Major League Volleyball (1987-1989)
Born: November 25, 1986 – MLV founding franchise.
- Home: Navy Blue & White
- Away: Scarlet & White
- 1987-1988: Major League Volleyball
- 1989-1990: R. Steven Arnold
The Minnesota Monarchs were the most popular team in Major League Volleyball, a largely forgotten attempt to start an all-women’s pro volleyball circuit in the United States in the late 1980’s. (The previous attempt at a pro volleyball league – the International Volleyball Association of the 1970’s – was co-ed).
The Monarchs were one of six original franchises when MLV debuted in early 1987. The league had a cable TV contract with ESPN, which provided some national exposure and succeeded in signing top Olympic players of the era from the U.S. and Canada. The Monarchs were the best draw in the league, averaging around 2,000 fans per match in the Twin Cities.
The team was a doormat at first, finishing 4-14 during the league’s inaugural season of 1987. In 1988, the team improved to 16-6. The team improved to 16-6 in 1988, thanks in part to the acquisition of former Fresno State star Ruth Lawanson, who was the Monarchs’ top attacking player and won Major League Volleyball MVP honors in 1988.
In 1989 the Monarchs were off to a stellar 9-0 start, when the rest of the league imploded around them. While the Monarchs were a decent draw in Minneapolis, Major League Volleyball’s anchor teams in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York were nearly invisible and taking large losses. The owners voted to shut down the league in late March 1989, less than halfway through the planned regular season schedule.
Major League Volleyball was dead, but the Monarchs lived on for two more years largely thanks to the perseverance of veteran minor league promoter Lee Meade (ABA, WHA, World Team Tennis, among other stops), who served as a league executive during the Major League Volleyball years. Meade announced that the Monarchs announced they were part of something called the Women’s International Volleyball League, but in fact there was no such thing. The “league” designation was window dressing for an exhibition schedule that saw the Monarchs barnstorm Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin, playing matches against the University of Manitoba, the “Legends of Beach Volleyball”, and touring clubs from Holland, Japan and the Soviet Union.
It appears the Monarchs faded from existence sometime in 1991, after a second barnstorming season.
Monarchs All-Star Judy Bellomo (1988-1989) died of cancer at age 23 on January 24, 1990.
Monarchs General Manager and chief promoter Lee Meade passed away on December 29, 2010 at age 82 of complications from diabetes.
“It’s Not Exactly The Midas Touch” – November 1990 Sports Illustrated profile of Monarchs executive Lee Meade.