CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Former Illini volleyball standouts Jordyn Poulter and Michelle Bartsch-Hackley returned to Champaign this weekend after bringing home Team USA’s first gold medal in volleyball. Former Illinois setter Erin Virtue also attended, who was an assistant coach for Team USA.
The three were honored with a ceremony prior to Illinois’ first game at Huff Hall. They say it was a special moment to celebrate their medals in Champaign, after not having fans in Tokyo.
“To leave your mark on a sport or a a place, and I think we’ve all really felt supported here in Champaign,” says Bartsch-Hackley. “It’s just a special place, with special people, and it’s really great for us to come back.”
All three Illini on Team USA were All-Americans in college. Virtue played from 2001-2005, Bartsch-Hackley from 2008-2011 and Poulter from 2015-18. Poulter was also coached by current Illinois volunteer assistant Jen Tamas, who played in the 2008 Olympic Games and won a silver medal. She says Virtue, Bartsch-Hackley, and Tamas inspired her Olympic dreams, and played a big role in her decision to come to Illinois.
“To just have these people that have been very influential in my life, and to finally achieve something this monumental with them has been really special.” says Poulter. “Every one of us has been chasing history, chasing that gold, and to finally do it. We stand on the shoulders of those women, and it’s so cool to share this with them and to share this with Illini volleyball, and share this with America.”
Poulter helped lead Illinois to a Final Four during her senior year in 2018, and starting playing professional after that. This marked both Bartsch-Hackley and Poulter’s Olympic debut.