Long before the likes of Karch Kiraly and others made beach volleyball a popular spectator sport, the indoor version of the game had its own heroes. No star loomed larger than Flora “Flo” Hyman, a towering presence on the United States National Team and internationally for more than a decade before her untimely death in 1986 at age 31.
After opening eyes throughout the volleyball world during her freshman year at El Camino College in 1972-73, the native of Inglewood became the first woman ever awarded an athletic scholarship at the University of Houston. Hyman spent three years at Houston and led the Cougars to two top-five national finishes while putting together a hall of fame career that resulted in a spot with Team USA by 1974 and being named the NCAA's top female volleyball player in 1977.
For a decade, the 6-foot-5-inch outside hitter was the superstar of her sport. Although the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow denied her an opportunity at a gold medal at her peak, she was named outstanding player at the 1981 World Cup. She remained with the National Team through the 1984 Olympics, where as the team's oldest player, she led her squad to a silver medal in her native Los Angeles.
Hyman played professionally in Japan for several years. She collapsed near the end of a match in Matsue City in late January 1986 and passed away that evening from what was later announced as complications resulting from Marfan syndrome, a genetic heart condition that is treatable if discovered early enough.
She was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1988 and named by USA Volleyball as the Most Valuable Player for the 15-year period of 1978-2002. She was also the first woman admitted to the University of Houston’s Hall of Honor in 1998, and she is an inductee in both the El Camino College and California Community College Sports Halls of Fame.