Women's Volleyball

Transcription of Tournament of Champions Press Conference

Sept. 16, 1997

Irish to Host First Tournament of Champions

Volleyball Team
Four members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic volleyball team comprise the head coaches for this weekend's Tournament of Champions: Texas A&M's Laurie Flachmeier Corbelli (top row, middle), New Mexico's Laurel Brassey Iversen (middle row, left), Notre Dame's Debbie Landreth Brown (middle row, right) and California's Sue Woodstra (bottom row, left). (Click here for image of entire team)

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame women's volleyball team will be hosting a special event on Friday, Sept. 19 and Saturday, Sept. 20. The first annual Tournament of Champions will be held at the Joyce Center Arena and will reunite four current head coaches--Debbie Landreth Brown (Notre Dame), Sue Woodstra (California), Laurie Flachmeier Corbelli (Texas A&M) and Laurel Brassey Iversen (New Mexico)--who were teammates on the 1980 U.S. Olympic volleyball team that did not participate due to the U.S. boycott. The tournament is to be held every other year, rotating among the four schools.

The first match on Friday, Sept. 19 (Cal-Texas A&M) has been moved back to a 5:30 p.m. start, with Notre Dame-New Mexico to follow at 8:00 p.m. (as originally scheduled). The consolation and championship match remain schedued for Saturday, Sept. 20 at 5:00 and 7:30 p.m.

There are nine former U.S. Olympians currently coaching in collegiate women's volleball. Of the six Division I coaches who are former Olympians, four of them will be at the Joyce Center for the Tournament of Champions. Three other members of that promising 1980 team also currently are involved in coaching, as Patty Dowdell is head coach at Texas Women's University, Debbie Green is in her 12th year as an assistant at Long Beach State (where she helped the 49ers capture the NCAA title in 1989 and '93) and Rita Crockett is coaching in the Swiss pro league.

The 1980 U.S. Olympic team was expected to challenge Russia and Japan for the gold medal, with China and Cuba also expected to be in the medal mix (the U.S. had defeated every team but Cuba in international events leading up to the Olympics). China and Japan also did not compete in 1980 due to their respective boycotts, with the USSR claiming the gold, East Germany the silver and Bulgaria the bronze (Cuba placed fourth).

Six members of the 1980 Olympic team have received "all-time great" designation from USA Volleyball, the highest honor accorded by the organization. Brown, Woodstra and Brassey Iversen are among the '80 team members to be named all-time greats, as are Green, Crockett and Flo Hyman, who died tragically in 1986 due to complications from a rare condition known as Marfan's syndrome.

Corbelli, a native of Garland, Texas, has coached during the past five seasons in her home state. The other three coaches in the Tournament of Champions are natives of Southern California: Brown (El Segundo), Woodstra (Colton) and Brassey Iversen (San Diego).

In addition to the four coaches, a fifth member of the 1980 team--Dianne McCormick French--is expected to be in attendance at the Tournament of Champions, as is Sharon Furlong (who served as an alternate on the '80 team but was considered by her teammates as part of the team). French, whose husband Rick is a Notre Dame graduate, currently works for Hewlett Packard in Colorado Springs.

The 1997 Tournament of Champions will feature two other noteworthy former U.S. Olympians: Elaina Oden and Jeff Stork. Oden is in her first season as an assistant coach with the Notre Dame women's volleyball team, after playing on the 1992 (bronze medal, Barcelona) and '96 Olympic teams. Stork served as setter for the U.S. men's volleyball team in the 1988, '92 and '96 Olympics, leading the U.S. to a gold-medal finish in '88 (Seoul) and bronze in '92.

Three of the four Tournament of Champions coaches were members of an AIAW national champion every year from 1974-77 (prior to the founding of NCAA women's championships). Corbelli led Texas Lutheran to the '74 and '75 title while Brown was a member of Southern California's 1976 national championship team. Woodstra joined Brown on the '77 USC team that went 38-0 en route to the national title (still the only undefeated season in women's college volleyball history).

The 1980 Olympic team hopefuls first trained in Huntington Beach, Calif. The roster was trimmed from 24 to 15 before the squad moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. President Jimmy Carter formally announced the United States' decision to boycott the Olympic Games on April 23.

Seven of the 14 team members retired while seven remained with the national program and helped the U.S. capture the silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles (China took the gold, Japan the bronze). Corbelli and Woodstra were among the returnees, as were other 1980 mainstays Green, Hyman and Crockett (the final two returnees were Carolyn Becker and Julie Vollertsen). The U.S. women placed seventh at the '88 Olympics, took bronze in '92 and failed to make the medal round in '96.

The 1980 team starters were as follows:

Setter:             Debbie Green
Middle Blockers:    Patty Dowdell, Terrry Place
Leftside Hitter:    Flo Hyman, Sue Woodstra
Rightside Hitter:   Debbie (Landreth) Brown

Top reserves on the 1980 team included: Laurel Brassey Iversen (setter), Laurie Flachmeier Corbelli (middle/leftside), Rita Crockett (leftside) and Diane McCormick French (middle).

Debbie Brown photo
Debbie Brown in action with USA national team. (File photo)

DEBBIE BROWN: "All four of us were very solid technical players--that's how we trained as a team and I think you'll see that a lot in how we coach our teams today. ... It's interesting that we all played a different position. The four of us never really were in competition for a position, although Sue moved to the right side for the 1984 Olympics. Laurel was a setter and great defenseive player, Laurie was a great blocker and Sue was a very good passer and a great hitter off the block. ... For some people, the people that they are closest to are their friends from high school or college. For me, it's my teammates from the national team. It's unfortunate that we are spread across the couuntry but it's a good thing that we are in the same profession and can see one another because of that. We obviously spent a lot of time together, and that developed some strong bonds and special relationships ... I've wanted to do a tournament like this for a while and we all have talked about it. Finally, I just decided to pick a date and make it happen. ... Nowadays, you can play with the national team and make a living off it. When we played, they pretty much just covered your living expenses. If we could have made a living off it, maybe some of us would have played longer. But we've all done pretty well on the coaching side, as it turns out. ... We always have wanted the others to do well but we also all are very competitive. So, this tournament will be interesting in that it will be great reunion and a time for memories yet everyone also will be focused on trying to win."

The four Tournament of Champions coaches have combined for an 848-495 (.631) record in 41-plus years as Division I head coaches. At their current schools, the four have won a combined 66.1 percent of their matches (521-267). In their combined 41 previous seasons, they have led 25 teams to the NCAA Tournament while capturing 14 conference coach of the year honors and four regional/district (same award, changed wording) coach of the year honors. Below is a breakdown of the four coaches' accomplishments:

BROWN - 287-136 (.679) in 12-plus seasons ... 170-53 (.762) in 6-plus seasons at Notre Dame

  • Conference coach of the year in 1986, '91, '92, '93, '94 and '95 ... regional coach of the year in 1992 and '93
  • 10 NCAA Tournament appearances

BRASSEY IVERSEN - 226-138 (.621) in 12-plus seasons (all at New Mexico)

  • Conference coach of the year in 1990 and '91
  • Six NCAA Tournament appearances

WOODSTRA - 136-76 (.642) in 6-plus seasons ... 26-37 (.413) in 3-plus seasons at Cal, 100-39 (.719) in 4 seasons at Pitt

  • Conference coach of the year in 1990
  • Four NCAA Tournament appearances

CORBELLI - 199-145 (.579) in 11-plus seasons ... 99-39 (.717) in 4-plus seasons at A&M

  • Conferece coach of the year in 1987, '92, '92, '94 and '95, region/district coach of the year in '92 and '95
  • Five NCAA Tournament appearances

COMBINED OVERALL TOTALS: 848-495 (.631), 25 NCAA trips, 14 conference coach of the year awards

Laurrel Brassey Iverson photo
Laurrel Brassey Iverson

LAURREL BRASSEY IVERSEN: Named one of the most influential people in volleyball by Volleyball Magazine ... at age of 19, became first woman to play on a men's intercollegiate team in any sport, as a member of the San Diego State men's volleyball team ... entered coaching in '83, as did Debbie Brown, with Brown's Arizona State squad facing Brassey's New Mexico team in, ironcially, the first career coaching match for both of the former Olympic teammates (ASU won 3-0 at home) ... Brassey also went on to play on the '88 Olympic team while Brown was an assistant coach on that team) ... has served as president of the International Olympic Academy Participant Association (IOAPA) from 1989-91 and 1995-97(she was reeelcted to serve through 1999) ... only former U.S. Olympian chosen to participate in the Olympic torch relay in Greece to commence the Centennial Olympic Games ... also carried the torch in her hometown of San Diego ... participated in the Olympic Academy in Olympia, Greece in 1986 ... played pro volleyball for Salt Lake City Stingers, Dallas Belles and in Italy ... an All-American setter at San Diego State .. awarded Wilson Sporting Goods "will to win" award in 1987 ... member of the SDSU Hall of Fame ... the Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame female athlete of the year in 1988 ... majored in Italian and classical history at SDSU ... married to Dave Iversen. Wiith USA Volleyball: Played with the national team program from 1972-80 and 1987-88 ... shared setting duties with Debbie Green on the 1980 Olympic team ... appeared in more than 350 international matches, including two Olympic Games, two World Championships, three PanAm Games and two World University Games ... took a two-year leave from UNM in 1987-88 to return to national program ... served as an assistant coach for the U.S. World Univerisity Games team in 1985, at Kobe, Japan. At New Mexico: Guided New Mexico to a school-record 28 wins in her first season ... has brought stability to the UNM program while building a winning tradition ...named Western Athletic Conference coach of the year in 1990 and '91 ... led team to 1991 WAC title (12-0) ... has guided six UNM teams to the NCAA Tournament ... had a career record at UNM of 221-133 coming into the '97 season (62-32 in the WAC) ... has coached four All-Americans at UNM. Jeff Stork: In his first year with the UNM women's volleyball program ... served as setter for the 1988, 1992 and 1996 U.S. men's volleyball teams ... led U.S. to the 1988 gold medal ... also played in three World Cups and several world championships ... a three-time All-American at Pepperdine.

Sue Woodstra photo
Sue Woodstra

SUE WOODSTRA: Named to the Volleyball Magazine second team all-time indoor team ... noted as a player for her great backrow play, passing ability and all-around play ... joins Brown and Laurel Brassey as 1980 Olympians who have been named to an "all-time great" by USA Volleyball ... served as volunteer assistant coach at Notre Dame during the 1994 season ... also had been an assistant to Debbie Brown at Arizona State, from 1985-89 ... played with Brown on USC's 1977 AIAW national championship, which remains the only undefeated team in women's volleyball history (38-0) ... one of six starters on that team to earn All-America honors ... considered one of the finest technical coaches in the country ... coached the USC Munster team in Germany during 1993, guiding them to a 28-4 record and the CEV European Cup Championship ... had an eight-year pro career, including four years in Japan with the NEC team (she led NEC to the 1988 Japan League title ... US Volleyball Association MVP in 1986 .. twice earned Mikasa Award as nation's top all-around player (1980 and '81) ... has worked with the Special Olympics ... has been a speaker and instrcutor at over 200 volleyball camps and clinics, including the NCAA Youth Education through Sports (YES) program at the 1996 NCAA Championship. With USA Volleyball: Served as co-captain of 1984 team that won silver medal at 1984 Olympic Games ... part of a talented group of leftside hitters on the 1980 Olympic team, a group which included Flo Hyman and Patty Dowdell ... coached U.S. "B" team in 1984 and 1991 ... coached 1991 U.S. team at World University Games (Sheffield, England) and Pan American Games (Havana, Cuba) ... also served as a coach at 1989 junior national elite camp (top 36 high school seniors). At California/Pitt: In her third year as head coach at Cal ... inherited a team that had not had a winning season in the 1990s and was coming off a 5-23 campaign ... led team to 13-15 season in her first year (1995), an improvement of eight wins--including two over top-25 teams ... Cal's current sophomore class was considered the third-best recruting class in the nation for 1996, according to Student Sports magazine ... the program added a Fab 50 recruit to the current freshman class ... head coach at Pitt from 1989-92, leading the Panthers to a 100-39 record, four BIG EAST titles and four NCAA Tournament appearances ... BIG EAST coach of the year in 1990 ... coached two All-Americans and four conference MVPs at Pitt ... currently serves as chairperson for the district 8 all-region awards committee ... also a member of the AVCA All-America committee ... also has served as U.S. Olympic Festival tryout director and as a member of the USVBA board of directors and NCAA mideast regional committee.

Laurie Corbelli photo
Laurie Corbelli

LAURIE AND JOHN CORBELLI: One of three husband-and-wife combinations currently in Division I women's volleyball ... the others are Cindy Frederick and Mashallah Farokhmanesh (Washington St.) and Jeff and Marty Mazzochi (Portland St.) ... are longtime friends with University of San Francisco women's basketball co-head coaches Bill Nepfel and Mary Hile-Nepfel, who are entering their 11th season together at USF and have led the Lady Dons to three straight NCAA Tournaments (USF plays at Notre Dame this season on Dec. 28) ... have led Texas A&M to four straight NCAAs and a 99-39 record in four-plus seasons ... became second team in any sport at Texas A&M ever to beat a #1-ranked team, after knocking off Stanford in 1995 ... broke into the national top 10 in 1996 ... have coached two All-Americans, including current player Kristie Smedsrud ... 27-8 in their first year ... first coached together with 1984 U.S. women's national team that toured the Far East (John was head coach, Laurie the assistant) ... had been only husband and wife to serve co-currently as Division I head coaches, when John was at San Jose State and Laurie at Santa Clara (John's Spartans won three of four matches against Laurie's Broncos) ... married in 1986 ... daughter Rachel was born in 1991, son Russell in 1994 ... Sue Woodstra was the maid of honor at their wedding and Debbie Brown is Russell's godmother ... first met in 1979 while training with their respective national teams in Colorado Springs ... John became an assistant on the women's national team in August of 1982, with Laurie a player on that team ... the A&M opportunity brought an end to uncomfortable battles for recruits. LAURIE (FLACHMEIER) CORBELLI: On verge of her 200th career coaching victory (199-145) and 100th win at A&M (99-39) ... known in her playing days as a dominating blocker ... raised in Garland, Texas ... led Texas Lutheran to a 40-17 season and the 1975 AIAW national championship as a freshman ... MVP of the 1976 AAU Junior Olympics (coached by current Michigan State coach Chuck Erbe), held in Montreal (the team was able to attend the '76 Olympics) ... led Texas Lutheran to AIAW title in 1976, earning All-America honors after a 53-11 season ... broke her leg during her junior season, as TL went 35-17 while the Debbie Landreth-led USC team won the '77 AIAW title ... left school to train with national team in 1978 ... played Major League Volleyball for the San Jose Golddiggers from 1987-89 (she was 87 MVP and MVP of the 89 all-star game) ... has served as speaker and instructor at 50-plus camps and clinics ... a member of the Hall of Fame at Garland HS, Texas Lutheran and the NAIA. With USA Volleyball: Member of national team program from 1978-84 ... helped lead team to silver-medal finish in '84 Olympics ... the '84 team was coached by Arie Selinger, with John Corbelli serving as an assistant ... also played in '78 and '82 World Championships, '79 and '83 Pan Am Games and '79 World Cup ... played in 25 countries ... currently serves on USA Volleyball board of directors and executive committee ... one of seven members of 1980 Olympic team who returned for 84 (she was 23 at time of '80 Boycott) ... part of '84 Olympic contingent that included Mary Lou Retton, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Evander Holyfield ... 1977 USVBA rookie of the year ... '92 USVBA senior division player of the year ... three-time USVBA All-American ('85, '86 and '92) ... has served on all-district and coach of the year award committees ... also a member of the national team player and coach selection committees. Coaching Notes: Has led her teams to a record of 160-74 over the past seven-plus seasons ... two-time Southwest Conference coach of the year ... '95 district coach of the year ... 61-35 at Santa Clara, where she twice earned West Coast Conference coach of the year ... '92 region coach of the year at SCU ... led SCU to '92 NCAAs ... also earned WCC coach of the year honors in '87, after guiding the University of San Francisco to a third-place conference finish ... coached at USF from 1986-89 and at SCU from 1990-92. John Corbelli: 18 years of coaching experience ... head coach at San Jose State from 1990-92, served as SJSU assistant previous two years ... head coach of Chrysler Women's Volleyball team that won '87 and '88 USVBA national title ... made coaching debut at his alma mater, UC Santa Barbara, where he assisted with the men and the women ... served as assistant coach for '81 Big Eight Conference champion Nebraska ... graduated from UCSB in '79 ... a member of the U.S. men's national team in 1978 and 79 ... played in the '79 World University Games ... a native of Kailua, Hawaii, where he was nudged into volleyball by the coach at Punahou HS ... played at UCSB for Rudy Suwara, who went on to be a national team assistant ... helped UCSB go 31-1 his freshman yeaar, with the lone loss coming to UCLA in NCAA title match ... played professionally and did some youth coaching in Finland in the late 70s/early 80s ... took over SJSU program as interim coach in 1990 for Dick Montgomery, who was on sabbatical (Montgomery never returned and John served as coach in '91 and 92) ... led SJSU to 21-9 record and two NCAA wins in 1990.

Debbie Brown photo
Debbie Landreth Brown, who now coaches Notre Dame, was a member of the 1980 Olympic team. (File photo)

DEBBIE BROWN: Has won six conference coach of the year awards (in the last nine years), including five coach of the year awards in her first six seasons at Notre Dame ... named the Mideast region coach of the year in 1992 and '93 ... named 1976 and '77 national player of the year after leading USC to consecutive AIAW national titles, including an unmatched undefeated season in 77 (38-0) and a 34-1 season in '76 (for a two-year run of 72-1) ... left USC before her junior year to train with the national team, playing on the 1978 team that took 5th the World Championships ... has played and coached in 22 countries ... her teams have traditionally been known for their ball control and backrow defense ... Laurie Corbelli was to be her bride's maid and Sue Woodstra her maid of honor but both had to miss the wedding due to a late scheduling change that had them playing in Japan at the time with the U.S. national team. With USA Volleyball: Joins Woodstra and Brassey Iversen as three of five players from the 1980 Olympic team that have been named an "all-time great" by USA Volleyball ... served as national team assistant from 1988-90, with her former 1980 Olympic teammate Laurel Brassey and current Irish assistant Elaine Oden serving as members of the U.S. program during that time ... served as a U.S. national team assistant at the 1988 Olympics and 1990 World Championships, where the U.S. claimed the bronze medal ... received the 1983 USVBA sportsmanship awards ... co-captain of the 1980 Olympic team ... also played in the 1974 and 1978 (5th-place) World Championships ... her duties as a U.S. national team assistant included improving the team's defense ... an eight-time USVBA All-American ... played on USVBA national championship teams in three different decades (1975, '85, '86 and '92) ...served as president of American Volleyball Coaches Association from 1995-96. Coaching Notes: Owns career coaching record of 287-136 in 12-plus seasons, 170-53 in six-plus seeason at Notre Dame ... has led nine of her 12 teams to top-25 ranking infinal AVCA poll and 10 of those teams into the NCAA Tournament, including NCAA regional appearance for Notre Dame in 1993 (regional final), '94 and '95 ... Notre Dame is 63-0 vs. conference opponents since her arrival in 1991 ... has led the Irish to a #5 national ranking in 1995 and as high as #6 in 1996 ... coached three All-Americans at Arizona State, including three-time Olympian Tammy Webb Liley while two of her Notre Dame players have received All-America recognition and a third, current senior Jaimie Lee, captained the U.S. to the silver medal at the 1997 World University Games ... the current Notre Dame freshman class was dubbed as the best in the nation by Student Sports magazine. Elaina Oden: Member of U.S. national team program from 1986-97 ... in her first year as assistant coach at Notre Dame ... played in '92 Olympics (bronze medal, Barcelona) and in '96 ... member of Volleyball Monthly's All-Time Fab-50 elite team ... member of NCAA All-Decade team for the 1980s ... a three -time All-American at the University of the Pacific ... led UOP to the NCAA title in 1985 and '86 ... a native of Irvine, Calif. ... part of a well-known volleyball family ... her sister Kim was NCAA player of the year at Stanford in '84 and '85 and teamed with Elaina at the '92 Olympics ... Kim currently is an assistant coach at North Carolina, which plays at Notre Dame on Oct. 17... her sister Bev earned NCAA player of the year honors at Stanford in 1990 and was a teammate of Elaina's at the '96 Olympics ... Bev currently works for Sports Illustrated for Women magazine ... each of the Oden's was named to the AVCA all-1980s team (with Kim earning player of the decade honors).

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