Top 6 Best Women's Indoor Volleyball Players Of All Time

Top 6 Best Womens Indoor Volleyball Players Of All TimeIndoor volleyball is a sport that requires tremendous teamwork to achieve greatness. However, on any truly dominant team, there are at least a couple players that stand above the rest. Read on to learn about some of the best players women’s indoor volleyball has ever seen.

Who are the top 6 best women's indoor volleyball players of all time?

  1. Regla Torres (Cuba)
  2. Lang Ping (China)
  3. Inna Ryskal (Russia)
  4. Mireya Luis (Cuba)
  5. Helia "Fofao" Pinto (Brazil)
  6. Fabiana Alvim (Brazil)

1. Regla Torres

  • Three-time Olympic gold medalist (1992, 1996, 2000)
  • Two-time FIVB World Championships gold medalist (1994 and 1998)
  • Named Best Women’s Indoor Volleyball Player of the 20th Century by the FIV 
  • Youngest volleyball Olympic gold medalist ever, at the age of 17 
  • Member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame (2001)

When looking for the best female indoor volleyball players of all time, one name stands out as the greatest of the greats; that name is Regla Torres. In her stellar career, Torres was the best player of one of the best teams in history, the Cuban National Team that won three Olympic Gold Medals and two World Championships in a row. Justified by her achievements in the sport, Regla was elected by the FIVB as The Greatest Female Volleyball Player of the 20th Century, the ultimate honor that makes her the best of all time. Her volleyball career started early, and at the age of 16 she was already playing for Cuba's senior team. Her athletic and agile play clearly matured fast, as at just 17 she won her first of three Olympic gold medals. Two years later, at 19, Cuba won the FIVB World Championships, and Torres was elected as the tournament's MVP. Cuba continued to dominate, collecting gold medals, and Regla continued to add individual awards in addition to those medals.

Regla Torres' talent and overall completeness in the sport of volleyball can be seen through those awards. She has won individual awards in many disciplines, such as serving, receiving, spiking, and blocking. By the end of her career, Regla Torres had conquered 14 international medals, of which an impressive 11 were gold. Torres' career was filled with both individual and team success, a balance that some all-time great athletes never achieve. Nonetheless, she was the greatest among the greats, and Regla Torres' awards and medals speak for themselves.

2. Lang Ping

  • Olympic gold medalist and tournament MVP in 1986
  • Conquered international volleyball's triple crown, winning the Olympics, the FIVB World Cup, and the FIVB World Championships 
  • Member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame (2002)
  • First and only women’s volleyball player to have won Olympic gold medals both as a player and as a coach

Lang Ping's volleyball nickname tells a lot about her career and style of play. The "Iron Hammer" was a vicious player, who besides having power in her play, was also smart and athletic, a combination that turned her into one of the greatest volleyball players of all time. A true leader on the court, Ping was captain of the Chinese National team that won the country's first Olympic gold medal in volleyball; she was elected by the FIVB as the Olympics' MVP. Her leadership traits would also be seen later in her career, as a coach. In 1985, Lang Ping and China won the FIVB World Cup and she was elected the tournamet's MVP. Immediately after, Ping retired to start a coaching career. She was only 25 at the time, the beginning of her prime. Lang Ping would still come back a few years later to win a silver medal at the 1990 World Championships, held in China.

3. Inna Ryskal

  • Four-time Olympic medalist (two gold and two silver)
  • Three-time FIVB World Championships medalist (one gold and two silver)
  • Member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame (2000)
  • Winner of the FIVB "Outstanding Achievement in World Volleyball" Award

Mentioned above, Lang Ping and Regla Torres were the center pieces of dominating teams in the 1980s and 1990s respectively. But before them, there was Inna Ryskal, the best player on the most dominant women's volleyball team during the 1970s: the USSR. Inna started playing for the senior national team in 1961, at 16 years old. It didn't take long for Inna Ryskal to find success on the court as, in 1962, she was part of the USSR team that finished second in the FIVB's World Championships. Throughout her career she would win another silver and one gold, in 1974 and 1970 respectively. Those World Championships are only a part of Inna's and the USSR's glories during the 1960s and 1970s. The team would take the court not to beat, but rather to dominate opponents in a playing style based purely on powerful attacking. The team's strategy was highly reliant on Inna herself, who was a strong attacker, and thus she became the centerpiece of the team. Inna's power would be showcased to the world at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Due to her ruthless attacking ability, she became known as the "Caspian Thunderstorm," yet another proof of her strength. In Japan she won her first Olympic medal, a silver after losing to the host team, Japan. However, four years later, the USSR would have their revenge and defeat Japan in the final, winning the gold, Inna's first. She would go on to repeat her results in the next two editions; with two gold and two silver medals in the Olympics, more than any other female volleyball player ever. Although she has unquestionably won enough titles to find herself on this list, Inna Ryskal is one of the best players in history not only because of that, but also because of her unmatched attacking power.

4. Mireya Luis

  • Three-time Olympic gold medalist (1992, 1996, 2000)
  • Two-time MVP in the FIVB World Cup
  • MVP of the 1992 Olympic Games
  • Won a total 16 international medals in the most important competitions, of which 11 were gold medals
  • Member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame (2004)

Mireya Luis can easily be called a volleyball prodigy. By the age of 15, she was already a starter on the Cuban Women's Volleyball National Team. That was no ordinary team, in fact it was one of the greatest teams in history, and Mireya was fundamental in their success. Not unexpectedly, Mireya, along with some of her teammates, are the only female volleyball players that have won three Olympic gold medals. The Cuban team was dominant all throughout the 1990s, and that doesn't only include the Olympics. Mireya Luis also won two FIVB World Championships, and finished second once. She also accumulated titles in Grand Prix's and World Cups, and the Panamerican Games. When winning all those tournaments, Mireya was a gamechanger on a team full of bright stars. She has collected individual awards such MVPs, Best Scorer awards, and Best Spiker awards.

Attacking and spiking were definitely Mireya's strengths. At only 5 foot 10, many wouldn't even think that Mireya could be a volleyball player, much less one of the best in history. However, she had a once-in-a-generation jump, breaking vertical jump records and impressing those who didn't know her game. With such athleticism and scoring ability the Cuban team relied heavily on Mireya Luis for scoring, and she corresponded accordingly. Outside of the court, the volleyball player was also an MVP, always serving as a role model and as an idol in her country.

5. Helia "Fofao" Pinto

  • First volleyball player to compete in five editions of the Olympic Games
  • One-time Olympic gold medalist and Best Setter (2008)
  • 21 international medals with Brazil
  • 33 club medals, playing for clubs all around the globe
  • Member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame (2015)

Helia Souza, nicknamed Fofao, had one of the most brilliant careers in volleyball history. Beloved throughout the world, she made her nickname, her number seven jersey, and her incredible story well-known by being one of the best players ever. Fofao is a player that found success at every stage of her career. She won titles in every country where she played, for the national team, keeping the consistency from beginning to end. To set an example, after retiring from the Brazilian National Team, Fofao kept playing at the club level in Brazil. In 2015, at 45 years old, she won her third title of the Brazilian league, and was crowned the finals MVP. She has won more than 20 individual awards, mainly MVPs and Best Setter Awards. Those include two Best Setter distinctions in the Olympics and many more in Grand Prix's.

In regard to the volleyball Grand Prix, Fofao has seen plenty of success. She has ten Grand Prix Medals and seven golds, a competition record. However, there is one gold medal missing in Fofao's collection; she never won the FIVB World Championships, finishing with the silver twice. Nonetheless that doesn't make her career any less brilliant, or Fofao anything short of legendary. Her abilities as a setter, her medals, and her consistent success during her long-lasting career all speak for themselves, and Fofao is a must-have in any discussion of women’s volleyball greats.

6. Fabiana Alvim

  • Two-time Olympic gold medalist (2008 and 2012)
  • One-time Olympic Best Libero (2008)
  • 25 international medals with Brazil in competitions that range from the South American Games to World Championships
  • Accumulated a total of 18 individual awards, most of which were Best Libero or Best Receiver Awards.
  • Ten-time Superliga Feminina champion

Fabiana Alvim, or simply Fabi, is a major reason why Brazil is a two-time Olympic Women’s Volleyball Champion. Fabi was not only an exceptional player, but also a remarkable leader to whom players looked up to. Wildly successful throughout her career, Fabiana is widely regarded as the best libero of all time. She had unmatched defensive talents, which propelled her to success and were alway an important part of her team's success, regardless of where she was. As a defensive specialist, her greatness can be seen through her individual awards. Although she was rarely elected a tournament's MVP, she was constantly being named Best Libero or Best Receiver, and without her playing, her teams probably wouldn't have a chance at the title. But most of the time, they did, and therefore Fabi is a volleyball multi-champ.

In addition to her Olympic Golds, she has five Grand Prix Titles, three silvers, and two World Championships silver medals. At the club level, Fabi Alvim is one of the Brazilian League's most remarkable and famous players. By staying in Brazil for the entirety of her career, she became beloved by volleyball fans all around Brazil, and got admiration from fan bases across the globe. Being considered the greatest of all time in something is not easy. Yet, Fabi Alvim is constantly being called the best libero ever. No one can erase her story in the sport, and thus she is one of volleyball's greatest players ever.

Honorable Mentions

Sheilla Castro

  • Two-time Olympic gold medalist (2008, 2012)
  • Seven-time World Grand Prix gold medalist (2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2016)
  • Seven-time South American Championship gold medalist (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2019)
  • Two-time FIVB World Grand Prix MVP (2006 and 2009)

With a track record for having tremendous talent on their national team’s, it's often easy to forget just how great some of Brazil’s volleyball players were. Sheilla Castro is one such player. Over the course of her career, she has been a prolific winner in just about every competition she cares to compete in. With two Olympic gold medals and an MVP in one, Castro was a stalwart for the Brazilian team. Outside of Olympic play, she amassed countless gold medals in events like the World Grand Prix, twice securing a victory in this tournament as well, and the South American Championship. In fact, Castro has actually never experienced a South American Championship in which her team did not secure a gold medal. Instead, her team won an astonishing seven times in a row. Dominance like this is hard to come by, and Sheilla Castro was certainly a large part of why such an impressive feat was possible.

At 6’1”, Castro was a natural choice to play opposite spiker. This placement was also validated with a Best Opposite Spike distinction in the 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix. She was a prolific offensive player, using her height to torment opponents with spikes. Castro netted Best Scorer distinctions in both the FIVB World Championships Cup and the FIVB Club World Championships (2005 and 2012, respectively). 

Fernanda Venturini

  • Olympic bronze medalist (1996)
  • Five-time FIVB World Grand Prix Dream Team Setter (1993, 1994, 1996, 2003, and 2004)
  • 1994 FIVB World Grand Prix MVP
  • Three-time FIVB World Grand Prix gold medalist (1994, 1996, and 2004)
  • Five-time FIVB World Grand Prix Best Setter (1993, 1994, 1996, 2003, and 2004)

Oftentimes, players who make their teammates great get overlooked. In volleyball, this unfortunate reality is likely most applicable to the setter. The case of Fernanda Venturini is a great example, as she was a force for the Brazilian national team and one of the best setters women’s indoor volleyball has ever seen. She was named to five different dream teams for the World Grand Prix, and also secured the best setter in each of these years. Part of the reason it may be easy to overlook Venturini is her lack of Olympic success compared to her Brazilian counterparts, with only one Olympic appearance in 1996. That year, she helped Brazil achieve a bronze medal finish.

Nonetheless, the legendary career of Fernanda Venturini is surely worth mentioning on this list. In fact, she earned the honor of being featured on the FIVB’s “Best Player of the 20th Century” poll. Although she didn’t win this distinction, that honor went to the all-time great Regla Torres, merely placing on this poll is in itself a tremendous testament to her body of work on the volleyball court. It could be argued that her crowning achievement within indoor volleyball, perhaps excluding her various inclusions on World Grand Prix Dream Teams, was being named the 1994 World Grand Prix’s MVP. That year, she was a key cog in a Brazilian team that took home the gold medal.

FAQ

Who has the most Olympic medals in women’s indoor volleyball?

The record for the most Olympic medals held by a single player in women’s indoor volleyball is four, which is held by two different players. Both Inna Ryskal and Anna Fernàndez have a cumulative total of four Olympic medals throughout their careers. Ryskal accomplished this feat playing for the Soviet Union from 1964-1976, taking home two gold medals and two silver medals. Fernàndez, on the other hand, did so more recently from 1992-2004; she was able to bring home three gold medals and one bronze medal playing for the Cuban team. While both athletes brought home four consecutive Olympic medals for their countries, it is argued that Ryskal’s impact on her team makes her medals more valuable. However, Fernàndez has the edge in gold medals, as she played for the highly dominant Cuban team that also featured athletes like Regla Torres and Mireya Luis.

Who was the youngest player to win an Olympic gold medal in women’s indoor volleyball?

Regla Torres is the youngest Olympian to win a gold medal in women’s indoor volleyball, at the age of only seventeen! She accomplished this with the Cuban national team at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Torres was a valuable part of this team, even at a young age, and this was only her first taste of success on the international stage. In the following years, she would go on to win two more gold medals at the Olympics in 1996 and 2000, among other recognitions.

Who won the Olympic gold medal for women’s indoor volleyball in 2020?

At the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the United States women’s team won their first ever gold medal in indoor volleyball. While the U.S. had previously found success at beach volleyball, the indoor team had never won a gold medal since volleyball’s addition to the Olympic program in 1964. The United States defeated volleyball powerhouse Brazil in three straight sets. The team’s captain, Jordan Larson, led the way via excellent play on both offense and defense, leading to her being selected as the tournament’s MVP.