Former Texas A&M volleyball standout Stacy Sykora helped lead the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team to the gold medal at the 18th FIVB World Grand Prix. The FIVB World Grand Prix is the premier annual international women’s volleyball event.
Sykora was the team’s designated libero as USA went 5-0 in the round-robin Final Round, which ended Sunday with USA’s three-set victory over Japan in Ningbo, China. Sykora was rated the third best digger and the fifth best libero in the final tournament.
It marked the third FIVB World Grand Prix title for the Americans, who also won the event in 1995 and 2001. The U.S., which closed out the overall competition on an 11-match winning streak, reached the Final Round by finishing second in the nine-match preliminary round with a 7-2 record, including the final six matches that had wins over Italy and China among the Final Round participants.
During the Final Round, the U.S. rallied from a two-set deficit to defeat Poland in five sets in the opener on Aug. 25. The Americans followed with a convincing three-set victory over Italy on Aug. 26 and then pulled off a thrilling five-set victory over two-time World Grand Prix defending champion Brazil on Aug. 27. Team USA topped host China in three sets on Aug. 28.
Entering its final match of the tournament, the U.S. needed a win over Japan or at least reach the fifth set to be guaranteed the gold medal. The Americans found themselves trailing in each set against Japan but rallied to get the sweep, 26-24, 25-20, 25-23.
Sykora claimed a team-high 13 digs to go with three excellent service receptions on five attempts in the victory against Japan.
Go to USAVolleyball.org for a complete wrap-up of the World Grand Prix.
Sykora, Texas A&M’s only varsity athlete to compete in three Olympics, was a three-year starting outside hitter for the nationally ranked Aggies from 1995-98. Always a crowd favorite because of her high flying, explosive attacks, her cat-like quickness and her phenomenal digs, the 5-10 Burleson, Texas, native capped her A&M career by being named to the 1998 All-America second-team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association for the second consecutive year.
Sykora led the Big 12 Conference and was ninth in the country in digs per game (4.37) in her final season and led the conference in digs per game with 4.54 in conference games only, breaking the league record of 4.44 which she set in 1996.
Sykora had a career year in her final season, hitting .277 and leading A&M in kills per game (4.74) and digs per game (4.37) while also directing the Aggies to their sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and a 21-9 record. She finished her career ranked second in the A&M career records in both kills (1,586) and digs (1,471) and set 23 A&M single match, Big 12 season and Big 12 career marks.
Following her senior volleyball season, Sykora began training with the USA Volleyball national team in January 1999. She realize a childhood dream when she played in her first Olympics at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, where she was Team USA’s designated libero, a defensive specialist position that was making its Olympic debut.
Having quickly established herself as one of the top liberos in the world while leading USA to a No. 1 world ranking, Sykora made her second Olympic team in 2004. Sykora went on to be named the “Best Digger” at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Sykora competed in her third Olympic Games in Beijing, China, in 2008 and took home her first medal as the U.S. Olympic Women’s Indoor Volleyball Team captured silver. The runner-up finish matched Team USA’s highest Olympic finish, set at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Laurie Corbelli, who coached Sykora at A&M and is beginning her 18th season as head coach of the Aggies, was a member of that ’84 team.
When not competing for the National Team, Sykora plays professional volleyball and will play for Volei Futuro in Aracatuba, Sao Paulo, Brazil, this season.