COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 28, 2012)— The volleyball players competing at the 2012 NORCECA Men’s Junior (U-21) Continental Championship being held in Colorado Springs, Colo. are still feeling the Olympic buzz weeks after the 2012 London closing ceremonies.
Competing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (OTC) with and against 94 of the world’s up-and-coming athletes may have something to do with it. And it doesn’t hurt that all 94 share a unifying passion for volleyball.
The eight teams in attendance hail from Canada, Curacao, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Puerto Rico, St. Vincent and the United States.
The 2012 U.S. Men's Junior National Volleyball Team (MJNT) has spent the past three weeks training at the OTC in preparation for the NORCECA (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) Continental Championship. U.S. team captain Micah Christenson (Honolulu) commented on the dream uniting all the athletes competing in the tournament.
“These guys we are playing with and against are the next class of Olympians,” Christenson said. “That is definitely a goal for me, and a lot of guys here. This program can serve as a stepping stone because it gets you in the pipeline and gets your name out there.”Quinten Anthony (Curacao) and his team arrived at the OTC last weekend and have already enjoyed their debut experience at the NORCECA event.
“This is a great place,” Anthony said. “It is better than some other locations we have played at. You are staying where you play. We can just walk right into the gym.”
For Anthony, who loves nothing more than to be around volleyball, that is a definite perk.
“I have passion,” Anthony said. “Me and my sister didn’t do anything those days during the Olympics. I would just sleep, wake up and turn my computer on. I would pull up three or four websites to watch beach and indoor. I would have my junior team practice at nights. Then sleep. And back through the same cycle the next day.”
Anthony’s volleyball passion is shared by James Shaw (Woodside, Calif.) of the U.S. MJNT. Shaw had the opportunity to watch the end of the Olympics at USA Volleyball’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. with his MJNT.
“Watching our Olympic teams play was inspiring to me and my (MJNT) teammates,” Shaw said. “Everyone goes into this event knowing the goal is the Olympic level. It is great being here.”
2012 NORCECA Men's Junior Continental Championship Schedule
Aug. 27: Mexico def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-7, 25-10, 25-15 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 27: United States def. Honduras 25-12, 25-12, 25-16 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: Mexico def. Honduras 25-15, 26-24, 25-14 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: United States def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-8, 25-8, 25-9 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: Honduras def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-17, 25-11, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: United States def. Mexico 25-18, 25-18, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 27: Puerto Rico def. Curacao, 27-25, 25-13, 25-23 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 27: Canada def. Guatemala 25-15, 25-13, 25-21 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: Canada def. Curacao 25-13, 25-7, 25-22 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: Puerto Rico def. Guatemala 25-20, 25-19, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: Guatemala def. Curacao 25-14, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: Canada def. Puerto Rico 25-13, 25-15, 28-30, 25-12 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 30: Puerto Rico def. Honduras 25-16, 25-16, 25-11 (Match 13) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 30: Mexico def. Guatemala 25-23, 25-17, 25-23 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 31: Guatemala def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-12, 25-16, 25-16 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 31: Honduras def. Curacao 25-27, 25-19, 27-25, 25-19 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Curacao, 11:00 a.m. (7th Place) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: Guatemala vs. Honduras, 1:00 p.m. (5th Place) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: Mexico vs. Puerto Rico 3:00 p.m. (Bronze) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: Canada vs. United States, 5:30 p.m. (Gold) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Shaw, who has competed in past international events on the USA Volleyball pipeline, added that playing at the OTC has made the experience.
“It is always ideal to play in front of your home crowd,” Shaw said. “This is my first time for that at the international level. It has been great being here on all levels.”
Canadian team captain Milan Nikic’s shares Shaw’s opinion on competing at the OTC. Being in this setting has kept the Olympic spirit fresh in his mind.“Coming here and knowing that Michael Phelps trained here is pretty cool,” Nikic said. “After being exposed to watching the Games and then coming here, it gives me that national pride of representing my country. This is like a mini Olympics.”
While wearing ‘Canada’ on his jersey has kept the Olympics on his mind, competing at this high level has driven Nikic to strive for his own Olympic dreams.
“This is a big stepping stone here,” Nikic said. “It is all working towards the Olympic team goal and a good portion of my teammates are thinking that way as well.”
Mexico’s team captain Jonathan Ponce also cherishes the opportunity to represent his country, especially in this Olympic year.
“It is a pleasure for me to play for Mexico,” Ponce said. “Especially to play at this high level with this team. We have a great team. We have been together for two months now practicing. We would watch the (Olympic) Games together and we loved it. It was a great experience and made me want to reach that level.”
Honduras team captain Ricardo Vasquez was also motivated to reach the next level after watching the Olympics and competing at NORCECA. As a high school senior, the next level for Vasquez is collegiate volleyball.
“I am not in college yet, and this experience has definitely been a stepping stone,” Vasquez said. “Being here, practicing at the facilities, seeing what it can be like. I definitely want to try to play in college. That would be awesome. That is the next step for me.”
As these athletes stand taller with pride from competing for their countries in a qualifying competition for the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Men's Junior World Championship so soon after the Olympics, onlookers can gain inspiration from their passion for the sport and desire to pursue their own volleyball dreams.
2012 U.S. Men’s Junior National Volleyball Team
# - Name (Position, Hometown, Grad Year, Club, Region, College Status)
3 - Micah Christenson (S, Honolulu, Hawaii, 2011, Outrigger Canoe Club, Aloha, University of Southern California)
4 - Tony Ensbury (L, Manhattan Beach, Calif., 2011, SCVC, Southern California, Princeton University)
5 - Driss Guessous (MB, Pasadena, Calif., 2012, Manhattan Beach Surf, Southern California Signed at Ohio State)
6 - Michael Henchy (OH, Ventura, Calif., 2011, Spectrum VBC, Southern California, Ohio State)
8 - Nick Olson (MB, New Berlin, Wis., 2012, West Allis Lightning, Badger, Signed at University of Chicago-Loyola)
9 - Ben Patch (Opp, Provo, Utah, 2012, Utah Elite, Intermountain, Signed at Brigham Young University)
10 - Greg Petty (OH, Downers Grove, Ill., 2011, Sports Performance, Great Lakes, Lewis University)
11 - Scott Rhein (OH, Pleasant View, Tenn., 2011, Impact Volleyball Club, Southern, Pepperdine)
14 - James Shaw (S/Opp, Woodside, Calif., 2012, Mountain View Volleyball Club, Northern California, Signed at Stanford)
16 - Matt Tarantino (Opp, Van Nuys, Calif., 2011, Santa Monica Beach Club, Southern California, Pepperdine)
17 - Matt West (S, Seattle, Wash., 2011, Space Needle Volleyball Foundation, Puget Sound Region, Pepperdine)
18 - DJ White (L/OH, Hermosa Beach, Calif., 2011, Manhattan Beach Surf, Southern California, Harvard)