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12 Strong: Bartsch-Hackley and USA Women’s Volleyball Strike Gold

By Mark Jurgena

The roar went up August 8th at 12:59 a.m. from Kahok Stadium. That roar wasn’t for the purple and white, but instead the red, white, and blue as Collinsville High School alum Michelle Bartsch-Hackley and her USA Women’s volleyball teammates finished off a three game sweep of Brazil for the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

     Although the match began at 11:30 p.m. on August 7th, a crowd of approximately 300 people still assembled to watch the match at the outdoor home of the Kahoks. The contest was shown on a big screen near the sideline of the turf field. The stadium lights were off to see the screen better. The public watch party was coordinated by the Collinsville Parks and Recreation Department and hosted by Collinsville High.

     “What a great night for our Kahok Community!” said CHS athletic director Clay Smith. “Special thanks to Collinsville Parks and Rec for all the planning of different scenarios to make this possible. Tonight was a special night for Michelle and her family! It was awesome to watch the excitement in Kahok Stadium and share it with our fans! Proud to be a Kahok!”

     It was a special night indeed for Bartsch-Hackley. She finished second in scoring for Team USA with 14 points on 11 kills, two blocks, and even recorded an ace off a serve in the second set.

     She got things going early for the USA by having a huge first set with eight kills including the first point of the match and the final point of the set to win the opener 25-21.

     In the 2nd set her scoring leveled off but she never left the floor as the USA won the set 25-19.

     The third set was all USA as they rolled over their South American counterparts 25-14. That set saw Bartsch-Hackley all over the floor including an amazing hustle play well past the back line to keep a rally going.

     She also went 10-for-11 in service receptions on the night and added three digs.

     USA women’s volleyball coach Karch Kiraly had discussed the importance of this aspect of the game in a USA Volleyball press release earlier that day.

     ““Our serve-receivers are having great tournaments: Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, Jordan Larson and our libero Justine Wong-Orantes,” he said. “We’re probably the two best serve-receiving teams in the tournament and that’s reflected in where we both sit. A key element to having success here is controlling the other team’s serve.”

     The gold medal victory was the first for the USA women’s volleyball team since the inception of the sport at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

     After going through some injuries and some struggles in winning their pool, the USA women dominated the knockout round of the tournament winning all nine sets they played.

     On August 5th, the USA advanced to the gold medal final by sweeping Serbia in the semifinals 3-0. Bartsch-Hackley scored nine points for the American side. She recorded seven kills and two blocks on the evening. She also had eight digs and successfully returned five serves.

     On August 3rd, the U.S. hammered the Dominican Republic side 3-0. Bartsch-Hackley had 11 kills and scored a point for the USA on a block. She added 13 service receptions and seven digs.

     The U.S. Olympic team went 23-2 during the 2021 season. Their record includes matches from both the Tokyo Olympics and the pre-Olympic tournament in Italy.

     They beat Brazil in the finals of both tournaments.

Collinsville Olympic Notes:

     -Another Kahok alum, Travis Dunnette, who currently works for USA Basketball as the Coordinator for Apparel and Equipment was on hand in Tokyo. The men’s and women’s teams both won gold, as did the women’s 3-on-3 team.

     -The Olympic journey for Bartsch-Hackley reminded many locals of the journey former Collinsville resident Tom Jager had in swimming during the 1980s and early 1990s. Jager won a total of seven Olympic medals over three Olympics including five golds on 4×100 meter relay teams.

     During the 1984 Los Angeles Games they won the 4x100m freestyle and medley relays. His relay teams repeated the trick in 1988 at the Seoul Olympics. In 1992, at the Barcelona Games, they struck gold in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay.

     Jager won two medals in the individual 50 meter freestyle event as well. He struck silver in Seoul and won the bronze in Barcelona.

Photo: A watch party was held at Kahok stadium. Photo by Mark Jurgena.

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