ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 22, 2007)
- The U.S. Men's Volleyball Team is looking for a little payback as it faces France in the opening weekend of the FIVB World League at 7 p.m. on May 26 and at 5 p.m. on May 27 at the Chiles Center in Portland, Ore.
In November, the French team beat the U.S. Men in five hard-fought sets (17-25, 25-12, 24-26, 25-17, 15-11) at the FIVB World Championships in Japan. The French went on to finish sixth and the United States finished 10th.
But that was then and this is now.
The U.S. Men plan to come back strong in 2007 as they begin their quest to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Because the World League has no bearing on Olympic qualification, U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) will be using these matches to decide the best players and rotations for the qualifying tournaments to come.
"We are very interested in using WL to look at different lineups to try to determine what group we will play with in the qualification events." McCutcheon said.
Expect the rosters to change significantly throughout the six weekends of World League. Each team submits a roster of 19 players before the League starts. From that 19, they have to choose their 12-man roster before each weekend.
The U.S. team was dealt a blow before the season started when veteran setter Donald Suxho (Korce, Albania) partially ruptured his left Achilles tendon while playing for his club team in Italy. He is not expected to be back with the team until July.
Setters Brandon Taliaferro (San Clemente, Calif.) and Kevin Hansen (Newport Beach, Calif.) will likely get the call for Portland. The third setter on the roster, three-time Olympian Lloy Ball (Woodburn, Ind.) just returned to the United States from his Russian club team last week.
Outside hitter Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.), 6-5, led the U.S. team in scoring in 2006 with 416 points, followed by 6-4 opposite Dave McKienzie (Littleton, Colo.) with 332. Ryan Millar (Palmdale, Calif.), a 6-7 middle blocker, led the team in scoring blocks with 51.
McCutcheon acknowledges that it may take some time for the team to get up to speed.
"Losing Donny to his injury was significant. Lloy and (opposite) Clay Stanley just got done in Russia. We're just getting the guys who played in Poland back in the gym," he said.
"And we have a tough pool, but we're OK with that. We want to play some good teams now so we can evaluate performance, but our goal is to peak in September and November."
The NORCECA Championships, a qualifier for the FIVB World Cup, will be in September in the United States. The FIVB World Cup, the first opportunity to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, will be in November in Japan.
The "tough pool" McCutcheon talks about includes France, which finished second at World League last year behind Brazil and is ranked seventh in the world; Japan, ranked 10th in the world and Italy, which is ranked second in the world and finished sixth at World League last year and fifth at the Word Championships.
The U.S. Men finished tied for 10th in the World League last year and are now ranked eighth in the world. The players know they have to take the World League matches one at a time over the next six weekends if they want to qualify for the finals, July 11-15 in Poland. Only the winner of each pool qualifies, along with the finals host and one wild-card team.
Look for France to be led by its 6-foot-7 captain Stéphane Antiga at the opposite position and 6-foot-3 outside hitter Frantz Granvorka.
The United States' overall record against France since 1981 is 33-14.
All U.S. matches and the World League finals are scheduled to be shown on ESPNU.
The U.S. World League home matches are presented by GL7, the Official Sports Drink of USA Volleyball.
The USA Volleyball FIVB World League web site is www.usavolleyball.org/national/wl07.asp.
The FIVB World League Web Site is www.fivb.org/EN/Volleyball/Competitions/WorldLeague/2007.
2007 FIVB World League Information
Brazil, Canada, Korea, Finland
France, USA, Japan, Italy
Russia, Cuba, Egypt, Serbia
Bulgaria, Argentina, China, Poland
2007 U.S. World League Schedule
Date: May 26-27
Location: Portland, Ore. - The Chiles Center Arena
Date: June 1-2
Location: Green Bay, Wis. - The Resch Center
Date: June 8-9
Location: Lyon, France - Palais des Gerland
Date: June 15-16
Location: Chicago, Ill. - The Convocation Center
Date: June 23-24
Location: Kumamoto - Kumamoto Prefectural Gymnasium
Date: June 29
Location: Napoli - PalaBarbuto
Date: July 1
Location: Avelino - Pal Del Mauro
World League Final
Date: July 11-15
Location: Katowice, Poland
U.S. Men's Roster
(No., Name, Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1 Lloy Ball (S, 6-8, Woodburn, Ind., Indiana-Purdue, Fort Wayne)
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)
6 Phil Eatherton (MB, 6-9, Glencoe, Mo., Ball State)
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)
11 Brook Billings (OPP, 6-5, Santa Barbara, Calif., USC)
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)
16 Dave McKienzie (OPP, 6-4, Littleton, Colo., Long Beach State)
17 Delano Thomas (MB, 6-7, Sacramento, Calif., Hawai'i)
18 Nils Nielsen (OH, 6-4, Fallbrook, Calif., Cal State Northridge)
19 Alfee Reft (L, 5-10, Oxnard, Calif., Hawai'i)