Former Illini Jordyn Poulter, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley headed to Tokyo with Team USA

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WCIA — Two former Illini volleyball players are heading to Tokyo as part of Team USA. Jordyn Poulter and Michelle Bartsch-Hackley were both announced to the 12-woman roster on Monday, along with assistant coach Erin Virtue, who also played at Illinois.

Bartsch-Hackley was an alternate for Team USA in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games but will now become the first Illini, along with Poulter, to play for Team USA in the Olympics. They are the second and third members of the volleyball program to be named to an Olympic team after Kirsten Gleis represented Holland at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. We spoke with Bartsch-Hackely over the phone on Monday from Italy, where she is currently playing with Team USA.

“I was just so happy, excited, proud to just wear USA on my back. I think it hasn’t been an easy year for anyone with the Olympics being postponed from 2020. I think our team has worked really hard off the court because that was the only thing we were allowed to do and I’m really proud of us and how we really just come in and work hard every day and so happy to be going to Tokyo and to represent Team USA and even happier to do it with Jordyn Poulter.”

All three Illini on Team USA were All-Americans in college. Virtue played from 2001-2005, Bartsch-Hackley from 2008-2011 and most recently Poulter from 2015-18.

“There really isn’t a way to put into words how I am feeling,” Poulter said in a statement. “Making an Olympic roster is something that so many people dream of achieving – it is what I have always dreamed of doing – and now it is coming into fruition. I feel so much gratitude to be able to wear the USA flag on my jersey and I am honored to be able to represent our country in Tokyo this summer.”

“We are really happy for Michelle, Jordyn, and Erin, along with everyone involved with USA volleyball,” Illinois head coach Chris Tamas said in a statement. “It’s a special moment in their lives. We know the amount of work and dedication that it takes to get on an Olympic roster and these three are definitely deserving of their roles on the team. I know Illini fans and alums will be following closely and cheering loudly while the team competes for a medal in Tokyo. Go USA and I-L-L!”

The U.S. Women’s National Team, which won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, is ranked No. 1 in the world and currently pursuing its third-straight FIVB Volleyball Nations League title in Rimini, Italy. The 2020 Olympic Games, which were postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are scheduled to begin on July 23 with the Opening Ceremony. The women’s volleyball tournament will be contested July 25-August 8 at Ariake Arena in Koto City, Tokyo, Japan.

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