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Washington, Hancock Take Gold In Tokyo Alongside USA Volleyball

Add two more to Penn State’s ever-growing pile of Olympic medals.

Penn State women’s volleyball legends Micha Hancock and Haleigh Washington both took gold Sunday morning representing the United States. The team decisively swept Brazil, which entered the matchup with an undefeated tournament record in Tokyo.

Washington started the match and posted eight kills, five blocks, and a dig. After the match, she was recognized as the Olympic tournament’s top middle blocker.

“It’s everything we wanted it to be,” Washington said. “The hard work we put in, the sweat, the tears, the blood — it’s been worth it, and I am so proud to have done it with this group of women. I am so honored.”

Hancock did not see any action in the final match but played a huge role in helping it get there. Filling in for injured former Illinois star Jordyn Poulter, Hancock posted a match-high 37 assists against the Dominican Republic in the quarterfinals.

This year’s victory is ever-so-sweet for the United States. The Americans lost to Brazil in the gold medal match in both 2008 and 2012. Finally, it earned its long-awaited payback.

The U.S.’s gold medal is its first in Olympic women’s volleyball history. The team’s win also clinched a first-place gold medal finish for the U.S., which currently has 39 racked up this year.

Hancock and Washington’s medals are far from the Nittany Lions’ first this year. Penn State wrestling legend David Taylor took gold in the men’s 86 kg tournament Wednesday. Shot put star Joe Kovacs notched his second career silver medal, while women’s soccer alumna Alyssa Naeher received a bronze alongside current Penn State coach Erica Dambach. Erin McLeod took gold alongside Canada’s national soccer team. Former men’s basketball standout Tom Hovasse earned silver coaching Japan’s women’s basketball team, too.

Washington and Hancock join Taylor and McLeod as Penn State’s first Olympic gold medalists since the 1988 games.

Hancock played for Penn State from 2011 to 2014 and still holds the Nittany Lions’ all-time service ace record with 254 over her career. She won back-to-back national titles with the Nittany Lions in 2013 and 2014.

Washington’s tenure in Happy Valley stretched from 2014 to 2017, when she earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. She was also a three-time All-American and won a national title in 2014.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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