U.S. Men Face More Challenges in World League Final Round

July 11, 2007, 12 a.m. (ET)
Contact: B.J. Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800

ANAHEIM, Calif. (July 11, 2007) - The U.S. Men's National Team has reached its first major goal of the 2007 season: it will play in the final round of the FIVB World League.

Now, Team USA must fight any feelings of "just being happy to be there" and buckle down to win its final-round pool, starting Thursday at Spodek Hall in Katowice, Poland.

"We're happy to be here and we look forward to good matches," U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) said at a press conference on Tuesday. "We're satisfied that we came here, but it's a new game now and we have to face strong teams. I hope we advance to the semifinals."

The United States is in Pool E for the final round. The pool also includes France, which finished second to the U.S. Men in pool play but earned the FIVB wild card into the final round, and Poland, which won its pool, but also advanced as the host country.

Poland defeated France 3-2 (38-36, 19-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-11) in the first final-round match on Wednesday. The U.S. Men start play on Thursday against France (2 p.m. EDT) and on Friday against Poland (2 p.m. EDT).

The United States and France split their four pool-play matches, with each team winning one home match and one away contest. All the matches went to four sets except the very first, played on May 26 in Portland, Ore., which France won in five.

France finished World League pool play with a 7-5 record, having also lost two matches to Italy and one to Japan. The U.S. Men finished pool play at 10-2, losing only to France.

"We're happy to be playing a team we've played before and played pretty well," McCutcheon said. "On the flip side, they know us."

Outside hitter Guillaume Samica led France in scoring during pool play, and finished tied for fourth among all World League scorers, with 170 points. French libero Jean-Francois Exiga led all diggers in pool play with a 2.43 per set average.

Poland will also provide a major challenge for the U.S. Men. Not only did Poland finish second at the 2006 FIVB World Championships, but it will have a home crowd of more than 10,000 screaming fans.

"There's a lot of energy" said McCutcheon, who learned this firsthand during the 2006 FIVB World League when the U. S. Men had to play Poland in Poland during pool play. "But with that many screaming fans, it's tough to communicate as well as we'd like to."

Outside hitter Michal Winiarski has led Poland in scoring, and is 15th overall, with 140 points. Winiarski led all World League competitors in spikes with a 56.86 success percentage. Opposite Mariusz Wlazly is second on the team in scoring with 136.

Pool F includes four-time defending World League champion Brazil, Russia and Bulgaria. Bulgaria surprised Brazil on Wednesday with a 3-2 (21-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 15-12) victory in the first round.

The top two finishers in each pool will face each other (Nos. 1 vs. Nos. 2) in the semifinals on July 14. The winners will play for the World League championship and the losers will play for third place on July 15.

Focusing on his own team, McCutcheon has been pleased with the U.S. Men's progress throughout the tournament.

"The thing that's been nice with this group and all 19 men on the roster is that every weekend we've improved," he said. "We hope to keep building on what we've achieved in pool play. I think we will."

Although McCutcheon used various lineups throughout pool play, the group he has taken to Poland is the same one he used for the last three weekends of pool play. That group went 6-0 in four matches against Italy and two against Japan.

Outside hitter Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.) led the U.S. Men in several categories during World League pool play. He was the leading scorer, and finished third overall, with 181 points. He was also the leading server, and fifth overall, with an average of 0.31 aces per set. He was the leading receiver, and third overall, with an efficiency percentage of 61.54. Middle blocker Ryan Millar (Palmdale, Calif.) was the second leading World League blocker with an average of 0.80 blocks per set.

All World League matches played in the United States and the World League finals are scheduled to be shown on ESPNU.

View a video interview with U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon at http://worldleague2007.splinder.com/.

Results, statistics and photos are available on the FIVB World League Web Site at www.fivb.org/EN/Volleyball/Competitions/WorldLeague/2007.

The 2007 U.S. Men's media kit is available at www.usavolleyball.org/media/national/us_men_mediakit07.pdf (please note that this is a large PDF file).

2007 FIVB World League

Final Round Schedule

Pool E
July 11: Poland def. France, 3-2 (38-36 19-25 21-25 25-21 15-11)
July 12: France vs. USA, 11 a.m. PDT
July 13: Poland vs. USA, 11 a.m. PDT

Pool F
July 11: Bulgaria def. Brazil, 3-2 (21-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 15-12)
July 12: Bulgaria vs. Russia, 8 a.m. PDT
July 13: Russia vs. Brazil, 8 a.m. PDT

July 14
SF1: F winner vs. E second, 8 a.m. PDT
SF2: E winner vs. F second, 11 a.m. PDT

July 15
Loser SF1 vs. Loser SF2, 8 a.m. PDT
Winner SF1 vs. Winner SF2, 11 a.m. PDT

U.S. 12-Man Roster

No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
2 Sean Rooney (OH, 6-9, Wheaton, Ill., Pepperdine)
3 Jim Polster (OH, 6-6, Laguna Niguel, Calif., Long Beach State)
4 Brandon Taliaferro (S, 6-5, San Clemente, Calif., UCLA)
5 Rich Lambourne (L, 6-3, Tustin, Calif., BYU)
7 David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
8 Reid Priddy (OH, 6-5, Richmond, Va., Loyola Marymount)
9 Ryan Millar (MB, 6-8, Palmdale, Calif., BYU)
10 Riley Salmon (OH, 6-6, League City, Texas, Pierce College)
12 Tom Hoff (MB, 6-8, Park Ridge, Ill., Long Beach State)
13 Clay Stanley (OPP, 6-9, Honolulu, Hawai'i, Hawai'i)
14 Kevin Hansen (S, 6-5, Newport Beach, Calif., Stanford)
15 Gabe Gardner (OH, 6-9, San Clemente, Calif., Stanford)