It's a Small World for Men's Volleyball

By Deb Stadick | Aug. 29, 2012, 8:25 p.m. (ET)

Deb Stadick
Communications, Intern
Phone: 719-228-6800
@USA_Volleyball - USAV Facebook

MJNT Press Kit – Event Page Live Stream Link


Small-World Connections at NORCECA
Top Left:
Jonah Carson and Giovanni Llinas Top Center:Jonah Carson and Jay Hosack Top Right: Jay Hosack and Ramon Hernandez Middle Left: Cristian Rivera and Micah Christenson Middle Center: Scot Rhein, Matt West and Matt Tarantino Bottom Left: Cody Kessel, Tony Ensbury and DJ White Bottom Right:Michael Henchy, Peter Hanson, Jake Schick and Driss Guessous

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 28, 2012) — We have all heard the expression, “It’s a small world.” It may be a cliché, but at the 2012 NORCECA Men’s Junior (U-21) Continental Championship being held in Colorado Springs, Colo., it proved to be a reality.

The international event hosts eight teams, including Canada, Curacao, Honduras, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Mexico, St. Vincent and the United States. Each team is composed of the country’s top volleyball players at the junior age level.

The 12- player U.S. Men’s Junior National Volleyball Team (MJNT) boasts nationwide representation and carries players from seven states. One would think that in such a geographically diverse gym, both nationally and internationally, it would be hard to find connections.

That is not that case.

Within the U.S. squad, Matt Tarantino (Van Nuys, Calif.), Scott Rhein (Pleasant View, Tenn.) and Matt West (Seattle, Wash.) compete together collegiately at Pepperdine University.

“We sort of planned it,” Tarantino said. “Being in the USA Volleyball pipeline, we have known each other since we were 14. It is cool that we get to play in college together and pretty special coming here together.”

Despite living far away during the summer, the three stay in touch and remain friends on and off the court.

“Tino (Tarantino), Scott and I have been together for years,” West said. “We have grown steadily together and had a lot of experiences together. We are all from different places but stay in touch and it is cool how volleyball brings us and people in general together who wouldn’t have known each other otherwise.”

The MJNT also features two players and two coaching-staff members with Ohio State affiliation. Michael Henchy (Ventura, Calif.) competed in his first season at Ohio State in 2011 under head coach Peter Hanson, who also leads the 2012 MJNT.

“I had a pretty good freshman year at Ohio State,” Henchy said. “I was excited to come here to train under my head coach at school.”

Hanson is not the only familiar Ohio State face that Henchy has worked with on a daily basis with the MJNT. Jake Schick (Columbus, Ohio) has served as the MJNT statistician. At school, Henchy and Schick are going to room together come fall.

“When we get back to Columbus we will be roommates,” Schick said. “I came in my freshman year and have grown up with the players that will now be seniors. I will be living with some of the younger guys and transfers. I have just kind of molded well with them and we are best friends. It is pretty cool.”

The final Ohio State affiliate rounding out the MJNT team is incoming freshman Driss Guessous. For Henchy, meeting Guessous before the 2012 season starts is a unique and special opportunity.

“Being able to meet one of our incoming freshmen and play with him has been awesome,” Henchy said. “The chance to get used to being on the court with him before we ever went to school was kind of cool.”

The MJNT also carries two Ivy League collegiate volleyball players. DJ White (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) competes at Harvard while Tony Ensbury (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) plays for Princeton. The California natives first met while competing against each other in club volleyball before high school.

“We were used to seeing each other across the net,” White said. “It was pretty cool once we started high school. We both went to Mira Costa High School and had the chance to play together. We became good friends.”

While Ensbury and White would have liked to play together in college, they both followed their own paths. Those paths continue to cross as they compete in the same conference.

“We see each other twice a year in season,” Ensbury said. “When we played at each other’s school, we would spend the night and hang out. We have stayed close. This summer we just chilled and played a lot of golf. We live a few blocks from each other back in California.”

Having the chance to compete together again at the NORCECA event was special for both players.

“It is great being together again,” White said “After hanging out all summer, this was a fun way to end it.”

While Ensbury and White are the only two Ivy League players on the MJNT, there is one more Princeton men’s volleyball player running around the gym this week. Colorado Springs native Cody Kessel plays at Princeton with Ensbury. He is too old to compete with the MJNT, but has spent the past three days volunteering at the event.

“I have been home for the summer and luckily enough there was this international tournament right here I my backyard,” Kessel said. “I got luckier than that when my teammate (Ensbury) made the team. I had already wanted to volunteer and watch volleyball. It is an added bonus watching him compete for Team USA. The Princeton volleyball family is proud of him.”

And though Kessel is not competing with White, he has spent time interacting with him during the event and looks forward to seeing him across the net in the future.

“We actually lost to Harvard both times this year,” Kessel said. “They won the unofficial Ivy League championship. DJ (White) is a great player. We know each other pretty well and it’s been cool seeing him and Tony here. It will be fun playing against him the next few years.”

The connections in the gym extend past those the MJNT members have with each other.

MJNT assistant coaches Jay Hosack (South Pasadena, Calif.) and Jonah Carson (Dallas, Texas) go way back, too.

“I started my coaching career at UC-Santa Cruz and Jonah Carson was my first ever recruit,” Hosack said. “He (Carson) came and played for me for a couple of years and then helped out coaching after that for the rest of my career while I was there.”

Since then, both coaches have taken on new positions. The NORCECA event brought them together once again.

“This is the first time since 2003 or so that I have actually gotten to work with Jonah,” Hosack said.” It is nice finally not going against him. This has been quite a special event.”

Hosack now coaches at Penn State. The winning tradition of the school happened to start with Ramon Hernandez, who is currently at the NORCECA event coaching the Puerto Rican team.

“Penn State is full of history and rich tradition,” Hosack said. “They were the first university outside of the powerhouse MPSF conference to ever win a national title. That was in 1994. Hernandez was on that team and helped them win that title. It is cool to be here together and show what Penn State has accomplished and will accomplish.”

Carson, who now coaches at University of the Pacific, also shares a tie with a member of the Puerto Rican team. Giovanni Llinas (Puerto Rico) will be going to play for Carson’s college program in the fall.

“I think representing your country is a unique and incredible experience,” Carson said. “The volleyball world in the United States is small and a close family. It is exciting to be part of this world-wide volleyball family by being here with Villinas. It is just neat to see a player that you connect with competing for another country and playing well.”

Micah Christenson (Honolulu), captain of the MJNT squad, just finished playing his freshman season at the University of Southern California. His teammate, Cristian Rivera, is at the NORCECA event competing with Puerto Rico. On Tuesday, both were caught in the stands watching each other’s team compete and cheering each other on.

“I had been playing against him my whole international career,” Christenson said. “It was cool playing with him and fun to connect. Now, being here, it is cool watching him and competing against him as a teammate, not just another guy across the net.”

The history shared by the players and coaches here at the NORCECA Continental Championship proves that it really is a small world when it comes to men’s volleyball. As the players and coaches cheered on their friends, both on the same side of the net and across it, it is clear that it is more than a small world. It is a family.

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)
Head Coach: Peter Hanson
Assistant Coach: Jonah Carson
Assistant Coach: Jay Hosack
Statistician: Jake Schick
Team Leader: Collin Powers

2012 NORCECA Men's Junior Continental Championship Schedule

Pool A

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)

Pool B
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)

Classification 5/8
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)

Aug. 31: Canada def. Mexico 25-17, 25-18, 24-26, 25-21 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 31: United States def. Puerto Rico 25-15, 25-16, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)

Final Classifications
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)