, rolled Pool B without a setback in dominating fashion. After opening with a four-set win over Korea on July 28, Team USA downed No. 2 and defending Olympic Games champion Brazil in four sets on July 30. The U.S. continued that momentum on Aug. 1 with a sweep of No. 3 China. Team USA topped No. 7 Serbia and No. 8 Turkey in straight sets to conclude group play with a 5-0 record.

Heading into the quarterfinal round, some uncertainty moved into the picture as starting setter Lindsey Berg went down with an injury in the match with Turkey. However, the U.S. Women pushed aside Dominican Republic 25-14, 25-21, 25-22 to reach the semifinal round for the fourth straight Olympic Games with the setting of Courtney Thompson.

Berg returned to the starting lineup in the semifinals and Destinee Hooker tallied 24 points to pace the U.S. to a 25-20, 25-22, 25-22 victory over Korea to set up a repeat match-up of the 2008 Olympic Games gold-medal match with Brazil.

However, the team's dream of capturing its first Olympic Games gold medal fell one match shy once again as Brazil recovered from a 25-11 first set loss to win in four sets. The U.S. Women, which now has three Olympic Games silver medals (1984, 2008, 2012) and a bronze medal (1992), finished the tournament with a 7-1 record and 30-2 record in 2012.

Hooker ended the tournament as the Best Spiker with a .379 hitting efficiency and the second-leading scorer with 161 points. Foluke Akinradewo, another first-time Olympian, ranked second in blocking with a 0.93 block average and 10th in scoring with 95 points. Jordan Larson tallied 80 points for 16th in scoring. Hooker, Akinradewo and Larson were all first-time Olympians. Logan Tom, a four-time Olympian, ranked 20th in scoring and two-time Olympian Nicole Davis was second in Best Libero. Berg finished as the fourth-best setter despite missing a match.

Beijing, 2008
Finish: Silver
Record: 6-2 (4-1 pool play, 2-1 finals)
Team: Ogonna Nnamani, Danielle Scott-Arruda, Tayyiba Haneef-Park, Lindsey Berg, Stacy Sykora, Nicole Davis, Heather Bown, Jennifer Tamas, Kim Glass, Robyn Ah Mow-Santos, Kim Willoughby, Logan Tom. Head Coach Lang Ping.

Count this team among the overachievers in U.S. women's volleyball history. By all accounts, this team got frequent and major boosts from its bench and found its groove at the right time.

Two years before the Olympics, a different version of the team had finished ninth at the 2006 FIVB World Championship, but a year later, with the return of veteran outside hitter Logan Tom, libero Stacy Sykora and the addition of hard-hitting University of Arizona outside hitter Kim Glass, the team qualified for Beijing with a bronze medal at the 2007 FIVB World Cup in Japan.

In Beijing, there was seemingly always someone to step in if help was needed. Tom anchored one outside hitter spot, and Kim Glass saw most of the action at the other OH position, but Ogonna Nnamani and Kim Willoughby also contributed on the outside. In the middle, Heather Bown and Danielle Scott were the starters, but in a pool-play match against Venezuela when the team was sputtering, reserve middle Jen Tamas came off the bench to help turn it around. At setter, Robyn Ah Mow-Santos was the starter but Lindsey Berg saw almost as much playing time.

With all hands on deck, the U.S. scored a huge five-set victory over Italy in the quarterfinal, coming back from down 2-1 in sets. In the semis, they took care of an old nemesis, Cuba, in three sets. That sent them to the gold-medal match against Brazil, where they fell in four. But the mood was mostly upbeat afterward. After all, the silver medal equaled the highest finish in U.S. women's history, and it had been 24 years since the last one.

"Brazil ended up being better, but we fought every match," setter Lindsey Berg said. "We never gave up, and we just kept going."

Athens, 2004
Finish: 5th
Record: 2-4 (2-3 pool play, 0-1 medal round)
Team: Keba Phipps, Danielle Scott, Tayyiba Haneef, Lindsey Berg, Stacey Sykora, Elisabeth Bachman, Heather Bown, Ogonna Nnamani, Robyn Ah Mow-Santos, Nancy Metcalf, Tara Cross-Battle, Logan Tom. Head Coach Toshi Yoshida.

The fifth-place finish was beneath expectations for a team stocked with talented veterans, many of whom had played key roles in what was considered an over-achieving, fourth-place finish four years earlier in Sydney. Among the returning contributors: middle blockers Danielle Scott and Heather Bown, setter Robyn Ah Mow, libero Stacy Sykora and outside hitter Logan Tom. Another outside hitter, Tara Cross-Battle, was back for her fourth Olympics. And the U.S. was now under the direction of head coach Toshi Yoshida, who had helped the team turn things around before the Sydney Games in his role as assistant to Mick Haley.

Entering the tournament, the U.S. women had their sights set on playing for the gold, but they came out of pool play with a 2-3 record. Setbacks to two world powers, China and Russia, were explainable, but a five-set loss to Dominican Republic was a hard one to digest; the Americans had won nine previous meetings between the two teams.

The U.S. routed Cuba 3-0 in the final pool play match to advance to the second stage of the tournament, but a five-set loss to Brazil in the quarterfinals left them in a four-way tie for fifth and ended their Olympics.

"We showed everything we had, our weaknesses, our strengths," Yoshida said afterward, "but it wasn't enough."

Sydney, 2000
Finish: 4th
Record: 5-3 (4-1 pool play, 1-2 medal round)
Team: Robyn Ah Mow, Heather Bown, Tara Cross-Battle, Mickisha Hurley, Sarah Noriega, Demetria Sance, Danielle Scott, Stacy Sykora, Charlene Tagaloa, Logan Tom, Kerri Walsh and Allison Weston. Head Coach Mick Haley.

The lead up to the 2000 Sydney Games was a transition period, with a new head coach (Mick Haley then from the University of Texas) and a completely new pack of players from 1996.

The team took its lumps for a couple of years, finishing last (13th) at the 1998 FIVB World Championship and ninth at the 1999 FIVB World Cup. Late in the quadrennial, Haley made changes and additions. He brought in a knowledgeable assistant coach, Toshi Yoshida, and a host of young talent that included opposite Kerri Walsh, young outside hitter Logan Tom and middle blocker Heather Bown. Also providing a boost were veterans Danielle Scott and Tara Cross-Battle, who returned to the team after playing overseas.

To the surprise of many, the team made a nice run in Sydney and played a lot of exciting volleyball en route to a fourth-place finish. Particularly enjoyable for U.S. fans was the team’s upset quarterfinal victory over Korea, which was more experienced and defensively sound. Down 12-9 in the fifth set, the Americans rallied behind amazing digs by Walsh, a big block from Scott and kills from Scott and Tom.

The semifinal match was equally exciting, and the young U.S. team gave the towering Russians all they could handle before finally bowing 15-8 in the fifth. Two days later, the team lost to Brazil in the bronze medal match, and there were plenty of tears. But in the big picture, there was nothing for them to feel badly about.

"I'm very pleased with the fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude of our team," Haley said. "They battle."

Atlanta, 1996
Finish: 7th
Record: 5-3 (4-1 pool play, 0-1 medal round, 1-1 consolation bracket)
Team: Tara Cross-Battle, Lori Endicott, Caren Kemner, Kristin Klein, Bev Oden, Elaina Oden, Danielle Scott, Tammy Webb, Paula Weishoff, Teee Williams, Elaine Youngs and Yoko Zetterlund. Head Coach Terry Liskevych.

In 1996, the Cubans were in the midst of their Olympic dominance, winning in 1992, 1996, and 2000, making for one of the great volleyball dynasties – men or women – in the sport’s history.

But the U.S. team's confidence had been buoyed with a gold medal at the 1995 FIVB World Grand Prix, so players and coaches were gunning for an upset.

It didn't work out, though. Cuba, as it had been known to do, virtually sleepwalked through pool play, winning just three of five matches. That put them third out of fourth in their pool, which meant they drew a quarterfinal faceoff with the U.S., which had gone 4-1 in pool.

In the quarterfinal, Cuba turned it on and won in three sets, and the U.S. was relegated to the consolation bracket, where they went 1-1 in matches that were meaningless to them. That left them with a seventh-place finish. Overall, it was a big disappointment for a team that was clearly hoping to build on its bronze from Barcelona and compete for a gold.

Barcelona, 1992
Finish: Bronze
Record: 4-2 (2-1 pool play, 2-1 medal round
Team: Tara Cross-Battle, Janet Cobbs, Lori Endicott, Caren Kemner, Ruth Lawanson, Tammy Liley, Elaina Oden, Kim Oden, Teee Sanders, Liane Sato, Paula Weishoff, Yoko Zetterlund. Head Coach Terry Liskevych.

In 1992, qualifying for Games was tough enough for the U.S. Women, going five sets with Japan at the FIVB World Cup in Osaka in a do-or-don’t-go match. The U.S. edged Peru 15-12 in the fifth set to earn its Olympic berth.

In Barcelona, starting setter Lori Endicott was sick for the first match, and the U.S. lost to Japan in five sets. But the Americans bounced back in a big way in their next two pool-play matches, defeating the Soviets in five sets and crushing Spain in three to advance to the quarterfinals. There, they took care of Netherlands to set up a semifinal showdown with Cuba. The match ebbed and flowed, and the U.S. women looked to be in good shape when they took a 2-1 lead in sets. But the U.S.’s offense, struggled down the stretch, and Cuba prevailed in five.

It was a tough loss for the team, and especially for top hitter Caren Kemner, who felt that she had an off night in the semis. But after some encouraging late-night words in the Olympic Village from captain Kim Oden, Kemner rebounded and so did the team, winning the next day in straight sets over Brazil and taking home a bronze medal.

"If we didn’t win that (bronze-medal match), I probably would have been thinking about that Cuba match for the rest of my life," Kemner said afterward. "But the fact that the team finished so strongly – that we got back on the horse and rode out – I think is something that will overshadow it a little bit."

Playing in her second Olympics, Paula Weishoff was terrific, and she ended up being chosen the Outstanding Player of the Games.

Seoul, 1988
Finish: 7th
Record: 2-3 (1-2 pool play, 1-1 consolation round
Team: Deitre Collins, Caren Kemner, Laurel Brassey, Liz Masakayan, Jayne McHugh, Melissa McLinden, Kim Oden, Keba Phipps, Angela Rock, Kim Ruddins, Liane Sato, Tammy Webb. Head Coach Terry Liskevych.

The Seoul Games marked the first of three Olympics for head coach Terry Liskevych, and he says he was still figuring things out in international volleyball after coaching women's college volleyball at University of the Pacific. As he puts it, once you’ve been to an Olympics and gone through a quadrennial, you still may have butterflies in subsequent Olympics "but they fly in formation."

In Seoul, the U.S. women were in a brutal pool that included gold-medal favorite China and a potent Peru team that had won a bronze medal two years earlier at the FIVB World Championship. China beat the U.S. 3-0 in the opening match, but the Americans responded with a five-set victory over Brazil in the next match.

Unexpectedly, though, Peru upset China in pool play, which meant that Team USA's only chance of advancing to the medal round was to beat Peru 3-0 in the final pool-play match and hold them to 34 points. Into the third set, it looked as if they might pull it off. The U.S. won the first set 15-12 and set two 15-9. But the team ran out of steam in set three and lost. With nothing to play for, the U.S.’s motivation dissolved and Peru came back to win in five sets.

In the non-medal round, the U.S. lost the fifth-place match to East Germany in four sets and then finished with a five-set victory over South Korea to take seventh place.

Los Angeles, 1984
Finish: Silver
Record: 4-1 (3-0 pool play, 1-1 medal round
Team: Jeanne Beauprey, Carolyn Becker, Linda Chisholm, Rita Crockett, Laurie Flachmeier, Debbie Green, Flo Hyman, Rose Magers, Kim Ruddins, Julie Vollertsen, Paula Weishoff, Sue Woodstra. Head Coach Arie Selinger.

The U.S. was good, but China, led by future USA coach Lang Ping, was better. The U.S. beat the Chinese in pool play at the Olympics, then advanced to the gold-medal match with a 3-0 victory over Peru in the semis. But after a tight first game in the final, China pulled away quickly for a one-sided victory – 16-14, 15-3, 15-9. It wasn’t an upset. China had established itself as a world power with a dominating gold-medal performance two years earlier at the FIVB World Championship, a tournament where the U.S. finished third behind Peru.

Still, "Our goal all along was the gold, so it was disappointing," said Paula Weishoff.

Standouts along with Weishoff on the 1984 team were Debbie Green, Flo Hyman and Rita Crockett, but the "glue of the team," Weishoff says, was Sue Woodstra. "She wasn't flashy, but she did everything – pass, play defense, she was a smart hitter, she could block. She was invaluable."

Sadly, the 6-5 Hyman died a year and a half later of Marfan syndrome while playing volleyball in Japan. She was 31.

The silver medal stood as the best U.S. women’s indoor finish for 24 years, until the 2008 team equaled it with the silver medal in Beijing.

Moscow, 1980
Finish: Qualified, but did not compete due to U.S. boycott
Record: 0-0
Team: Janet Baier, Carolyn Becker, Rita Crockett, Patty Dowdell, Laurie Flachmeier, Debbie Green, Flo Hyman, Laurel Brassey, Debbie Landreth, Diane McCormick, Terry Place, Sue Woodstra. Head Coach Arie Selinger.

After not qualifying for the Olympic Games in 1972 and 1976, the U.S. Women quickly became a contender for the 1980 Olympic Games gold medal with deep and talented roster with the likes of Flo Hyman and Rita Crockett. The team was the first to go through a successful experiment in having a year-round resident training program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in 1978, which helped forge the team into a tight-knit unit. However, the U.S. was part of a 65-nation boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, which derailed the chances of the U.S. to win its first Olympic Games medal.

Montreal, 1976
Finish: Did not qualify

Munich, 1972
Finish: Did not qualify

Mexico city, 1968
Finish: 8th
Record: 0-7
Team: Patti Bright, Ann Heck, Fanny Hopeau, Ninja Jorgensen, Laurie Lewis, Miki McFadden, Marilyn McCreavy, Nancy Owen, Barbara Perry, Mary Perry, Sharon Peterson, Jane Ward. Head Coach Harlan Cohen.

In early 1967, the U.S. showed promise with a strong silver-medal finish at the FIVB World Championship. But with an asterisk. The Soviet bloc teams weren’t there. It was still a significant accomplishment for a program in its infancy, but it wasn’t a good indicator for future success, and that much proved out the following year at the Olympics in Mexico where the team didn’t win a match and finished in last place.

The team was essentially a collection of all stars that had little training time and was led by a volunteer coach. Many of the powerhouse countries in that era were like professional teams, so it wasn't a level playing field for the U.S., and like in 1964, qualifying alone was an achievement.

This was the final Olympics for Jane Ward, who was the team captain and highly respected by her teammates. "In my mind, Jane is the best who has ever played," Murphy says. "She was a great competitor, and she made her teammates better. If she made a mistake, it was headline material."

Tokyo, 1964
Finish: 5th
Record: 1-4
Team: Patti Bright, Jean Gaertner, Lou Galloway, Barb Harwerth, Linda Murphy, Gail O’Rourke, Nancy Owen, Mary Jo Peppler, Mary Perry, Sharon Peterson, Vernada Thomas, Jane Ward. Head Coach Doc Burroughs.

In 1964, the women's team was at a disadvantage against countries that put far more resources and time into their volleyball teams. With just two weeks to prepare, the team was subjected to a number of shots before boarding the plane to Japan.

"You got them in either your shoulder or your hip, so you either couldn't raise your arm or you couldn't take a step," said Linda Murphy.

That wasn't the end of the obstacles. One player, Jane Ward, was a full-time teacher in California, but the school system docked her pay for two weeks when she went to the Olympics.

And not being able to take passes overhead caused problems, too. Murphy says she had never executed a forearm pass before she got to Tokyo. Not surprisingly, the first U.S. women's Olympic team struggled, losing its first four matches – to Japan, Poland, Romania and Russia – without winning a game. The team's lone victory came in its final match against Korea. It was disappointing at the time, but perspective is necessary.

As Murphy says now, "People didn’t realize it, but just qualifying was a pretty big deal."

The original versions of these recaps, written by Don Patterson, first appeared in VolleyballUSA magazine.