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Karolyn Kirby

Olympic Disappointment

With Masakayan struggling with a knee surgery in 1995, by July Kirby was looking for a new partner. She finished the year fifth in the standings, with only three tournament wins and $32,120 in earnings. The following year proved to be even more of a disappointment for Kirby as her inability to find a good replacement for Masakayan robbed her of her longtime dream to compete in the Olympics, as the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Georgia, was the first time that beach volleyball was recognized as a medal sport. With experienced top-rated players already committed to teams, Kirby competed unsuccessfully at the Olympic trials with Lisa Arce in their first partnership. "It was a dream of mine and I felt like I failed myself, failed on my dream," she explained to Vancouver's Columbian, then added, "But, I'm stronger for it. I'm really beginning to realize how fortunate I am. I enjoy and appreciate more than ever my career."


1961 Born in Brookline, Massachusetts
1975 Begins playing volleyball as a freshman in high school
1977 Plays on the junior Olympic team
1979 Attends Utah State University on a volleyball scholarship
1983 Transfers to University of Kentucky; named to the Olympic volleyball training team
1984 Named as an Olympic alternate
1987 Joins the Women's Professional Volleyball Association (WPVA) to play beach volleyball professionally
1993-95 Dominates the WPVA tour with partner Liz Masakayan
1996 Fails to make first official Olympic beach volleyball team after Masakayan sustains a knee injury
2000 Last season on tour
2001 Begins coaching

Kirby managed three tournament wins in both 1996 and 1997, spending most of the latter year teamed with Reno. She was rejoined by Masakayan for the 1998 Goodwill Games, but the defending gold medalists finished sixth, out of the medals. By the end of the 1990s, Kirby was winding down her career. She played in several international tournaments and numerous events sponsored by the Association of Volleyball Professionals and USA Volleyball. Following the 2000 season, in which her best finish was fifth place, Kirby, who lives in San Diego, California, turned to coaching. She is on staff with Masakayan, who continued to play competitively into the 2000s.

Awards and Accomplishments

Kirby won 13 of 30 grand slam events during her career and a record 67 tournaments. For complete career results, see http://www.volleyball.org.
1981 Named collegiate All-American
1983 Named collegiate All-American
1990 Named Women's Professional Volleyball Association's (WPVA) Most Valuable Player and Best Offensive Player
1991 Named WPVA Best Setter and Most Valuable Player
1992 Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) Tour Champion (with Nancy Reno); named WPVA Best Hitter
1993 FIVB Tour Champion (with Liz Masakayan)
1993-94 Named WPVA Most Valuable Player
1993-97 Named WPVA Best Setter for six consecutive years
1994 Gold medalist, Goodwill Games (with Masakayan)

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsVolleyballKarolyn Kirby Biography - All-american Player, Introduced To Beach Volleyball, Dominates The Tour, Olympic Disappointment, Chronology