Assistant, Media Relations and Publications
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 21, 2011) – In 2005, two 18-year old men, one outside hitter and one middle blocker walked into a gym after being selected to compete on the U.S. Boys’ Youth National Volleyball Team.
Six years and 13 teams (nine together) later, Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.), the outside, and Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio), the middle, have again been traveling the world with the U.S. World League team.
The final home U.S. stop of the 2011 FIVB World League tournament finds the U.S. Men’s National Team in Long Beach, Calif., just 26 miles from its Anaheim training facility at the American Sports Centers, for the battle between the United States and Puerto Rico on July 1-2.
Both matches are slated for 7 p.m. and tickets are still available by visiting the Long Beach State athletics web site.
In April, the U.S. Men’s National Team players began returning from their individual international professional careers to train together, marking the third season both Anderson and Holt returned to the team’s roster, an annual courtside reunion that has become a tradition since their 2005 USAV debut.
Photo: Courtesy of the FIVB Since that debut, both have been teammates on the 2006 U.S. Men’s Junior National Team that won the silver medal at the NORCECA Men’s Junior Continental Championship, the 2008 Penn State Nittany Lion NCAA Championship Team and the 2009 Pan American Cup gold-medal U.S. Men’s National A2 Team. On a national level, they have been a part of the 2010 U.S. Men’s National Team that competed in the FIVB World Championships and in World League and most recently, the 2011 U.S. Men’s National Team competing in the FIVB World League.
“Every trip that we have been on so far with USAV we have been roommates,” Holt said. “We know each other’s personalities and how to react when the other person is struggling on or off the court. We have a constant dialogue that involves sincere feedback on our individual playing performances.”
“Max and I have been playing together since we were with the youth team,” Anderson said. “But playing at Penn State together turned us into great friends.”
State College, Pa., also known as Happy Valley, lent itself as a short-term home for both Anderson and Holt for an outstanding three years that created an incontestable chemistry that would stay with Penn State volleyball fans for a long time.
“When two people spend as much time together as those two did and still get along as well as they did it creates a solid foundation for a relationship,” Penn State Men’s Volleyball Head Coach Mark Pavlik said.
“They both have a mutual understanding that this is their line of work and that they have the ability to make each other better and use their friendship as an advantage.”
Both enrolled at Penn State in 2005 and competed in the 2006 volleyball season where each made appearances in all 30 matches of that freshman season. Holt was named to EIVA All-Championship team and First Team All-East, tallying 129 blocks, good for 13th on Penn State’s single-season record list. As sophomores they both excelled with mirroring accomplishments, being named First Team All-EIVA and EIVA Championship All-Tournament Team.
Their junior year in 2008 would be unforgettable and arguably their most outstanding season to date as a pair leading the Nittany Lions to their first NCAA Volleyball National Championship title in since 1994.
A Tri-captain Anderson was named EIVA Player of the Year, AVCA Co-Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the 2008 NCAA Championship. He and Holt were both named AVCA First Team All-American and First-Team All-EIVA.
“We just know each other’s games so well,” Holt said. “I know exactly where he is going to be on the court and exactly what he is going to do.”
Coach Pavlik agreed.
“The longer teammates play together the more comfortable they become with the intangibles,” Pavlik said. “They anticipate the other’s speed, their quickness, their next move and their overall technical and athletic ability.”
Prior to their senior season at Penn State, their paths diverged as Anderson left to play for the Hyundai Capital Skywalkers, a professional team in South Korea, playing there during the 2008-09 season and then again in the winter of 2009 until joining the Italian Serie A league team Tonno Callipo Vibo Valentia in 2010-11.
Holt and the Nittany Lions returned to the NCAA semifinal match in 2009, but the team was unable reach the Championship match falling to USC. Holt’s performance was good for his second AVCA Division II All American honor and the EIVA Player of the Year while ranking first in the nation in aces per game and hitting percentage.
Holt graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in journalism before joining Anderson in the Italian professional volleyball circuit playing for his own Italian Serie A League team, Bluvolley Verona during the winter of 2009-10. He then moved on to play for the Italian team Copra Morpho Piacenza.
More than 6,000 miles away from their U.S. National Team training facility, Anderson and Holt’s paths crossed once again, but for the first time on opposite sides of the net.
On March 20, 2011 in Piacenza, Italy, the pair became opponents where Anderson and his team Tonno Callipo Vibo Valentia swept Holt and his Italian Copra Morpho Piacenza squad. There were no hard feelings between friends, just quality competition between athletes.
“His [Anderson’s] team beat us both times we played, so he's got bragging rights for a year until we meet again,” Holt said. “Having said that, it was really fun but also a really weird experience. Ever since we've known each other Matty and I have been on the same side of the court.”
“I always thought of Max as a great player and to be playing against each other in arguably the best league, just shows that both of us can compete with the best,” Anderson said. “It was also nice to get both those wins.”
The conclusion of the 2010-11 winter season abroad came to a close and planes were booked back home, where a familiar jersey was waiting for Anderson and Holt.
The 2011 FIVB World League marks the sixth year the pair has represented the United States on the volleyball court with the Long Beach homecoming in July marking the end of pool play of the tournament. The team has already traveled to Poland, Brazil and Puerto Rico, tallying a 4-2 record in those countries as part of the FIVB World League Pool A matches.
Since then, the team has played Poland in Hoffman Estates, Ill., and Brazil in Tulsa, Okla., going 1-1 against each team.
Only one of the teammates, Anderson, has made the U.S. 14-man roster for Long Beach. But Holt will be there to cheer him on.
“It should be fun,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we can get a great crowd and make the matches fun for us and for the fans.”
The U.S. matches versus Puerto Rico could mean a possible ticket into the FIVB World League Final Round putting more importance on winning the contests. The four pool winners and the top three second-place finishers join host Poland in the Final Round held July 6-10.
It has been six years since those two young boys walked into the gym to slip into their first USA Volleyball uniforms. Over the course of time their athletic ability has advanced exponentially, paralleling the growth of their friendship.