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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 16, 2013) – Over the course of two seasons, Matt Anderson went from an “Olympic rookie” to a veteran leader of the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team.
|Matt Anderson (1) attacks against Canada in Langley.|
It is a testament to his talent and willingness to step up where needed that he was named USA Volleyball’s Male Indoor Athlete of the Year for 2012 and again for 2013.
In 2012, Anderson, who is now 26, was the youngest player on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Volleyball Team. In 2013, the team looked to him for leadership.
His first test came at the 2013 FIVB World League, where he served as the U.S. team captain. As first-year U.S. Head Coach John Speraw evaluated new players in the U.S. Men’s lineup, Anderson was a consistent starter, playing in all 39 World League pool play sets and leading the team in kills and scoring.
For the second straight year, Anderson finished the season leading the U.S. Men in scoring (301; 4.36 points per set) and kills (261; 3.78 kills per set). He was second behind libero Erik Shoji in digs (79; 1.14 per set).
“The greatest challenge for me this summer was to start carrying myself at a more constant level,” Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) said via e-mail from Russia, where he plays for Zenit Kazan, one of the top teams in that country’s Super League. “I was trying to be an example and a steady figure for other players to balance their game around. I guess it's a growing-up, maturing athlete position.”
Following World League, the U.S. Men had a six-week training block and Anderson was called on to change from his usual position at left-side outside hitter to opposite, hitting primarily on the right side.
The shift was debuted in the final match of the NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship in Langley, Canada, and Anderson stepped up and helped the U.S. to a 3-0 victory over the host country in front of a packed house of 5,000. He was named the tournament most valuable player and also made the all-star team.
“Competing and winning the NORCECA tournament in Langley was definitely the highlight of the summer,” Anderson said. “We worked hard to make changes in our individual and team game. It was nice to see the immediate translation to competition.”
Anderson played opposite for much of the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup in Japan, where the U.S. Men were just a few key plays away from finishing with a 4-1 record, but instead were 2-3. Anderson was first among all scorers at the Grand Champions Cup.
As he continues to play in Russia, Anderson is already preparing for what needs to happen in the gym in Anaheim, Calif., next season.
“Work, work and more work,” he said. “We still have work to do to become the best team in the world.”
HOLT NAMED MOST IMPROVED
|Max Holt attacks against the Dominican Republic.|
Middle blocker Max Holt (Cincinnati) was voted USA Volleyball’s Most Improved Male Indoor Athlete.
Holt was the U.S. Men’s second-leading scorer this season (177 points; 3.05 points per set) and its leading blocker (54 blocks; .93 blocks per set).
To finish the season, Holt was named the first middle blocker on the all-star team at the Grand Champions Cup.
Holt said he was motivated to improve after not making the 2012 Olympic Team.
“My greatest challenge this past summer was bouncing back and re-establishing myself as a player,” Holt said via e-mail from Russia where he plays for Dinamo Moscow. “I learned a lot from not making the London team, and that drove me every day to work harder to become the best player I could possibly be.”
Like Anderson, Holt is also preparing to work hard in the gym in 2014.
“My mindset heading into 2014 is to pick up where I left off,” Holt said. “I am grateful to receive the most improved player award, but that doesn't mean that I will stop improving.”
The U.S. Men’s Team staff also wanted to recognized libero Erik Shoji (Honolulu) for his contribution. In his first year with the U.S. Men’s Team, Shoji played every set of every match and finished with 197 digs (2.74 digs per set).
Shoji led all players in digs during the FIVB World League pool play and also at the World Grand Champions Cup.