The Oracles of Volleyball … a veritable who’s who of volleyball greats, including Misty May-Treanor, Lloy Ball, Holly McPeak, Nicole Davis, Kent Steffes, Kim Oden, Scott Fortune, Tayyiba Haneef-Park, Bob Ctvrtlik, Dain Blanton, Ryan Millar, Eric Fonoimoana, Gabe Gardner, Todd Rogers, and Danielle Scott-Arruda … commenting on the Rio Olympic Games with their legendary insight/

The past 24 hours have brought the highs and the lows of the Olympic Games into plain view for American volleyball fans. With Kerri and April’s bronze medal win at the beach over the world’s number one to the very tough five-set loss in semifinals for our women against Serbia …

What are your thoughts – as U.S. Olympians who have been there – on the past 24 hours and the next 24 hours as our men play Italy in semifinals and the women regroup for the bronze medal match?

Bob Ctvrlik
U.S. Olympian, indoor, (1988, 1992, 1996)
Olympic gold medalist, 1988; Olympic bronze medalist, 1992

I’ve always said that I am just as proud, or maybe even prouder, of our 1992 men’s bronze medal as our 1988 gold medal. There is a huge difference between 3rd and 4th, and although it is devastating to have gold medal dreams shattered, players have to dig deep to find the needed motivation for the bronze medal match.

Kerri and April’s win was inspiring and a great showing of the will to win even when not a whole lot is going your way.  That match is a testimonial of playing every point and hustling for every point.  Against an excellent opponent they just ground out the victory. Great job!

And our indoor men, just go out and play how you have trained to play. People sometimes think that you have to have a perfect match. Nothing could be further from the truth. Play your game, focus on every point, stick to the game plan and in the end, the team that wins the Serve/Pass game usually ends up on top. Can’t wait to see the match!!

Couldn’t be prouder of all of the teams!!!!

Nicole Davis
U.S. Olympian, indoor (2008, 2012)
Olympic silver medalist, 2008, 2012

Amazing show of courage and resiliency from April and Kerri. I’m sure that match was probably one of the most difficult matches, emotionally, of their careers. They revealed a lot about their character. Beautiful! Obviously a devastating loss for the WNT indoor. They had many chances to win, fought really hard after Serbia played an almost perfect third set…in the end it seemed like too many unforced errors on the side of the USA. I think they will bounce back, and just like Kerri and April, show what great competitors and champions they are, and win a bronze medal.  I predict China to win gold. For the men, they are getting better and better. I think they know the Italian team well, are more talented and should win, but it’s the Olympics – anything is possible!

Gabe Gardner
U.S. Olympian, indoor (2004, 2008)
Olympic gold medalist, 2008

Kerri and April had their best match of their career together, and it showed right down to the last points. They are true champions. I get very disappointed in the coverage of Olympics when commentators and media mention something such as “they had to settle for bronze.” These two women should be so proud of the match they played and the hardware they brought home, as should the rest of our country and volleyball fans. It was truly an honor to watch them play with pride for USA in such a great match. 

Women’s indoor team will follow in Keri and Aprils footsteps and show their pride and determination to win bronze. There is no doubt in my mind they will pull it off. The best teams lose sometimes in key matches because, as we saw with Serbia, the other team just plays their best volleyball one big match. The USA women will bring home the bronze and they should be equally as proud. A medal is really something special, no matter the color.

The men’s team is the last surviving team still with a shot at gold. Those of us on the men’s side never want to lose to Italy, especially because we’ve played against them for years. I was sick watching us lose in 2012 to Italy, and I know other men’s players were as well. Bottom line, we can guarantee a medal with a win, so everything is riding on this one match. I think Italy will play well, but ultimately the USA is such a different team than the one Italy faced in pool play, so much more determined and confident. I am rooting for the team to feel it from the moment they step on the court and continue this late tournament run. USA over Italia.

Tayyiba Haneef-Park
U.S. Olympian, indoor (2004, 2008, 2012)
U.S. silver medalist, 2008 & 2012

Oh the thrill of a win and the agony of defeat. I feel vulnerable and helpless riding this wave of emotions watching our U.S. teams compete. It’s different this time around where I have control of nothing. As an athlete competing you’re in a bubble and you hear of the wins and losses, but you don’t live the high and lows of each and every point from each team.

What I have seen the last 48 hours is determination, integrity, trust, belief and a tremendous amount of sacrifice and commitment to one another on and off the court. No one said the Olympics would be easy and all of our teams have faced overwhelming obstacles these past few days. The beautiful thing that happens is watching the grind that unfolds because of it. Backs against the wall, Kerri and April played two spectacular sets in a row to capture the bronze medal and define, “bronze as the new gold.” Starting off 0-2 in pool play, the men came out on fire looking like a beast unleashed to defeat Poland 3-0 in quarterfinals. And though the women’s team fell during an incredible five-set match to Serbia, it was inspiring to watch they rallied around one another that fourth and fifth set. Now the women have a day to brush off their emotions and refocus their strategies. The color may be different, but the goal is still the same – win a medal. And to do that they need to come out with the same confidence that has guided them through the tournament. Netherlands surely took note of some of their vulnerabilities during the last match, so it’s time for the ladies to dig deep with every fiber of their being and be ready to battle. The beauty of it all is that they don’t have to overcompensate and be perfect. They just need to be better than Netherlands to which they are fully capable of.

Lloy Ball
U.S. Olympia, indoor (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008)
Olympic gold medalist, 2008

The USA women’s team had chances against Serbia. A few too many missed serves and bad free ball passes really do make a difference at every level. Credit to the too big studs from Serbia who just kept swinging. I know the injury to Foluke killed our mojo, but that is what happens at the Olympic Games. Gotta have the next person step up. I thought Karsta Lowe had a hell of a match. Sorry they won’t play for gold, but I know they will bring tons of energy in to the bronze medal match.

Men’s Semi today… I gotta believe this will be a different match than in pool play. USA team is rolling and playing with confidence. Like with the women’s match we need to serve well, but aggressively and have good ball control. I know that seems so simple, but in this event as it gets to winning time, it’s the small things that truly make the difference. Both teams can get aces, big kills and big blocks. But it will be the team that makes the smart play or the easy play after 20 points that will win. It’s going to be tight. A good start in set one would be great, but it’s not a must. This one will go 4 or 5!! Our system vs. Italia’s big two bombers. Stop one of them (Ivan or Juan) and we are playing for GOLD!!!

Scott Fortune
U.S. Olympian, indoor (1988, 1992, 1996)
Olympic gold medalist, indoor, 1988; Olympic bronze medalist, indoor 1992

The Olympics is about highs and lows and the last days provide all that to the USA Volleyball Teams. The lows is the tough losses in the semi’s, when that night you can’t sleep and play almost every single play back in your head of what you could have done differently. It carries over into the next day and match. The toughest match we had to play was in the 1992 Olympics for the bronze. We got crushed by Cuba in the first set, then it takes that mental strength and resolve to persevere. Proud how the 92 team dug deep to come home with a bronze medal and saw the similar fight with Kerri and April. So proud of their accomplishment to reach the medal stand. The indoor women need to channel the success from Kerri and April to dig deep and fight for the bronze. Good luck to the men’s in the semi and go down swinging with your best.

Danielle Scott-Arruda
U.S. Olympian, indoor (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012)
U.S. Olympic silver medalist, 2008 & 2012

Our men’s team still have an opportunity to play for the gold. Will be exciting to watch. They’ve played Italy multiple times so both teams know each other well. Should make for an amazing match. This is going to be a time to use all the mindset techniques that Mike Gervais has been training with the team and staff to regroup and dig deep. A bronze medal is still an amazing accomplishment. I know that USA will continue with a fighting spirit and be All IN.