U.S. Men Pursue Olympic Qualifying in Puerto Rico

Jan. 04, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)

B.J. Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800
E-Mail: bj.evans@usav.org

ANAHEIM, Calif. (Jan. 3, 2008) - The U.S. Men's National Team departed on Wednesday night for Caguas, Puerto Rico, where it will compete at the 2008 NORCECA Men's Continental Olympic Qualification Championship on Jan. 6-11.

The tournament is the second chance for the U.S. Men to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The first chance was at the 2007 FIVB World Cup, where the U.S. Men finished fourth. Only the winner of the NORCECA qualifier will go to Beijing.

Members of the U.S. Men's Team returned from their international club teams to the American Sports Center in Anaheim on Dec. 26 to begin training for the NORCECA tournament.

"We've identified a few key areas from World Cup that we needed to work on," U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "But mostly the practices have been about getting reconnected and getting hitters on the same page."

The teams at the NORCECA qualifier will be the same eight teams that competed at the NORCECA Continental Championship in September in Anaheim: Barbados, Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Trinidad , Tobago and the United States. The U.S. Men won that tournament, defeating Puerto Rico in the final, 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23), after previously defeating it in pool play. However, Puerto Rico came back at the World Cup and surprised the United States with a 3-1 (25-21, 20-25, 25-17, 25-22) victory over Team USA. Although Puerto Rico went on to finish sixth at the World Cup, team captain Hector Soto was the overall leading scorer of the tournament with 243 on 224 kills, nine blocks and 10 aces. The next leading scorer had only 200 points.

Ranked No. 3 in the world, Team USA is the top-ranked team in the tournament, followed by Puerto Rico (eighth), Cuba (17th) and Canada (18th). However the U.S. Men know they cannot take any of the teams lightly.

"I think we have every reason to feel confident about our team. But we cannot be complacent," McCutcheon said. "I thought we had a good 2007. Overall our World Cup was good. We were disappointed that we did not reach our goal of qualifying for the Olympics. But after an inconsistent start we put ourselves in a position to qualify."

The U.S. Men reached the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens by winning the NORCECA qualifier. Should the U.S. Men still have to qualify after Puerto Rico, they will have an opportunity at one of the following three tournaments:

May 23-25 in Dusseldorf, Germany there will be a four-team qualifier with Germany plus three teams decided by drawing of lots.
May 30-June 1 in Espinho, Portugal there will be a four-team qualifier with Portugal plus three teams decided by drawing of lots.
May 31-June 8 in Tokyo, Japan there will be an eight-team qualifier with Japan plus the four Asian teams best-ranked in the Asian Continental Championship (Australia, Korea, Iran, Thailand) plus three teams decided by drawing of lots. Drawing of lots: Three best-ranked teams from Europe, two from NORCECA, one from South America, one from Africa, two from Asia (Indonesia, Chinese Taipei). The drawing of lots will be conducted in February 2008 in Japan, at the end of all Continental Olympic Qualification Tournaments.

The NORCECA qualifier web site is www.norceca.org/2008%20Men's%20Continental%20Olympic%20Qualification.htm

2008 NORCECA Men's Continental Olympic Qualification Championship U.S. Men's Preliminary 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 David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
5 Rich Lambourne (L, 6-3, Tustin, Calif., BYU)
6 Phil Eatherton (MB, 6-9, Glencoe, Mo., Ball State)
7 Donald Suxho (S, 6-5, Korce, Albania, USC)
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 (OPP, 6-9, San Clemente, Calif., Stanford)
16 Evan Patak (OPP, 6-8, Pleasanton, Calif., UC Santa Barbara)
17 Delano Thomas (MB, 6-7, Sacramento, Calif., Hawai'i) 18 Scott Touzinsky (OH, 6-7, St. Louis, Mo., Long Beach State)
19 Alfred Reft (L, 5-10, Oxnard, Calif., Hawai'i)

Group A
United States
Puerto Rico
Dominican Republic

Group B
Trinidad & Tobago

Tournament Schedule (all times PST)
Preliminary Round
Jan. 6
7 a.m.: Canada vs. Trinidad & Tobago
9 a.m.: Dominican Republic vs. USA
11 a.m.: Cuba vs. Mexico
2 p.m.: Puerto Rico vs. Barbados

Jan. 7
10 a.m.: Trinidad & Tobago vs. Mexico
Noon: USA vs. Barbados
2 p.m.: Cuba vs. Canada
4 p.m.: Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic

Jan. 8
10 a.m.: Trinidad & Tobago vs. Cuba
Noon: Barbados vs. Dominican Republic
2 p.m.: Mexico vs. Canada
4 p.m.: USA vs. Puerto Rico

Final Round
Jan. 9
2 p.m.: Quarterfinals (2A vs. 3B)
4 p.m.: Quarterfinals (3A vs. 2B)

Jan. 10
10 a.m.: Classification 5-8
Noon: Classification 5-8
2 p.m.: Semifinals
4 p.m.: Semifinals

Jan. 11
10 a.m.: Seventh-place match
Noon: Fifth-place match
2 p.m.: Third-place match
4 p.m.: Championship match