Put Some Respect On Her Name
If you've watched any Olympic volleyball the last two weeks, you'll know what I'm talking about here. NBC commentator Kevin Barnett wanted backup setter Micha Hancock to replace Illini legend Jordyn Poulter in the starting lineup. He never shut up about it.
And that's not an exaggeration. If you want your first-ever viral tweet, go watch 15 hours of Olympic volleyball replays from the last two weeks and make a supercut of Barnett saying "and that's why I'd pull Poulter out and put Hancock in" 33 different times.
Make sure you get the part where he talks about having dinner with Hancock's dad.
Here's an example from a clip I tweeted last week. Sound on.
Find someone who loves you like NBC’s Kevin Barnett loves Jordyn Poulter’s backup. pic.twitter.com/joLG8oan9t— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) July 29, 2021
He then... got his wish? I guess? Jordyn Poulter came down on a teammate's foot against Italy and rolled her ankle. She missed the rest of that match and the quarterfinal match against the Dominican Republic. Hancock performed well in her absence - I mean, Hancock was supposed to be the starter this summer; Poulter beat her out in the preliminary matches leading up to the Olympics - and Team USA advanced to the semifinals. Poulter returned from her injury for the semifinals and, well... let me back up for a second.
Volleyball feels like an American sport, right? I mean, Karch Kiraly and the 1984 team, all of those beach volleyball gold medals, Maverick and Goose vs. Iceman and Slider. It feels like something we would have dominated over the years.
But that's not the case. Women's Olympic volleyball has been dominated by other countries. The Soviet Union won gold every Olympics but one from 1968 to 1988 (well, plus the year they were banned). Cuba won three golds in a row in 1992, 1996, and 2000. Brazil won gold in 2008 and 2012.
And the US women? Have never won gold (sorry, HAD never won gold). Here's the results since 1964: 5th, 8th, DNP, DNP, DNP, 2nd, 7th, 3rd, 7th, 4th, 5th, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd.
Sorry if that's a spoiler, but while you were asleep last night, USA Women's Volleyball, led by former Illini Jordyn Poulter and Michelle Bartch-Hackley, beat Brazil 25-21, 25-20, 25-14 to win gold. Only allowing Brazil 21, 20, and 14 is complete domination. 25-14 in the final set is basically Trent hitting that crossover three at Michigan while the Michigan bench stood there stunned at the 26-point deficit.
I should note, this article isn't fair to fellow-Illini Michelle Bartch-Hackley. She was dominating in this one with eight kills in the first set to set the tone. I'm not tying to ignore that performance. Born in Maryville (MADISON COUNTY REPRESENT), lives in Champaign, starred as an Illini, starting for the first Olympic gold medal winner. Go Bartchy.
But I want to focus on Jordyn Poulter. Here, go watch these seven minutes of highlights. Come on - you have seven minutes. Take the time. You need to see this Jordyn Poulter performance.
(And yes, play by play guy Paul Sunderland says "Bartch-Hackley" several times when he means "Poulter", which, if you think about it, is maybe the best international Illini athletics moment in years. Just so hard to keep these Illini Olympic volleyball starters separate.)
(Edit: NBC wants your clicks, so it looks like you'll have to follow that link to watch the video on YouTube.)
Now go back and drag the slider to exactly 4:56. Watch the USA huddle after winning the second set to go up 2-0. Watch Poulter's face as she talks to her teammates.
Where have we seen that before?
Been thinking about this video a lot today. Specifically how the entire team is locked in on Jordyn Poulter. I’m a Proper State Of Mind guy, and when a team has leaders they believe in... https://t.co/ipULkeN2h6— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) October 30, 2018
I'm not kidding - I've thought about that very specific video for years. Those faces looking at her - those are teammates who 1000% believe in their leader. Ask any coach and they'll tell you how important that is.
Also, in going back to find that tweet, I saw just how obsessed I was with Jordyn Poulter's leadership during that Final Four run:
Jordyn Poulter’s leadership is just... man, have her teach that to every team on campus.— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) December 8, 2018
What does she do for an encore? Oh, you know, helps lead Team USA to their first-ever gold medal in women's volleyball. Fights back from an ankle injury to engineer a 3-0 win over Serbia and a 3-0 win over Brazil. Cements herself as one of the legendary Illini athletes of the last decade. If we Rushmore'd the decade, I know it would include Ayo Dosunmu, Jordyn Poulter, and Isaiah Martinez. I'd have to think about the fourth.
Actually, let's not think about the fourth. I don't want the comments below to become some big "who is the fourth face on that Rushmore?" contest. This is about Jordyn Poulter. And how Kevin Barnett owes her a public apology.
Actually, I don't care about Kevin Barnett. Not anymore. Jordyn let her setting do the talking, played perhaps the best match of her life on the final day of the Olympics, and helped lead Team USA to the gold they've been chasing since 1964. His complaints about her will only seem sillier and sillier as the months and years go on. I don't require anything from him anymore.
Actually, no, I do. I require one thing from him. Put some respect on her name.
Jordyn Poulter. Best setter in the world.