Generation-defining beach players Phil Dalhausser and Larissa headline the six-man introductory class of 2023 in the International Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Additional honorees to be honored at a gala event on October 21 in Holyoke, Massachusetts will include indoor athletes Yumilka Ruiz of Cuba and Katsutoshi Nekoda of Japan, as well as Italian coaches Silvano Prandi and Shanrit Wongprasert of Thailand.
The six people entering the hall will be numbered 162-167, so honored since William G. Morgan, the inventor of volleyball, became the first in 1985. Wongprasert becomes the first from Thailand, currently 26th.p country to be recognized.
“The achievements of the 2023 class are undeniably remarkable,” said IVHF Executive Director George Mulry. “From demonstrating unparalleled dominance in both indoor and beach volleyball for more than sixty years, to overseeing structure and competition across the continent, the IVHF is honored to recognize these deserving individuals along with our award winners.
“Each honoree brings a unique story that will be shared with the world, and we invite you to join us in Holyoke to witness it in person.”
Four special award winners were also announced, recognized for their contributions to the IVHF or the sport of volleyball. These include AVP, which received a Court of Honor award, Homewood Suites Holyoke, and Susan Concepcion for its William G. Morgan, and the outgoing Executive Director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), Kathy DeBoer, who will receive the prestigious Mintonette Award. Earlier in 2023, Puerto Rico’s Hector “Picky” Soto was also honored with the Mayoral Award of Excellence.
“Since 1985, the IVHF has had the unique honor of introducing the legends of our sport while recognizing them for their rich careers and numerous achievements,” said IVHF President Steve Bishop, also president of the Florida region of USA Volleyball. “This year we are looking forward to welcoming another amazing class of participants as well as some very deserving special award winners. We can’t wait to create new memories with this class of 2023 award winners.”
Dalhausser and Larissa (Franca Maestrini) were notified of their selection on Friday when they both played at the AVP Huntington Beach Open. Dalhausser, teaming with Avery Drost, finished fifth overall, while Larissa and her wife Lili finished in ninth place. Dalhausser is 12thp a member of Hall’s beach wing and the seventh American to be so honored. Larissa is 11p selection of women on the beach and a fifth Brazilian.
“I’m just a beachgoer from Florida,” said Dalhausser of Huntington Beach. “It’s a huge honour. Even in my wildest dreams, I never expected to become a professional beach volleyball player, much less a member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame.”
The 43-year-old, 6-9 Dalhausser has redefined what a “great man” can achieve in the sport. Known as “The Skinny Beast,” Swiss-born Dalhausser was the Swiss army knife of the beach. He started playing professionally in 2003 and immediately got dizzy. His game over the years has been characterized by blocking, perfect hand placement, finishing strike and precise passing, a package never before seen in a man his size. Furthermore, in 2022, Dalhausser shared blocking duties at the AVP Austin Open with Andy Benesh and added another weapon to his arsenal: defense-by-block. Oh, by the way, they won the tournament.
Dalhausser’s achievements culminate in an Olympic gold medal in 2008 where he partnered with 2021 IVHF member Todd Rogers. After this performance, Phil earned another nickname “Beijing Beast”. He later represented the U.S. team in three additional Olympics. He is fifth on the all-time beach victories list with 103 victories, 38 of them on the FIVB tour.
The 41-year-old Larissa had a style of play characterized by smarts, smarts, trickery, an amazing pair of set-up hands and having such a good shot she should have her own dedicated wing in the Hall of Fame. Larissa also falls down as one of the best defenders the sport has ever seen, as well as one of the most mentally resilient players on the beach. And feisty too. Her tete-a-tete on court with longtime partner Juliana Felisberta Silva are part of the legend.
Larissa’s professional career began in 2002, when she was only 20 years old. Maestrini, a three-time Olympian, won a bronze medal in London in 2012 and also won gold at the 2011 World Championships, both with Felisberta Silva. The battles between these two Brazilians and Americans and IVHF inducers Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings are legendary. Iron sharpening iron. One game stands out in particular. In October 2005, the two teams met in the finals in perhaps the longest FIVB match in history for both men and women, and one of the largest. The Brazilians won 28-26, 40-42, 15-13 in an hour and 40 minutes long brawl in beach volleyball.
Maestrini won 69 tournaments in her career, ranking fifth on the all-time list. But that number doesn’t reflect all the events she won on her native Brazilian national tour.
“I feel great that Hall has appreciated everything I’ve done for the sport,” said Larissa. “Only the best players go into the Hall of Fame and will be marked forever. Phil is a great player and lives up to his name there too. I’m proud of my career and happy at this moment.”
Ruiz, 45, is the seventh honoree from Cuba. Standing at 5 feet 10 feet from the outside, she reigned supreme in the golden age of Cuban volleyball, representing the island nation at four consecutive Olympics starting in 1996. She won gold at those Games as an 18-year-old in Atlanta and then won another gold in Sydney four years later, adding a bronze in Athens in 2004. Ruiz was also an integral part of the gold medal winning teams at the Cuba World Championships (1998) and World Championships (1999). Her well-deserved professional career ended in 2014 playing for the Russian club team Uralocha-NTMK.
Despite being on the small side, Ruiz was a terminator. She was voted top scorer at the 2002 World Cup, as well as top scorer at the 2004 FIVB World Grand Prix and the 2005 Pan American Cup.
Nekoda (1944-1983) led Japan to four Olympic Games, winning medals in every color, led by a gold medal in Munich in 1972, a silver medal in Mexico City in 1968, he was fourth in 1976 in Montreal in the last Games Necodes). Nekoda was a quarterback for his national team, starting as a teenager and only retiring in 1980, three years before his untimely death at the age of 39 from stomach cancer.
Nekoda, the ninth Hall honoree from Japan, was named the best point guard at the 1970 World Championships, and also won the honor at the 1969 and 1977 FIVB World Championships. He was considered by many to be the most iconic player of the Japanese national team at the time. With a record of 5-10, Nekoda was great on defense and could deftly deliver sets with a very quick and light touch.
Prandi, 75, is the sixth Italian honored by the Chamber. His achievements include leading the Italy men’s national team to a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics. It was the first podium in the history of the Italians, whose previous best result at the Games was eighth.
Prandi also served two periods as head coach of the Bulgaria national team in 2008-2010 and 2019-2021. Known as “Il Professore”, Prandi began his coaching career in 1976 at Bistefani Torino Club, one of nine Italian clubs he coached in his career. He also ran clubs in France and Bulgaria.
Among the many roles that Wongprasert (born 1943) has served in the service of sport are the president, vice president and general secretary of the Asian Volleyball Confederation. In 2019, he was awarded the Asia Olympic Council’s Award of Merit for his outstanding contribution to the development of sport in Asia. He also helped organize and supervise AVC indoor and beach volleyball competitions.