Doug Beal, USA Volleyball CEO
The USA men opened their portion of the Grand Champions Cup with a nice 3-1 win over the host Japan team. Every match with Japan this quad will feel just a bit different as the Japanese team is coached by some good friends Gary Sato and assistant David Hunt.
Gary is the first foreign coach to ever be hired by the Japanese, and he and David (former assistant at Pepperdine to Marv Dunphy) are having a great experience working with the national team and trying to bring them back to the dominant position they once occupied in Asia and the world. The sport has such a great history and traditions here in Japan, but the culture is so different and unique that Gary and David really have their work cut out for them to succeed.
Certainly working in their favor is the professional V League, the rich traditions, the past success, the commercial viability of the sport on TV and the many major events that are organized and hosted in Japan.
We wish them luck and success in this adventure---the world of volleyball will gain a great deal with Japan back among the world’s powers!!!
Today was a good opener for the USA men, and they prevailed 25-17, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20. In the first two sets especially, the USA played some very good volleyball and was strong in almost all parts of the game.
Coach Speraw started with Christenson setting, Anderson opposite, Priddy and Menzel outside, Lee and Holt in the middle and Erik Shoji at libero. With the single sub of Erik’s brother to serve at match point there were no other changes in the match.
This team has been here in Japan for about a week to prepare and was wonderfully hosted by the Japanese team in Tokyo at their national training center (much like our women before their event). Certainly playing and training with the Japanese team helped become familiar with them and maybe helped to contribute to the win tonight.
The USA was pretty dominant blocking (17-6 in points), and attacking, hitting more than double the efficiency of the Japanese (34% to 15%). The USA had 55 kills to 36 for Japan. The one area of concern was the 22 service errors – something I hope we can improve on as the tourney moves along.
This USA team is a nice mix of newcomers and veterans. The setter, Micah Christenson, still has 2 years of eligibility at USC. Libero Erik Shoji and outside hitter Jeff Menzel are first-year players. Max Holt is also a young starter. The vets are returning 2008 gold medalists Reid Priddy and David Lee as well as London vet Matt Anderson. The mix seems good, and John and his staff have had a solid year that ended when they beat a strong Canadian team in Canada to win the NORCECA Championship that qualified the USA for this tourney.
The other results today had Italy reversing the finish from the recent European championships and beating Russia 3-1. Brazil also beat Iran 3-1. Both were very competitive matches.
Tomorrow the USA gets Brazil, then a rest day as the tourney moves from Kyoto back to Tokyo. The quality of the matches is great and will be good experience for the team as it moves along the quad toward qualifying for Rio 2016.
One of the players from the USA that isn’t here with us, but was at the match was Clay Stanley. Clay is playing professionally here in Japan after missing most of the last two club seasons with knee operations. He had his second one after the London Games and is just getting back to playing after more than a year.
Hopefully Clay’s recovery and progress will continue and we’ll see him back next summer in a USA uniform. More tomorrow after the match with Brazil.