Not so terrible, really, considering that the Olympics are four years away, but it was another in a long line of U.S. setbacks in international competition.
There are, however, faint signs that volleyball might not be a mistreated foster child too much longer. The pro league, the International Volleyball Association, is hanging on by its fingernails and probably will not survive another season, but college volleyball, especially in California, is growing stronger and more popular each year.
For international competition, and especially the Olympics, the USVBA has launched four-year plans for both the men and women, plans that include fulltime coaches and permanent training sites. The women will probably continue to train in Pasadena, where the city of slightly more than 100,000 population comes up with about $40,000 a year by way of contributions from individuals and businesses and from gate receipts. Jobs and free apartments are also provided. The men's training center will be in Dayton, a site that has not enthralled California players. That state has provided the overwhelming majority of talent in the past. Much depends on the coach the USVBA picks. A Pole, a Korean and at least three Americans have already applied.
"Yes, Dayton is a long way from California, a long way from the experience," said one of the applicants, Mick Haley, at present the head coach at Kellogg Community College. "But talent is everywhere. We need to go after the best athletes, not just volleyball players. We need to train quality athletes. We can't do any worse."
His thoughts were echoed by Beal, the veteran setter, who used to coach Ohio State: "We were in the top 10 in the world with a haphazard program, so with Dayton we could be great."
William G. Morgan, wherever he rests these days, would like that.