It was a shock to Karch Kiraly’s system when his first foray to the Olympic Games at the helm of the U.S. women’s volleyball team ended on the lowest tier of the podium.
Kiraly had known nothing but success in the biggest events of his playing career — a CIF championship at Santa Barbara High, three NCAA crowns at UCLA, and three Olympic triumphs: The first gold medal for the U.S. men’s indoor team (1984), a glorious repeat (1988), and the first gold medal awarded in beach volleyball (1996).
He took it upon himself to help lead the American women to the pinnacle when he became their head coach following the 2012 London Games. He envisioned them receiving gold medals at Rio in 2016, and they were on their way until a semifinal match that went five sets, with Serbia winning the decider, 15-13.
“A soul-crusher,” Kiraly said.