COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Nov. 13, 2013) – Prior to the 2013 NORCECA Continental Championship in September, Lloy Ball visited with the U.S. Men’s National Team in Anaheim, Calif.
|The U.S. Men get excited during player introductions.|
Ball, the four-time Olympic setter who capped his career with the U.S. Men’s Team with an Olympic gold medal in 2008, came away feeling positive about the team’s prospects.
“I was impressed with the level of play in the gym,” Ball said. “The team trained at a high energy level with focus and attention to detail.
“I think John (Speraw) and his staff have the team in the right path to not only be medal-ready in Rio, but much before that.”
The U.S. Men proved Ball right by winning the gold medal at the NORCECA Championship. With the victory, they earned the right to try for their second medal of the 2016 Olympic quadrennial on Nov. 19-24 at the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup in Japan.
But winning another medal will not be easy as the U.S. Men, ranked No. 4 in the world, will have to play No. 1 Brazil, No. 2 Russia and No. 3 Italy along with No. 12 Iran and No. 17 Japan.
“We know we are going to be playing some very good volleyball teams that have been playing well,” Speraw (Los Angeles) said. “We’re looking forward to it. Our ability to adapt will be critical.”
Brazil, Iran, Russia and the United States all qualified for the Grand Champions Cup by winning their zone championships. Italy was invited with a wild card and Japan is competing as the host country.
Brazil is ranked No. 1 in the world by the FIVB. Russia is No. 2 and Italy No. 3. The U.S. Men are ranked No. 4. Iran is ranked No. 12 and Japan, led by former U.S. Men’s Assistant Coach Gary Sato, sits at No. 17.
The U.S. Men have played Brazil twice this year in World League pool play matches, losing 3-1 and 3-0. They played two scrimmages against Japan while training in Tokyo during the week before the Grand Champions Cup.
“We’re going to have a wonderful opportunity to train with the Japanese at the Japanese Institute of Sports Science,” Speraw said. “We’re very grateful to the (Japan Volleyball Association) for the opportunity and look forward to training against Japan as we practice.”
The U.S. Men have not faced Russia and Italy since the 2012 Olympic Games (where they fell to both European sides) and they last faced Iran at the 2011 FIVB World Cup, where they defeated the Asian zone champions 3-0.
After a 12th-place finish at the 2013 FIVB World League that saw the U.S. Men miss out on playing in the Final Round, Speraw is glad to have the opportunity to play some more top teams.
“As we prepare for the 2014 World Championship, the opportunity to play other teams is of great benefit to us and our preparation,” he said.
Speraw also said that had and his staff are far from finished evaluating talent as the team takes the long view toward the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I think we’re going to keep evaluating players for some time,” he said. “We have the potential through that process to develop some depth, which is what the top teams in the world are doing.”
No matter what the outcome of the Grand Champions Cup, Ball has high hopes for the future of the U.S. Men’s National Team.
“I believe USA Volleyball should and can be a realistic champion in every tournament, every year,” he said.
Fourteen-Player Roster for FIVB World Grand Champions Cup
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1. Matt Anderson (OH, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2. Sean Rooney (OH, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Pepperdine)
4. David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
6. Paul Lotman (OH, 6-7, Lakewood, Calif., Long Beach State)
7. Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
8. Reid Priddy (OH, 6-4, Richmond, Va., Loyola Marymount)
9. Murphy Troy (Opp, 6-8, St. Louis, Mo., Southern California)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
13. Futi Tavana (MB, 6-7, Kalaheo, Hawaii, BYU)
14. Jeff Menzel (OH, 6-6, Santa Barbara, Calif., UC Santa Barbara)
15. Carson Clark (Opp, 6-8, Santa Barbara, Calif., UC Irvine)
17. Max Holt (MB, 6-9, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
19. Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
Head Coach: John Speraw (Los Angeles)
Team Manager: Andrea Becker (Martinez, Calif.)
Technical Coordinator: Anton Willert (Berlin, Germany)
Assistant Coach: Matt Fuerbringer (Costa Mesa, Calif.)
Assistant Coach: Mike Wall (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
Consultant Coach: Gary Moy (San Francisco, Calif.)
Consultant Coach: Tim Pelot (Florida)
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock (Storm Lake, Iowa)
Doctor: Andrew Gregory (Nashville, Tenn.)
FIVB Men’s World Grand Champions Cup Schedule
(all times Pacific Standard)
7:10 p.m.: Italy vs. Russia
11:10 p.m.: Iran vs. Brazil
2:10 a.m.: USA vs. Japan
7:10 p.m.: Italy vs. Iran
11:10 p.m.: Brazil vs. USA
2:10 a.m.: Russia vs. Japan
7:10 p.m.: USA vs. Italy
11:10 p.m.: Iran vs. Russia
2:10 a.m.: Japan vs. Brazil
7:10 p.m.: Iran vs. USA
11:10 p.m.: Russia vs. Brazil
2:10 a.m.: Italy vs. Japan
7:10 p.m.: Brazil vs. Italy
10:10 p.m.: USA vs. Russia
1:10 a.m.: Japan vs. Iran