In Holyoke, Massachusetts, Oct. 18, 2014, the Volleyball Hall of Fame officially welcomed six new members. Four figures from the indoor realm, one beach player, and one volleyball community leader joined the 115 other hall of famers who have been inducted since William G. Morgan, the sport’s creator, became the first inductee in 1985.
This year, legendary Dutch national team coach Joop Alberda became the 21st coach to be honored by the Hall of Fame. Now 64, Alberda took on the national team coaching job in 1994 and led his squad to Olympic gold in Atlanta just two years later. After leaving his coaching position, Alberda stayed involved in the Netherlands athletic programs, serving as the technical director of the Dutch Olympic Committee and then as technical director of the Dutch Volleyball Federation.
Nalbert Bitencourt is the ninth Brazilian player to receive his Hall of Fame plaque. The 6’5″ former hitter and passer helped his country secure gold in each of the three major international competitions in the early 2000s: the 2002 FIVB World Championships, 2003 World Cup, and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. He and the Brazilian team also claimed gold in the 2001 and 2003 World League tournaments. Bitencourt boasted a robust professional career as well, playing for clubs in his home country and in Italy and Japan. He even experimented with a career on the beach, earning a personal-best fourth-place finish in 2006, but he returned to the indoor game shortly after. Bitencourt officially retired from the sport in 2011.
The only American in the Class of 2014, Tara Cross-Battle spent 14 years with the U.S. Women’s Indoor National Team during which period she became the first American volleyball player to compete in four Olympics. In her first trip to the ultimate competition, the 1992 Barcelona Games, Cross-Battle and Team USA won bronze. Prior to her national team career, Cross-Battle helped lead Long Beach State to the school’s first-ever NCAA volleyball title in 1989. The mother of two now lives in Houston where she stays involved with the sport through training young players and coaching at area clubs.
Miloslav Ejem enters the Hall of Fame not as a player or a coach, but as a leader, someone who devoted his life to the behind-the-scenes work that helps volleyball grow. The Czech Republic native worked with the FIVB for over 30 years serving on the coaches commission, the FIVB Technical Commission, and the board of administration. He wrote and contributed to approximately 30 books and over 100 technical articles, ensuring that players and coaches will benefit from his wisdom for years to come.
Brazil’s Sandra Pires, the sole beach volleyball player in this year’s Hall of Fame class, was on the first women’s team to win beach volleyball Olympic gold when she and Jackie Silva (who was inducted in 2006) defeated fellow Brazilians Monica Rodrigues and Adriana Samuel Ramos in the final of the 1996 Atlanta Games. The 41-year-old won 20 FIVB titles in her 15-year international career, and even bagged three AVP titles and was named Rookie of the Year when she competed on the American tour in 1994 with Silva.
Roza Salikhova rounded out the six-person class. The former USSR indoor player helped her team win Olympic gold in 1968 in Mexico City and again in Munich in 1972. In between, she and her team won gold at the 1970 FIVB World Championships. In 1968 she received the USSR Honorable Master of Sport award. Over her career, she won six USSR club championships.
*The original article printed in the December 2014 issue contained an error. Roza Salikhova was not a posthumous inductee. In fact, the 70-year-old was in attendance at the ceremony to accept her plaque.