The volleyball world is mourning the passing of Vyacheslav Alekseyevich Zaytsev (Russian: Вячеслав Алексеевич Зайцев). The champion of the 1980 Olympic Games and the long-time captain of the USSR national team has died at the age of 70.
His son, Italian Men's National Team member and professional volleyball player at Lube, Ivan Zaytsev, announced his dad's passing on Instagram on June 12, 2023 saying - “Goodbye, dad ...have a good trip, rest now if you can."
The elder Zaytsev (a 2013 IVHF Inductee) paired with teammate Aleksandr Savin, a 2010 Volleyball Hall of Fame inductee, to form one of the most dominating setter-hitter pairs to ever play the game. Zaytsev was adept at delivering quick sets to his favorite hitter leading to dominating victories and international titles along the way. Zaytsev was also well-known as among the best blocking setters in the game.
"It is with profound sadness, the volleyball world bids farewell to a true legend and a cherished member of our Hall of Fame family," said George Mulry, IVHF Executive Director. "Vyacheslav Zaytsev's exceptional talents and contributions to the sport of volleyball have left an indelible mark on the fabric of history. His enduring legacy will forever be enshrined within these hallowed walls, reminding us of the profound impact he had."
Making his debut in 1969 with Russian club Avtomobilist as a 17 year old schoolboy, Zaytsev quickly established himself as a leader and force on the court. In 1971 he won his first European Championship and by 1977 he had become captain of the national team for USSR.
Zaytsev was a key player for Avtomobilist and the Soviet National team throughout most of the 1970s and 1980s- 20 year span of international competition that includes two gold medals and two silver medals at the FIVB World Championship, two gold medal and a silver at the FIVB World Cup, and seven gold medals at the European Championships among many other accomplishments.
Zaytsev was considered one of the best setters in the world, being named the most valuable player of the 1981 FIVB World Cup, best defensive player of the 1977 FIVB World Cup and included in the list of annual 24 best players of the USSR 17 times.
Perhaps Zaytsev’s biggest accomplishments, however, came at the Olympic Games. Representing the USSR in three Olympic Games, Zaytsev netted the gold medal at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and led his team to the silver medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games and again at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
He was one of the first Russian players to play professional club volleyball abroad and spent five seasons competing in Italy from 1987 to 1992. He played for Olio Venturi Spoleto the first two seasons with the team moving into the top Serie A1 division the second season. Zaytsev played in Serie A2 the next two seasons with Sanyo Agrigento and G.S. Citta di Casello before his final season with Citta di Castello returning to the top division. At the age of 40, Zaytsev played his last International match while playing for the Swiss club “Lugano” and quickly focused full-time on coaching.
As a coach, he adapted many of the volleyball techniques introducred by other coaches to retain the Russian pre-eminence in men’s volleyball competition. He coached the Russian Men’s National Team from 1996-1997 and led them to the bronze medal at the 1997 FIVB World League. He coached the Belogorie club to the silver medal in the Russian Championship five times and in 2007, he helped the Dynamo women’s club win the Russian Championship.
Zaytsev will be forever remembered for his long career, remarkable success, impeccable setting skills on the court and his inspirational leadership.
The IVHF exists to honor the legends, recognize the greats, and preserve the history of volleyball.