In an old mill-turned-event space in Holyoke, Mass., a crowd gathered to honor six of the world’s volleyball legends. For the most part, the inductees of the Volleyball Hall of Fame Class of 2012 blended in with the spectators, a mix of volleyball players, coaches, and fans, except perhaps Peter Blangé of the Netherlands, who towered over the crowd at 6'8". At the Brazilian delegation’s table, inductee Mauricio Lima’s son snatched the Spalding-volleyball centerpiece off the table and began setting it with what one might call “golden hands.”
In fact, it was a night filled with golden hands. All the inductees, with the exception of Mike Dodd of the U.S., were setters, and since Dodd was inducted as a beach player he can be considered an honorary setter. In his speech, Blangé declared his choice to become a setter as one made out of laziness, and he described himself practicing his sets laying on his back in bed pushing the ball to the ceiling, getting it as close as possible without touching. This sounds more like dedication and focus than laziness, but Blangé was full of self-depreciating jokes and anecdotes and was definitely an audience favorite. Later on in the evening, one of the Russian inductees, Georgy Mondzolevskiy, mounted the stage and was dwarfed by the other much taller inductees. It is hard for many modern players to imagine a game where someone Mondzolevskiy’s size could play on an Olympic volleyball team. Yet he did, and set his team to gold the first two times indoor volleyball was an Olympic sport (1964 and 1968).
The other Russian inductee, and the only female player in the Class of 2012, Lyudmila Buldakova, passed away in 2006 but was represented by her daughter Tatiana Buldakova. Tatiana spoke with great love and admiration, tearing up a little as she spoke of her incredibly talented mother. Family was a big topic in many of the inductees’ acceptance speeches. Said Lima, “[My family members] were the pillars which always supported my career and my life. My mother, my brothers, a great deal of this nomination is yours. I want to thank my wife Alberta and my children, and tell you what I do in my life is for you. Another great deal of this nomination is yours.” When he returned to his seat, each of his children jumped from their chairs to hug him and kiss him on the cheek. Dodd gave shout outs to his wife and younger daughter Dominique who accompanied him to the ceremony and waved to the camera shooting the live webcast for his daughter Dalas who is a sophomore at St. Mary’s College (Calif.) where she is a redshirt freshmen setter (naturally).
Jeff Stork, the second nominee from the U.S., highlighted another theme that most of the inductees touched on in their speeches: the contribution of their teammates over the years. “Volleyball is not an individual sport,” he said, “and you cannot succeed alone.”
The inductees all had their time to say thanks, but it is to them that volleyball fans and players around the world must give thanks, for promoting the sport and being the driving force behind its rise in popularity over the years.
Meet the Volleyball Hall of Fame Class of 2012
Peter Blangé (Netherlands)
Set for the Dutch National Team from 1984 to 2000, competing in four Olympics, winning gold in 1996. After retirement, coached for Dutch club ORTEC Rotterdam Nesselande and the Dutch Men’s National Team.
Lyudmila Buldakova (Russia)
Set and hit for the Soviet Women’s National Team from 1956-1975. Was named USSR Honorable Master of Sport in 1960. Won consecutive Olympic golds in 1968 and 1972. Coached youth volleyball after retirement.
Mike Dodd (United States)
Played both basketball and volleyball at San Diego State University, was drafted to the NBA but chose to play beach volleyball instead. Partnered with Tim Hovland for the majority of his career. Ranks in the top 10 in the history of beach volleyball for tournaments played, event titles, and career earnings.
Mauricio Lima (Brazil)
One of only two male volleyball players to compete in five Olympics (the other being Italy’s Andrea Giani). Led Brazil to gold in the 1992 and 2004 Olympics and four World League titles in 1993, 2001, 2003, and 2004. Currently the Director of Volleyball and Public Relations for team Medley/Campinas, a professional club in Brazil.
Georgy Mondzolevskiy (Russia)
Played for the Central Army Sports Club and for the USSR National Men’s Team concurrently from 1951 to 1968. Led the USSR to gold the first two years that volleyball was an Olympic sport, 1964 and 1968. Received the Honorable Master of Sport from the USSR in 1960.
Jeff Stork (United States)
Played for Pepperdine where he was a three-time All-American. Member of three Olympic teams, winning gold in 1988. Helped the U.S. win the Triple Crown of volleyball, the Olympic gold medal in 1988, FIVB World Cup in 1985, and the 1986 FIVB World Championship. Named to the USA Volleyball Men’s 75th Anniversary All-Era Team.
Originally published in January 2013