LONDON, England (July 28, 2012) – The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team is the defending Olympic champion, but that has not made its path to the 2012 Olympic Games in London any easier.
The team lost several key ingredients from its 2008 gold medal winning squad: Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon, who is now the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team; team captain Tom Hoff, who has retired from volleyball and setter Lloy Ball, who has played overseas but has not played with the U.S. Men’s Team since the 2008 Olympic Games.
USA Volleyball hired Alan Knipe in 2009 to take over as U.S. Men’s head coach. He is on a sabbatical from his role as head coach of the men’s volleyball team at Long Beach State University.
He has helped the team to a 72-33 record heading into London. The U.S. Men has had the best season of Knipe’s tenure thus far in 2012. It opened the season in May by qualifying for the Olympic Games by winning the NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament, going 5-0 and losing only one set in the process.
A week after finishing the qualification tournament, the team left for its first World League weekend. It went 9-3 in World League pool play against Italy, France and Korea. The U.S. advanced to the World League final round and finished with the silver medal. It was the first World League medal the team had earned since it won the tournament in 2008.
“This has been the goal of the team - to be playing our best volleyball going into the Olympics,” Knipe said. “Obviously we feel there are some things we can improve on, but there are some very nice things we are doing now over the last couple tournaments.”
Prior to 2012, the U.S. qualified for the FIVB World League Final Round two times (2009 and ’11). It also qualified for the 2010 World Championship, where it finished sixth, and to the 2011 World Cup, where it also finished sixth, and did not earn an Olympic berth (the top three teams qualified for the Olympic Games).
The U.S. Men have won three Olympic gold medals in 1984, ’88 and 2008. They won the bronze in 1992.
Though for most international tournaments, teams are allowed to bring 14 players, they are only allowed 12 for the Olympics, which meant difficult cuts had to be made.
Five players return from the 2008 gold medal team: libero Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.), middle blocker David Lee (Alpine, Calif.), outside hitter Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.), outside hitter Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) and opposite Clay Stanley (Honolulu, Hawaii),
Setter Donald Suxho (Korce, Albania) competed in the 2004 Olympic Games, where the U.S. Men finished fourth.
Six players on the team are Olympic newcomers: outside hitter Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.), middle blocker Russell Holmes, outside hitter Paul Lotman (Lakewood, Calif.), opposite David McKienzie (Littleton, Colo.), middle blocker David Smith (Saugus, Calif.) and setter Brian Thornton (San Clemente, Calif.).
Anderson was the team’s leading scorer in World League, finishing with 248 points on 205 kills, 32 blocks and 11 aces. He was fifth among all World League scorers at the end of pool play. Anderson was also named Best Spiker of the NORCECA Olympic Qualifier.
Stanley (Honolulu), the 2008 Olympic Games Most Valuable Player, was named the Best Server of the World League Final Round, finishing with nine aces, including three on Sunday, for an average of .64 per set. Stanley also finished second among all Final Round scorers with 62 points on 49 attacks, four blocks and nine aces. Stanley was named MVP of the 2012 NORCECA Olympic Qualifier.
Holmes competing in his first Olympic Games, was the team’s third-leading World League scorer, finishing with 122 points on 71 attacks, a team-leading 44 blocks and seven aces.
Priddy, a two time Olympian in 2004 and 2008 was the team’s fourth-leading scorer in World League, finishing with 94 points on 74 kills, 16 blocks and four aces.
Lee, a 2008 gold medalist, was named Best Blocker of the NORCECA Qualification Tournament. He was also among the best blockers of the 2008 Olympic Games. He was the team’s fifth-leading World League scorer with 89 points on 61 attacks, 22 blocks and four aces.
Lambourne is a 2008 gold medalist in his second Olympic Games. He has been the team’s primary starting libero since 2005. Rich played in all 60 World League sets. He finished with a total of 75 digs (1.25 digs per set). He finished pool play fourth among all liberos. He was fourth in digs during pool play with an average of 2.02 per set
Rooney, a 2008 gold medalist, returned to the team for the 2012 World League after struggling with injuries. He made an impact as the team’s fourth-leading World League scorer (112 points on 88 attacks, 17 blocks and seven aces).
Suxho competed on the 2004 Olympic team that finished fourth in Athens. He finished second among all setters in the World League Final Round with 74 assists and an average of 5.29 per set.
Lotman got significant playing time with the team in 2009-11. In 2012, he has played mostly as a substitute. He finished World League with 12 points on 10 attacks and two aces.
McKienzie just missed making the 2004 and ‘08 Olympic teams and stepped away from the U.S. team to play overseas and also play beach volleyball. In 2011, he trained with the team for the World Cup, but did not make the team. He did make the team for the Olympic Qualifier and World League, where he played primarily as a serving substitute. He finished World League with 26 points on 20 kills, three blocks and three assists.
Smith did not make the team for the Qualifier, but saw significant playing time at World League, finishing with 67 points on 43 attacks, 19 blocks and five aces. The effort was good enough to get him on the Olympic Team.
Thornton made his mark with the team in 2011 when injuries and illness made him the World League starter and he helped the team finish second in pool, including two victories over world No. 1 ranked Brazil. He also helped the U.S. to a sixth-place finish at the 2011 World Cup.
The U.S. Men are ranked No. 5 in the world by the FIVB. The have been placed in a difficult pool to open the Olympic Games.
“In this tournament, there are plenty of teams who can make a run at the medals,” Knipe said. “Our group is very strong.”
In the United States’ pool, Brazil is ranked No. 1 in the world, but struggled a little during the 2012 World League. It advanced to the Final Round as the best second-place team in pool play and lost both its Final Round pool play matches to finish sixth. It qualified for the 2012 Summer Games by finishing second at the 2011 World Cup. The U.S. Men have a record of 2-5 against Brazil since 2008 and 62-74 since 1980.
Russia, ranked No. 2 in the world, won the 2011 World League and qualified for the Olympic Games by winning the 2011 World Cup. The U.S. Men have a 1-6 record against Russia since 2008 and 56-44 since 1980.
Serbia, ranked No. 7 in the world, qualified at FIVB Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tokyo. The U.S. Men are 0-2 against Serbia since 2008 and 10-12 against the European side since 1980.
Germany, ranked No. 10 in the world, qualified at the FIVB Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament in Berlin. Most recently, Germany defeated the U.S. Men in pool play of the Final Round of the FIVB World League, 25-20, 25-21, 21-25, 25-20. 16-14. The U.S. Men are 1-1 against Germany since 2008 and 17-5 against the side since 1980.
Tunisia, ranked No. 20 in the world, qualified as the winner of the African zonal confederation qualification tournament. The United States has not played Tunisia since 2007 and is 8-0 against the country since 1980.
2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Volleyball Team
1 - Matt Anderson (OH, 6-10, West Seneca, N.Y.,
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)
6 - Paul Lotman (OH, 6-7, Lakewood, Calif., Long Beach State)
7 - Donald Suxho (S, 6-5, Korce, Albania, USC)
8 - Reid Priddy (OH, 6-5, Richmond, Va., Loyola Marymount)
11 - Brian Thornton (S, 6-3, San Clemente, Calif., UC Irvine)
12 - Russell Holmes (MB, 6-8, Fountain Valley, Calif., BYU)
13 - Clay Stanley (OPP, 6-9, Honolulu, Hawai'i, Hawaii)
20 - David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
21 - David McKienzie (Opp, 6-4, Littleton, Colo., Long Beach State)
Head Coach: Alan Knipe (Huntington Beach,
Team Manager: Rob Browning (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Assistant Coach: John Speraw (Irvine, Calif.)
Assistant Coach: Gary Sato (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Assistant Coach: Ron Larsen (Lafayette, Calif.)
Technical Coordinator: Chris Jackson (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Medical Support: Aaron Brock (Storm Lake, Iowa)
Scout Coach: Andy Read (Garden Grove, Calif.)
Scout Coach: Mike Sealy (Santa Monica, Calif.)
Pool A (World Ranking): Italy (3), Poland (4), Argentina (8), Bulgaria (9), Australia (22), Great Britain (92)
Pool B (World Ranking): Brazil (1), Russia (2), USA (6), Serbia (7), Germany (13), Tunisia (18)
29: Great Britain vs. Bulgaria, 9:30 a.m.
July 29: Russia vs. Germany, 11:30 a.m.
July 29: Australia vs. Argentina, 2:45 p.m.
July 29: USA vs. Serbia, 4:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m. PT)
July 29: Italy vs. Poland, 8 p.m.
July 29: Brazil vs. Tunisia, 10 p.m.
31: Serbia vs. Tunisia, 9:30 a.m.
July 31: Poland vs. Bulgaria, 11:30 a.m.
July 31: Italy vs. Argentina, 2:45 p.m.
July 31: USA vs. Germany, 4:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m. PT)
July 31: Great Britain vs. Australia, 8 p.m.
July 31: Brazil vs. Russia, 10 p.m.
2: Serbia vs. Germany, 9:30 a.m.
Aug. 2: Australia vs. Bulgaria, 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 2: Russia vs. Tunisia, 2:45 p.m.
Aug. 2: Poland vs. Argentina, 4:45 p.m.
Aug. 2: Brazil vs. USA, 8 p.m. (noon PT)
Aug. 2: Great Britain vs. Italy, 10 p.m.
4: Germany vs. Tunisia, 9:30 a.m.
Aug. 4: Great Britain vs. Poland, 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 4: Australia vs. Italy, 2:45 p.m.
Aug. 4: Russia vs. USA, 4:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m.)
Aug. 4: Argentina vs. Bulgaria, 8 p.m.
Aug. 4: Brazil vs. Serbia, 10 p.m.
6: Australia vs. Poland, 9:30 a.m.
Aug. 6: Russia vs. Serbia, 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 6: Italy vs. Bulgaria, 2:45 p.m.
Aug. 6: Great Britain vs. Argentina, 4:45 p.m.
Aug. 6: USA vs. Tunisia, 8 p.m. (noon PT)
Aug. 6: Brazil vs. Germany, 10 p.m.
Aug. 8: Quarterfinal Matches at 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m.
Aug. 10: Semifinal Matches at 3 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
12: Men’s Bronze Medal Match, 9:30 a.m.
Aug. 12: Men’s Gold Medal Match, 1 p.m.
Aug. 12: Men’s Gold Medal Ceremony, 2:50 p.m.