Manager, Media Relations and Publications
ANAHEIM, Calif. (Aug. 1, 2008) – Two days after becoming the first U.S. team to win the 2008 FIVB World League title, members of the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team were enjoying an Olympic Games sendoff party at the ESPN Zone restaurant in Anaheim, Calif.
As has become the pattern during the summer of 2008, there wasn’t much time to reflect on their accomplishment before looking forward to the next challenge.
But U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand), who watched his team go from a three-set defeat at the hands of Serbia to a four-set victory over the same team to win the title, wasn’t ready to set aside his team’s World League trophy just yet.
“The guys competed like crazy,” McCutcheon said. “They were absolutely tenacious out there. They were scrapping for every ball and focused on every play.
“You hope that we can build on this wonderful base we’ve built as we go into the Olympic Games.”
OK, so maybe it’s difficult not to think about the next and biggest mountain the U.S. Men must climb, the 2008 Olympic Games. All six teams that made it to the World League Final Round – Japan, Poland, Serbia, the United States, Brazil and Russia, will play next in Beijing. Brazil, Poland, Russia and Serbia will all be in Pool A. The United States and Japan will play in Pool B.
“It blows me away to see how difficult that other pool is going to be at the Olympics,” said U.S. middle blocker Ryan Millar (Palmdale, Calif.) “It is going to be interesting to see who comes out of that pool and in what position.”
Not only did the U.S Men learn about other teams in the final round, they also learned about themselves and their ability to come back from a three-set loss to Serbia (25-23, 25-19, 25-17) that seemed to end any hopes for a medal.
“I think there were a couple problems the first time we played Serbia,” McCutcheon said. “First, we rested some guys the week before (when the U.S. Men played in Bulgaria) and their flight to Rio was delayed a whole day due to mechanical problems. So they arrived the day before our first match and, after being apart for 2 weeks, we only had an hour to train together.”
“Second, we didn’t know too much about Serbia. They’re good. We found that out in a hurry.”
The United States came back to beat Poland in a five-set, do-or-die battle (25-18, 23-25, 27-25, 18-25, 16-14) the next day. Poland reached match point in the fifth set, but Team USA fought off the loss.
Then, Team USA had to wait for the outcome of the match between Poland and Serbia.
“We’re usually pretty good when our backs are against the wall,” Millar said. “It was exciting.”
What came next – a three-set defeat of world No. 1-ranked Brazil (25-23, 25-22, 27-25) – was a surprise to some, but not so much to the U.S. Men, who have done well against Brazil. Team USA is now 4-3 against Brazil since 2004.
Serbia surprised Russia with a three-set victory in the other semifinal, which set up the rematch between the U.S. Men and Serbia. This time, the United States was ready.
“I really wanted another crack at Serbia,” Millar said.
The United States’ 26-24, 23-25, 25-23, 25-22 victory on Sunday earned it the $1 million World League check.
After a few precious days in Southern California, the U.S. Men headed to San Jose on July 31 for Olympic team processing. They leave for Beijing on Aug. 2 and will play their first Olympic match on Aug. 10 against Venezuela.
World League on TV
On Aug. 7, ESPNU will televise (tape delayed) the final three matches from the FIVB (Federation of International Volleyball) World League, featuring the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team’s journey to its first FIVB World League title, which took place July 27, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
U.S.A. vs. Poland (Pool Play)
U.S.A. vs. Brazil (Semifinal)
U.S.A. vs. Serbia (Gold Medal Match)
U.S. setter Lloy Ball (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and libero Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.) were each recognized for their World League efforts.
Ball was named the tournament MVP and Best Setter. He was credited with 142 running sets, 182 still sets and five faults on 329 attempts in the final round for an average of 9.47 running sets per set. A running set is defined as a set from a player that puts their hitter against one blocker or none. Still sets happen when a player sets an attacker and there are two blockers or more.
He also scored five points on four kills and one ace.
Lambourne finished the final round with 45 digs and 25 faults in 74 total attempts for an average of three digs per set. He was also credited with 76 “excellent” receptions on 131 attempts for an efficiency percentage of 55.
An “excellent” reception occurs when a receiving player places the ball within the reach of the setter at the net who can handle it to prepare any attack by all of the hitters.
Among the other top U.S. performances, Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.) and Clay Stanley (Honolulu, Hawai’i) tied for second in scoring behind Serbia’s Ivan Miljkovic. Priddy finished the final round with 63 points on 53 kills, six blocks and four aces. Stanley had 63 points on 50 kills, eight blocks and five aces.
Millar was fifth among blockers with nine blocks, 18 faults and 24 rebounds on 51 attempts for an average of 0.60 blocks per set. Stanley and David Lee (Honolulu, Hawai’i) each finished with eight blocks and an average of 0.53 per set.
Stanley’s five aces put him fourth among all servers with an average of 0.33 per set.