Related topics

Volleyball tournament reunites 1980 Olympians

September 18, 1997

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ The 1980 U.S. volleyball team had done nothing but train for months, putting their educations on hold and leaving their friends and families behind.

Then, in April 1980, President Carter announced the United States was boycotting the Moscow Olympics. Dreams of a medal were gone. All they had to show for their time and dedication were the close friendships they developed.

Seventeen years later, the pain of missing the Olympics has dimmed, but the friendships are still strong. This weekend, four members of that 1980 team will be on the floor together again, this time as coaches.

``It’s something that since we became Division I coaches, we’ve always talked about it and kidded about it,″ said Debbie Landreth Brown, Notre Dame’s coach and co-captain of the 1980 team.

``I finally told the other coaches, `OK, here’s a date that I can host it. Do you guys want to do it?‴

The Tournament of Champions, which begins Friday, features Notre Dame; Texas A&M, which is coached by Laurie Flachmeier Corbelli; New Mexico, coached by Laurel Brassey Iversen; and California, coached by Sue Woodstra.

The coaches plan to hold a tournament every other year, rotating among the four schools.

``It’s going to be very competitive and a very, very good learning experience for our players,″ Brown said. ``I think there’s a lot to be gained from this tournament besides the competitive nature of it.″

Boycotting the Olympics had a profound effect on the team of 14, which was favored to win a medal. Seven, including Brown and Brassey Iversen, retired, deciding it was time to go back to school and get on with their lives.

The rest remained on the national team, and Corbelli and Woodstra were part of the squad that won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics.

``One of the most conflicting and difficult times for me was to see my 1980 teammates on the side and not on the playing court,″ Woodstra said of the 1984 Olympics. ``That experience in ’80 will not necessarily haunt us, but it was an extremely difficult experience.″

Corbelli agreed.

``It’s still a very, very soft spot in our hearts. ... We gave up a lot for it,″ she said. ``There was on one side relief in that we finally knew. But it was so devastating. There was a lot of grieving, a lot of tears in that it was just not going to be.″

But it wasn’t all bad, Brassey Iversen said. The training was long and hard, but they had fun, too. Corbelli still laughs when she remembers the times they’d sneak out for ice cream sundaes when the coach wasn’t around.

And to this day, the four say their teammates remain their closest friends.

``We had so many great experiences during that time, I don’t know that any of us would trade that, knowing the outcome would be the same,″ Brassey Iversen said.

Brown knows she wouldn’t.

``My closest friends to this day are the (other coaches),″ she said. ``To me, that’s worth more than any Olympic gold medal or anything we could have achieved together.″

Update hourly