U.S. Men are Beijing Bound after Beating Puerto Rico

Jan. 12, 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. 11, 2008) -- The U.S. Men's National Volleyball Team qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-20) victory over Puerto Rico on Friday at the 2008 NORCECA Continental Olympic Qualifying Championship in Caguas, Puerto Rico. The U.S. Men won the tournament with a 5-0 record and without dropping a set. Puerto Rico finished second with a 4-2 record. Cuba defeated Canada (25-23, 25-23, 24-26, 25-23) to finish third.

A crowd estimated at 6,500 packed Hector Sola Bezares Coliseum to see the match. U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) started 6-foot-9 Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) in the front row at outside hitter in place of usual starter Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.) and the move paid off as Rooney finished the match with 16 points on 15 kills and one block.

"I feel relieved and excited," McCutcheon said. "The team rose to the occasion and we executed in all the aspects of the game. So many guys performed at their highest level and with a lot of energy."

David Lee (Alpine, Calif.), Riley Salmon (League City, Texas) and Clay Stanley (Honolulu, Hawai'i) each had 10 points. Ryan Millar (Palmdale, Calif.) finished with a match-high five blocks, more than the entire Puerto Rican team could muster. Team USA out-blocked Puerto Rico 13-4. Puerto Rico's prolific opposite Hector Soto was held to just 16 points, and no other Puerto Rican player scored in double digits.

"They played too well, we got overmatched since early in the match,"s aid Puerto Rico Head Coach Carlos Cardona." We were left without solutions and the size of the team they used today somewhat surprised us."

McCutcheon started Rooney and Salmon at outside hitter, Lee and Millar at middle blocker, Stanley at opposite and Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.) at libero. Kevin Hansen (Newport Beach, Calif.) entered the match to serve and Priddy substituted in the back row for Rooney.

Team USA led the first set 8-5 at the first technical timeout and 16-13 at the second. The U.S. Men used solid receptions to set up quick attacks down the middle that Puerto Rico could not stop. The U.S. Men held a 16-13 lead at the second technical timeout of the second set, relying on clutch blocking by Lee and Millar. With the United States leading 18-14, Puerto Rico rallied behind the serving of Soto to make the score 18-17. But the United States took a timeout and Millar responded with a kill to bring the U.S. lead back to two. Puerto Rico did not challenge again. The U.S. Men held an 8-4 lead at the first TTO of the third set and increased it to 16-9 at the second. Team USA reached match point at 24-18, but Puerto Rico held off the loss by scoring two points before Salmon closed the match with a kill.

"We put tremendous pressure on the Puerto Rican team," said U.S. team captain Tom Hoff. "Our staff did a great job and we did all they wanted. Our team got better and better with the tournament and we reserved our best for the last match."

The U.S. Men are the fifth team to qualify for the 12-team field at the Olympics. The others are China as the host country, Venezuela, which won the South American zone qualifier and Brazil, Bulgaria and Russia, which all qualified at the 2007 World Cup. The field will be half filled later this weekend when the European zone qualifier finishes. Puerto Rico and Cuba, as the second- and third-place NORCECA finishers, will have the opportunity to compete at one last Olympic qualifier.

2008 NORCECA Men's Continental Olympic Qualification Championship U.S. Men's National Team
(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)
4 David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
5 Rich Lambourne (L, 6-3, Tustin, Calif., BYU)
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 (OPP, 6-9, San Clemente, Calif., Stanford)
18 Scott Touzinsky (OH, 6-7, St. Louis, Mo., Long Beach State)

Head Coach: Hugh McCutcheon
Team Manager: Robert Browning
Assistant Coach: Ron Larsen
Assistant Coach: John Speraw
Doctor: Dr. Andrew Gregory
Technical Coordinator: Jamie Morrison
Medical Support: Aaron Brock

Final Standings
1. USA
2. Puerto Rico
3. Cuba
4. Canada
5. Mexico
6. Dominican Republic
7. Trinidad & Tobago
8. Barbados

Group A
United States 3-0
Puerto Rico 2-1
Dominican Republic 1-2
Barbados 0-3

Group B
Canada 3-0
Cuba 2-1
Mexico 1-2
Trinidad & Tobago 0-3

Tournament Results
Preliminary Round
Jan. 6
Canada def. Trinidad & Tobago, 25-9, 25-14, 25-15
USA def. Dominican Republic, 25-13, 25-19, 25-19
Cuba def. Mexico, 25-19, 25-23, 25-20
Puerto Rico def. Barbados, 25-13, 25-12, 25-19

Jan. 7
Mexico def. Trinidad & Tobago, 25-20, 25-13, 25-11
USA def. Barbados, 25-14, 25-10, 25-16
Canada def. Cuba, 25-23, 19-25, 26-24, 25-20
Puerto Rico def. Dominican Republic, 28-26, 25-21, 38-36

Jan. 8
Cuba def. Trinidad , Tobago, 25-13, 25-8, 25-15
Dominican Republic def. Barbados, 25-19, 25-19, 25-17
Canada def. Mexico, 25-21, 25-19, 25-20
USA def. Puerto Rico, 25-21, 25-23, 25-22

Final Round
Jan. 9
Cuba def. Dominican Republic, 25-15, 25-21, 25-23
Puerto Rico def. Mexico, 25-23, 30-28, 22-25, 19-25, 15-11

Jan. 10
Mexico def. Barbados, 25-13, 25-17, 25-15
Dominican Republic def. Trinidad , Tobago, 25-17, 25-22, 28-26
USA def. Cuba, 25-22, 27-25, 25-18
Puerto Rico def. Canada, 41-39, 25-21, 25-19

Jan. 11
7th Place-Trinidad & Tobago def. Barbados, 23-25, 25-18, 25-19, 20-25, 15-11
5th Place - Mexico def. Dominican Republic, 22-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-20
3rd Place - Cuba vs. Canada, 25-23, 25-23, 24-26, 25-23
Championship - USA vs. Puerto Rico, 25-20, 25-19, 25-20