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(Jan. 31, 2008) - U.S. middle blocker Ryan Millar has been an important part of the U.S. Men's National Volleyball Team since he joined in 1999. But in 2007, at age 29, the two-time Olympian had one of his best seasons and was named the U.S. Men's Indoor Player of the Year.
Millar (Palmdale, Calif.) played in 127 sets for the U.S. Men's National Team in 2007, more sets than any other player besides libero Rich Lambourne. The U.S. Men's Team finished with a record of 33-8 and won a gold medal at the Americas' Cup, bronze in the FIVB World League and finished fourth at the FIVB World Cup.
"I am happy that my efforts in 2007 weren't overlooked," Millar said via e-mail from Italy where he plays professionally for the Sparkling Milano Volleyball Team. "Every time I step on the court with the USA on my back, I do what I can to help the team win. The thing I am most proud of (in 2007) is the boosting of our world ranking to No. 3 in the world. That is the highest we have ever been since I have been with the team."
The 6-foot-7 Millar led the U.S. Men in blocks in 2007 with 84, averaging 0.66 blocks per set. He was the second-leading scorer on the U.S. Men's Team (behind Reid Priddy) with 350 points. He averaged 2.75 points per set. Millar was second among all blockers at the end of World League pool play with 36 blocks on 89 attempts and an average of 0.80 blocks per set. He was second among all blockers in the World Cup with a total of 27 blocks in 40 sets for an average of 0.675 blocks per set. Although overall tournament statistics were not available, Millar led the United States in blocking with 10 at the 2008 NORCECA Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament, which the U.S. Men won with five match victories and no set losses. The victory qualified Team USA for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
"Before the tournament even started, I told my wife (Suzanne) that I was seriously thinking that we were not going to drop a set the whole tournament, and it turned out I was right," Millar wrote. "I think after the World Cup (in which the U.S. Men finished fourth and just missed qualifying for the Olympic Games) every one of us looked inside ourselves and thought about what it was going to take to qualify in Puerto Rico, and it showed."
Although the team for Beijing has not yet been announced, it is safe to say that Millar will most likely play in his third Olympic Games in 2008. He has talked of competing through the 2012 Olympic Games in London if he stays healthy. Eventually, he hopes to pursue his dream of being a head coach; something he started when he served as co-head men's volleyball coach at Brigham Young University for the 2007 season. Millar was a star at BYU when he played there from 1996-99 and still holds several school records.
"Being at BYU last year was great," Millar wrote. "We had a good group of guys, who worked hard and listened to the things that I tried to teach them. I hope that they are better players because I was their coach. Coaching has been a passion of mine for quite a while now. I will definitely be coaching after I am finished playing. I would love to coach the USA at the Olympic Games someday."
Away from the court, Millar and Suzanne are the parents of Max, who will turn 2 this year.
"Playing volleyball in a two-hour match has nothing on chasing Max around for two hours. It amazes me how much energy kids have," Millar wrote. "If I do have any free time, I like to snowboard, golf, and take vacations with my wife."FIVB World League Update
: Canada has had to withdraw from the FIVB World League tournament and the FIVB has put out a call for a replacement. Canada's withdrawal was forced when it lost funding from the "Road to Excellence" Program. The program is a partnership between the Canadian Olympic Committee, private sector partners and the federal government to deliver high-performance sports programming and medals in summer sport. It was designed to support Summer Olympic and Paralympic sports deemed to have high probability of success in Beijing 2008 and for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The Canadian Men's Volleyball Team finished fourth at the NORCECA Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament and would not have had another chance to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games. Canada's replacement will fill its spot in Pool A along with Brazil, France and Serbia.