[dropcap letter="A"]re you still hung-over from the incredible Cinderella run made by Ateneo Lady Eagles to cop its first ever championship in the UAAP women’s volleyball? Here are the players that started it all—8 ladies that took the country by storm when we hosted the final leg of the 2000 FIVB World Grand Prix.
Laugh all you want at her name but this three-time Olympic gold medalist was right at the spotlight during the golden days of the Cuban national team. At 43, she's still at it. In fact, she is one of the two foreign reinforcements of the Philippine women’s volleyball national team.
She may not be built like a strong athlete but this tall and lanky player could give anyone out there a run for their money in terms of spiking power and vertical leap. This 36-year old came out of retirement is back to playing for Uralochka-NTMK EKATERINBURG club in the CEV League.
It’s not everyday that you get to see a 19-year old six-footer (6’8 to be exact) on court but that year, Filipino fans witnessed the early years of what has been a very illustrious career for this tall lady. She led Dinamo KAZAN in the recently concluded CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League where she was also awarded Best Scorer and League MVP.
Back when she still goes by the surname Chachkova, this prolific scorer was unstoppable during her heydays. She was considered the second coming of another Russian volleyball superstar Evgenia Artamonova. One chink in her career though—aside from not winning an Olympic gold—is that she was known to have feuds with teammates and even the notoriously fiery Russian coach Nikolay Karpol. She is part of the Russian team out to grab the title of this year’s Women’s World Championship.
The setter of the Italian squad had the deadly combination of looks and skills that made her very popular during the Manila leg of the Grand Prix. This combination enabled her a career outside of sports, as she was once a contestant at a reality show in Italy, appeared in two movies and is currently a reporter for Sky Sport.
Arguably the most popular Italian volleyball player of our generation, Piccinini garnered a horde of Filipino fans because of her looks and talent. Outside the court, she has posed for Playboy and appeared naked in a calendar for the Italian edition of Men’s Health magazine. She is still modeling and currently the face of her club team’s clothing line.
She is only 5’8 but what she lacked in height, she more than made for in terms of spiking power. Dubbed as the Brazilian Barbie and known to be a very good server, she currently plays for Maranhao Volei back in Brazil. In 2000, an article in Time Asia claimed that she was born a hermaphrodite.
Without a doubt the most popular volleyball player to ever set foot in Philippine soil, this shorthaired spiker ignited the Leila Mania. Her legions of fans trooped to PhilSports Arena where they carried banners saying “Leila will you marry me?” and “Leila Barros for President”. Brazil placed third in the tournament where Barros fittingly scored the match point. This two-time Grand Prix MVP switched to beach volleyball for a short period. She is now a mother and married to one of Brazil’s most successful beach volleyball players, Emanuel.
Who are your favorite volleyball players? Talk about them in the Comments Section.