Julie Vollertsen

Julie Jo Vollertsen Melli (born March 1, 1959 in Syracuse, Nebraska) is an American former female professional volleyball player. Her main achievement is her part in the silver medal won by the United States at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. She later moved to Italy to play professionally, settling in Reggio Emilia where she stayed after ending her playing career.

Julie Vollertsen
Personal information
NationalityAmerican / Italian
BornJulie Jo Vollertsen
March 1, 1959 (1959-03) (age 61)
Syracuse, Nebraska, U.S.
Height6 ft 0 in (184 cm)
Weight161 lb (73 kg)
Volleyball information
1984–1988Nelsen/Braglia Reggio Emilia
National team
1977–1984United States


Palmyra High SchoolEdit

The Nebraskan led the Palmyra high school volleyball team to their first appearance in the state tournament, earning Sunday Journal and Star All-State honors.[1] Graduating in 1977, she was later inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame (in 1994).[2]

Team USAEdit

Straight out of high school, Vollertsen travelled to California to take part in a six-week tryout for the women's junior national volleyball team, she ended up being the only one to be kept on the team.[1] She progressed up to the senior United States national team, being chosen as an alternate for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, but the US did not go due to the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott.[1]

Vollertsen was a part of a volleyball program that, since 1975, regrouped the national team players (of which she was the only one not from California or Texas) in Coto de Caza, California where they trained and lived together relentlessly under coach Arie Selinger. In effect, they constituted an organised team (though all amateurs, receiving only expenses) that played in as many tournaments worldwide as possible.[3][4] Team US and Vollertsen won a bronze medal at the 1982 World Championship,[1] losing to hosts Peru in three games.[5] They added a silver medal at the 1983 Pan American Games.[6]

She served the winning point in the 1983 NORCECA Women's Volleyball Championship title game against Cuba in which the US finished undefeated.[7]

The main goal of all these efforts was the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for which Team USA qualified as hosts. They started the competition with a 3-0 win against West Germany.[8] The second game proved tougher, with opponents Brazil winning the first two sets. The United States then rallied to a 3-2 victory, with Vollertsen serving nine consecutive winning points in the fourth game after a 5-5.[9] With the win, the team had already set the best ever Olympic record for the Women's National Volleyball Team, besting the solitary win obtained in 1964.[10] In the third group game against world champions China, in which the already qualified teams were playing to avoid a semifinal matchup with Japan, she had a crucial impact off the bench, scoring points off serves and spikes as the US earned a 3-1 upset.[11]

The semifinal against Peru was a rematch of the 1982 world championship, this time Team US were victors, with Vollertsen scoring two decisive serves to win the first game.[5][12]

Meeting China again in the final, Vollertsen and the US could not repeat their earlier victory and were beaten 3-0. Their silver medal was still a historic first medal for any national volleyball team (the Men's side would win a gold medal a few days later).[13]

Reggio EmiliaEdit

Vollertsen moved to Italy after the tournament, joining professional side Nelsen Reggio Emilia (in Italian) in 1984.[14] She played four years with the side, being eliminated from title contention on three occasions by perennial champions Teodora Pallavolo Ravenna (in Italian).[15] She did win a CEV Cup in 1986,[16] adding an Italian cup later that same year.[17] Vollertsen retired after the 1987–88 season.[18]

Post playing careerEdit

After retiring as a player, she started a coaching career (with youth teams), which she ended in 1991, after the birth of her first child.[1]

Vollertsen was incorporated into the Emilia Romagna provincial Olympic Committee in March 2009, as athlete representative on the board. She was elected vice-president later that year.[19] In 2013, she was reappointed in the former role until 2016.[20]

Honors and achievementsEdit


  • Sports Illustrated's 50 Greatest Sports Figures from Nebraska: #48 (selected: 1999)[21]
  • Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame: 1994



  • CEV Cup: 1986
  • Italian Cup winner: 1986


Vollertsen met Italian journalist Leopoldo Melli in Reggio Emilia when he interviewed her for a show. They would start dating soon after and were married in 1989.[1] She later became an Italian citizen.[22]

They have two children together, professional basketball player Nicolò Melli was born in 1991 and played for Reggio Emilia side Pallacanestro Reggiana whilst Enrico, born in 1996, has also played basketball for that same team. As a family, they received the Premio Reverberi (Oscar del Basket) (in Italian) Champion award in 2014 for their contribution to sports.[23]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bamesberger, Michael (August 6, 2012). "Olympic volleyball roots grew in Palmyra". Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  2. ^ "1994 Hall of Fame Inductee: Julie Vollertsen Melli (Palmyra)". nebhalloffame.org. Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on May 6, 2016. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  3. ^ Crowe, Jerry (July 28, 1985). "Members of U.S. Women's Volleyball Team Virtually Dedicated Their Lives to Winning a Gold Medal; Instead, They Had to Settle for a Silver Medal, but in Looking Back on the Experience . . . : They'd do it again". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  4. ^ Barry, David F. (March 1984). "Atari's Olympic team – U.S. women go for the gold medal". Antic. Atari. 2 (12). Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Volleyball team closes in on gold". Google News Archive. Long Beach (California): The Dispatch (Lexington). August 6, 1984. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  6. ^ Tarshis, Barry (March 1, 1984). "Introducing The Real America's Team". arielnet.com. US Airways. Retrieved July 21, 2015 – via Ariel Dynamics.
  7. ^ Slater, Jim (July 16, 1983). "The U.S. ended 10 years of Cuban domination in..." United Press International. Indianapolis. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  8. ^ Wilbon, Michael (August 1, 1984). "Volleyball: Long Wait, Short Odds". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  9. ^ "American Women Win in Volleyball". The New York Times. Long Beach (California). United Press International. August 2, 1984.
  10. ^ Shook, Richard L. (August 1, 1984). "The loser won't necessarily lose today in the Olympic..." United Press International. Long Beach (California). Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  11. ^ Vecsey, George (August 5, 1984). "Sports of the Times; Volleyball's Team America". The New York Times. Long Beach (California). Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  12. ^ Gorney, Cynthia (August 6, 1984). "U.S. Women Make 1st Volleyball Final". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  13. ^ Bock, Hal (August 8, 1984). "Chinese shatter U.S. dreams of volleyball gold". Google News Archive. Long Beach (California): Ludington Daily News. Associated Press. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  14. ^ "Presentata ufficialmente la nuova Nelsen" [The new Nelsen is officially presented]. fipavre.it/ (in Italian). Federazione Italiana Pallavolo Reggio Emilia provincial committee. October 1, 1984. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  15. ^ Zagnoli, Vanni (October 26, 2004). "La famiglia Melli, tutta casa e canestro" [The Melli family, everything house and basketb]. Gazzetta di Reggio (in Italian). Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  16. ^ "Battute le tedesche: Nelsen campione" [The Germans are beaten:Nelsen is champion]. fipavre.it/ (in Italian). Federazione Italiana Pallavolo Reggio Emilia provincial committee. February 1, 1986. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  17. ^ "Alla Nelsen la nuova edizione di Coppa Italia" [The new Italian cup edition [goes] to Nelsen]. fipavre.it/ (in Italian). Federazione Italiana Pallavolo Reggio Emilia provincial committee. March 1, 1986. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  18. ^ "L'addio della Vollertsen alla pallavolo" [Vollertsen's farewell to volleyball]. fipavre.it/ (in Italian). Federazione Italiana Pallavolo Reggio Emilia provincial committee. April 1, 1986. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  19. ^ "Julie Jo Vollertsen eletta vice presidente" [Julie Jo Vollertsen elected vice-president]. Gazzetta di Reggio (in Italian). November 27, 2009. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  20. ^ "Umberto Suprani nuovo presidente del CONI dell'Emilia Romagna" [Umberto Suprani new president of the Emilia Romagna CONI]. emiliaromagna.coni.it (in Italian). Italian National Olympic Committee Emilia Romagna Regional committee. January 23, 2013. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  21. ^ "The 50 Greatest Sports Figures From Nebraska". Sports Illustrated. December 27, 1999. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  22. ^ "Educare con lo sport: una sfida possible" [Educating through sport: an achievable challenge]. comunedinovellara.gov.it (in Italian). Novellara commune. October 5, 2013. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  23. ^ "Una mamma argento olimpico" [An olympic silver medalist mum]. Gazzetta di Reggio (in Italian). February 1, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2015.

External linksEdit