History of Volleyball: USA Women in the Olympics

A timeline of events marking the history of volleyball playing American female athletes in the Olympics. 

Kerri Walsh and Misty MayKerri Walsh and Misty May


The history of volleyball in the Olympics for women, especially American players has occurred in a very short time, only spanning over the last 50 years.

Many of the participants in the first Olympics are still playing volleyball today.

Below, find the timeline of events and the Olympic rosters of female volleyball players who represented the United States in each competition below.

History of Volleyball: 1960s

1964: Tokyo Olympics - 5th place

Only six teams competed in the female division of the first Olympic games. The Japanese women were the first winners in the history of volleyball defeating the Soviet Union in the finals. 

Historical volleyball video clips of the final match between the former Soviet Union and Japan at the Tokyo Olympic Games 1964 (FIVB)

USA Olympic Team

  • Jean Gaertner
  • Lou Galloway
  • Barbara Harweth
  • Patti Lucas-Bright
  • Linda Murphy
  • Gail O'Rourke
  • Nancy Owen
  • Mary Jo Peppler
  • Mary Margaret Perry
  • Sharon Peterson
  • Verneda Thomas
  • Jane Ward

Head Coach: Doc Burroughs

1968 — Mexico City Olympics - 8th place

USA Olympic Team

  • Patti Lucas-Bright
  • Ann Heck
  • Fanny Hoppeau
  • Ninja Jorgenson
  • Laurie Lewis
  • Miki McFadden
  • Marilyn McReavy
  • Nancy Owen
  • Barbara Perry
  • Mary Margaret Perry
  • Sharon Peterson 
  • Jane Ward (captain).

Head Coach: Harlan Cohen

History of Volleyball: 1970s

1972 — Munich Olympics

No USA Olympic Team because the American women did not qualify for the 1972 games. 

1976 — Montreal Olympics

No USA Olympic Team. For eight years, in the 70s the American women did not qualify to play in an Olympic games.  DNQ - did not qualify.

History of Volleyball: 1980s

1980 — Moscow Olympics

Although the Americans had one of the strongest teams in the world at that time and were favored to compete with the USSR for the gold, US American President Jimmy Carter decided it was best for all the American teams to boycott the Moscow Olympics.  

USA Olympic Team - did not participate due to boycott

  • Janet Baier
  • Carolyn Becker
  • Rita Crockett
  • Patty Dowdell
  • Laurie Flachmeier
  • Debbie Green
  • Flo Hyman
  • Laurel Brassey
  • Debbie (Landreth) Brown
  • Diane McCormick
  • Terry Place 
  • Sue Woodstra

Head Coach: Arie Selinger 

1984 — Los Angeles Olympics

From 1972 to 1980 the American women did not compete in an Olympic games. Finally in 1984, the American women competed on home soil in front of family and friends in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

USA Olympic Team - Silver Medal

  • Paula Weishoff
  • Susan Woodstra
  • Rita Crockett
  • Laurie Flachmeier
  •  Carolyn Becker
  • Flo Hyman
  • Rose Magers
  • Julie Vollertsen
  • Debbie Green
  •  Kimberly Ruddins
  • Jeanne Beauprey
  • Linda Chisholm

Head Coach: Arie Selinger

1984 Los Angeles Olympic Women's Volleyball Final : China vs USA

 Americans - Silver Medalists

Watch Lang Ping #1 on China's team known as "the Iron Hammer," future US Olympic coach who leads the Americans to a second silver medal vs. 6' 5" Flo Hyman, American and worldwide ambassador for the sport of volleyball. 

Lang Ping, after coaching the Americans to a silver in London, then coached China to a gold medal at the Rio Olympics. 

Thoughts from Coach April...

Living in Inglewood, California at the time, I was working as a volunteer at the Forum (Prairie Avenue and Manchester) at the women's basketball venue.  

It was amazing to be court side to watch Olympic basketball coach Pat Head Summit coach the women's team, or go to the track at the Coliseum to watch Carl Lewis and the 4 x 100 relay team run.

It was a life changing experience to watch on TV as the American women's Olympic volleyball team led by Flo Hyman got their first medal, silver, in an epic battle against China, led by future Olympic American and Chinese coach Lang Ping. 

1988 — Seoul Olympics

The Americans sank in the World rankings with the new young team and new coach Terry Lyskevich finishing in 7th at the Olympics in Seoul Korea.

USA Olympic Team - 7th place 

  • Deitre Collins
  • Caren Kemner 
  • Laurel Kessel
  •  Liz Masakayan 
  • Jayne McHugh 
  • Melissa McLinden
  • Kim Oden
  • Prikeba Phipps
  • Angela Rock
  • Kimberly Ruddins
  • Liane Sato
  • Tammy Webb

Head Coach: Terry Liskevych

Thoughts from Coach April...

I tried out for US National team in 1985, the February after the Los Angeles Olympics.  I made the team despite having tweaked my ankle during the third day of tryouts.  

I trained with these girls for a short while,was a member of the 1985 World University Games in Kobe, Japan and then played with and against them and other international and Olympic stars as a professional player in Italy for a number of years.  

History of Volleyball: 1990s

1992 — Barcelona Olympics

The Americans returned to their winning ways and to the podium, after being joined by 1984 Olympic MVP Paula Weishoff who had been playing in Italy against many of the international players who participated in the Olympics. 

The Americans finished in third place. 

Two Oden sisters were on the team, older sister, team captain Kim Oden and middle sister Elaina, both starting middle blockers on the American team. 

USA Olympic Volleyball Team - Bronze Medal

Head Coach: Terry Liskevych

Watch the 1992 USA Women's Olympic volleyball Team vs Russia

1996 — Atlanta Olympics

Playing on home turf this time in the southern part of the United States in Atlanta Georgia the American women finished out of medal contention.

Two Oden sisters were on the team, middle sister Elaina and younger sister Beverly, both starting middle blockers on the American team. 

USA Olympic Team - 7th place

  • Tara Cross-Battle 
  • Lori Endicott 
  • Caren Kemner 
  • Kristin Klein 
  • Beverly Oden
  • Elaina Oden 
  • Danielle Scott 
  • Tammy Webb 
  • Paula Weishoff 
  • Tonya Williams 
  • Elaine Youngs
  • Yoko Zetterlund

Head Coach: Terry Liskevych


USA Olympic Beach Volleyball Team

The Atlanta Olympics marked the first time beach volleyball was played in an Olympic games. The Americans, favorites to win the gold, finished in 5th and 7th place, also out of medal contention. 

Barbra Fontana, Linda Hanley  - 5th

Nancy Reno, Holly McPeak - 7th

History of Volleyball: 2000s

2000 — Sydney Olympics

Current USC coach Mick Haley took the rein as the new American Olympic coach during the first games of the new millennium leading the US to a fourth place ending. 

USA Olympic Team - 4th place

  • Robyn Ah Mow
  • Heather Bown 
  • Tara Cross-Battle
  • Mickisha Hurley
  • Sarah Noriega
  • Demetria Sance
  • Danielle Scott
  • Stacy Sykora
  • Charlene Tagaloa
  • Logan Tom
  • Kerri Walsh
  • Allison Weston

Head Coach: Mick Haley

USA Olympic Beach Volleyball Team

The American beach contingent marked the first appearance of Misty May in the Olympics who was teamed with Holly McPeak. 

The other participating team was the first  all African American beach volleyball team of UCLA grads Annett Davis and her Jenny Johnson Jordan. Jenny is the daughter of US Olympic decathlete gold medalist, Rafer Johnson.  

Misty May, Holly McPeak - 6th

Annett Davis, Jenny Johnson Jordan - 7th

2004 — Athens Olympics

A new coach, former assistant coach Toshi Yoshida and a markedly taller team, the American women continued to struggle to regain the dominance of the 1980s team.  

Tara Cross Battle became the first American, male or female in the history of volleyball in the US, to participate in four Olympic games. This would be her last Olympic games. 

USA Olympic Volleyball Team - 5th place

  • Prikeba Phipps
  • Danielle Scott
  • Tayyiba Haneef
  • Lindsey Berg
  • Stacy Sykora
  • Elisabeth Bachman
  • Heather Bown
  • Ogonna Nnamani
  • Robyn Ah Mow
  • Nancy Metcalf
  • Tara Cross-Battle
  • Logan Tom

Head Coach: Toshi Yoshida

USA Olympic Beach Volleyball Team

The Athens Olympics signaled the beginning of the dominance of the American women, Misty May Treanor, daughter of indoor Olympian Butch May,  now partnered with indoor Olympian and Stanford grad Kerri Walsh.  

Misty May, Kerri Walsh - 1st

Holly McPeak, Elaine Youngs - 3rd

2008 — Beijing Olympics

In her native country, the first female coach in the history of volleyball for the Americans, Chinese Olympic gold medalist and international icon,Lang Ping led the US to their second Olympic silver medal during one of the most fantastic Olympic games ever to be presented. 

USA Olympic Volleyball Team - Silver Medal

Head Coach: Lang Ping


USA Olympic Beach Volleyball Team

Americans Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh continued their dominance in the sport of beach volleyball, continuing their winning streak through the entire process of winning a second gold medal, the finals which took lace in pouring rain against a touch Chinese team and home crowd. 

Misty May, Kerri Walsh - 1st

Nicole Branagh, Elaine Youngs - 5th

2012 - London Olympics

New Zealander, Hugh McCutcheon took over the reins of the women's team, transferring from the men's program where he led the men to a gold medal for the US in the Beijing Olympics (after an unfortunate incident where his father-in-law was killed in Beijing before the games began).  

McCutcheon led the Americans, predicted to win the gold, to the Olympic finals against an inspired Brazilian team, who beat the Americans in four sets.

USA Olympic Volleyball Team - Silver Medal

Head Coach: Hugh McCutcheon

USA Olympic Beach Volleyball Team

Kerri Walsh, mother of two boys, who later revealed she was pregnant with her daughter Scout during these third Olympic games continued her partnership with Misty May Treanor.  Together the American pair won an unprecedented third gold medal cementing their hold as the winningest beach volleyball team, male or female, in the history of volleyball on the beach.  

This is the first Olympic games for American April Ross.  

Misty May, Kerri Walsh - 1st

Jennifer Kessy, April Ross - 2nd

Misty and Kerri Make Volleyball History London Olympics in 2012

2016 - Rio de Janeiro Olympics

The Olympics in Brazil marked the first time Karch Kiraly made his appearance as an Olympic head coach having been one of  the assistant coaches to Hugh McCutcheon at the Beijing Olympics. 

Having led the American women to their first World Championships gold medal win prior to these Olympics, the Americans were ranked number one in the world prior to the start of the games.

Karch Kiraly, the first player in the history of volleyball to win gold medals in indoor and beach volleyball, led the American women to a bronze medal finish at Rio. 

Once again Lang Ping, the first female coach, now for the Chinese team, became the first person in the history of volleyball, male or female to win a gold medal as a player (1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and 2016 Olympics in Rio.)

2016 Olympic Gold Medal Match: Serbia vs China

USA Olympic Volleyball Team - Bronze Medal

Head Coach: Karch Kiraly

USA Olympic Beach Volleyball Team

Kerri Walsh, with her new partner, silver medalist in the last Olympic games American April Ross, attempted to win an unprecedented fourth gold medal in Rio.

April Ross, Kerri Walsh - 3rd 

Lauren Fendrick, Brooke Sweat - 17th

Volleyball History: Where Do You Go From Here?

Where do you need to go now? 

Here are three options: 

  1. Learn more about the brief history of volleyball
  2. Follow the suggested reading on our Sitemap page Learning How To Play (Sitemap)
  3. Or visit the pages in the American Women in the Olympics History section in the drop down menu at the top of the page

Recent Links:

History of American Women in the Olympics

History 1950s -2000s

Brief History of Volleyball

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