The announcement Thursday by USA Volleyball that Bossier City will be the host site for six women’s Olympic-qualification matches — three involving the USA — in August was a remarkable moment for a state that has produced two Olympians but is hardly known for its volleyball.
And one of them is in the news as well. Five-time USA Olympian Danielle Scott will be recognized in June when she’s inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, an honor that is long overdue.
Then earlier this week USA Volleyball announced that Scott will be honored for her bravery this past November when she tried to protect her sister from her knife-wielding estranged husband. Her sister, Stefanie Vallery, died and Scott sustained multiple stab wounds.
USA Volleyball will recognize Scott at the USA Volleyball Hall of Fame ceremonies May 22 in Columbus, Ohio.
And to top off all of that, LSU is ranked No. 4 in the AVCA Collegiate Beach Coaches Poll and will compete next week in the NCAA’s National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Bossier City, which lies adjacent to Shreveport in northwest Louisiana, not far from Arkansas and Texas, barely has volleyball. NCAA Division III Centenary is in Shreveport.
Northwestern State, about 70 miles to the south, is in the Division I Southland Conference, and Louisiana Tech is about 70 miles east, is in the Division I Conference USA. Some high schools have the sport and the club scene is slowly growing.
In 2008, Louisiana had two members of the USA team that won silver in Beijing, Scott, who was from and still lives in Baton Rouge and was a star at Long Beach State, and Kim Willoughby, who is from Napoleonville and played at Hawai’i.
Current Alabama State coach Penny Lucas White, who is from Baton Rouge and played at LSU, is a former national-team member, and so was Lizzy Fitzgerald Stemke, who is from New Orleans and played at Wisconsin.
Olympian Rose Magers Powell, who is from Texas and played at Houston, also played a season at LSU, transferring when her coach, Ruth Nelson, changed jobs. Magers Powell is now the coach at Alabama State.
And to give LSU one more plug, the 1990 and ’91 Tigers played in the NCAA final four under then coach Scott Luster. What’s more, former LSU players now head coaches include Lyndsey Oates at Northern Colorado and Jill Lytle Wilson at Virginia Tech.
Back to the tournament in Bossier City:
On August 2, Argentina plays Bulgaria and then the USA faces Kazakhstan.
The next day, the USA plays Bulgaria and Kazakhstan takes on Argentina.
On August 4, the USA plays Argentina and Kazakhstan plays Bulgaria.
You would have to imagine many of the tickets for the USA matches will be gobbled up by Texans. Volleyball is huge in the Lone Star State.
“It’s a great opportunity to expose an area of the state that really has never had much volleyball,” said veteran LSU coach Fran Flory, who grew up in Baton Rouge but won an AIAW national championship at Texas.
“We’re one of the few states that doesn’t have volleyball in every high school and that’s sad … We have to grow the sport better. What a great opportunity to expose so many young women to volleyball, a sport maybe they don’t know about.”
Katharyn DeVille is the director of the RocketFuel girls club in Shreveport that also has teams in nearby Ruston and Natchitoches. She attended Thursday’s news conference.
“We were star struck,” DeVille admitted. “Getting to meet legendary USA women’s coach Karch Kiraly and Olympic champions Danielle Scott and Foluke Akinradewo made it all real. It’s so exciting that the FIVB qualifier is happening right here in Bossier City. It’s a big deal!
“This is huge for volleyball in northwest Louisiana. RocketFuel Volleyball Club’s program has tripled in just three years, expanding to three cities, and we continue to grow. But it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to other parts of the country where volleyball is more established. We are so excited that more people will be exposed to this amazing sport, and we expect interest to skyrocket once people see these amazing athletes play first-hand.”
This is from the USA Volleyball news release:
The Americans, ranked third in the world, will host Argentina, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan in round-robin play with the winner earning a berth into the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. With each nation only being allowed to participate in two tournaments to qualify for the 2020 Games, this qualifier in Shreveport-Bossier City will play a critical role for Team USA’s hopes to compete in Tokyo.
USA coach Karch Kiraly is glad to have matches in America.
“The USA Women’s National Team has only competed in 11 Olympic Games since indoor volleyball’s original inclusion back in Tokyo, 1964,” Kiraly said. “The USA has had far fewer opportunities to actually qualify for the Games on home court, the most recent being in January of 2016 before Rio as part of the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament.
“The rarity of that occurrence has us feeling incredibly blessed, humbled and thrilled to compete for another Olympic berth this August. Thank you to everyone with Shreveport-Bossier City Sports Commission, its combined communities and USA Volleyball for making this possible. We can’t wait to let it rip in Louisiana!”
All three USA matches will air live on either the NBC Sports Network or the Olympic Channel and the August 4 match will be shown on NBC.
Scott is one of 24 who will be honored during the USA Volleyball Hall of Fame’s Dorothy C. Boyce Banquet.