U.S. Men's Team Debuts New Look for World League

June 11, 2009, 6:59 p.m. (ET)

B.J. Hoeptner Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: (719) 228-6800
E-Mail: bj.evans@usav.org

ANAHEIM, Calif. (June 11, 2009) – The U.S. Men’s National Team goes into its first 2009 FIVB World League weekend in Netherlands with a lot of questions to be answered.

Team USA, ranked No. 2 in the world, will face Netherlands, ranked 28th, in Rotterdam on Saturday, June 13 at 5 p.m. (8 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time). They will play again on Sunday, June 14 at 3 p.m. (6 a.m. PDT).

Live scoring is available on the FIVB web site at www.fivb.org and Saturday’s match will reportedly be streamed live at www.volleybal.tv.

The United States has a record of 21-30 against Netherlands since 1981. The last time the two teams played in an official championship was during the Olympic Games in 2004. Team USA won that match, 3-0 (26-24, 25-20, 25-18). The two countries played five friendly matches in 2005 as part of a Pacific Northwest Tour and the International Sports Invitational in San Diego. The U.S. Men went 2-3 against the Dutch in those.

Netherlands has not competed in World League for six years. It won the gold medal in 1996, the silver in 1990 and bronze in 1988. It also won the Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta under then head coach Arie Selinger.

Current Dutch Head Coach Dutch head coach Peter Blangé says he is glad to see his team back in the World League. His goal now is to keep it there.

"I am really happy that we are participating in the World League again", Blangé said. "Participation in the World League is essential to get the current team to grow. It is also of great importance that we stay in the World League after this edition. That is why we have to perform well and it would be nice if the Dutch crowd supports us in the best way possible."

Team USA was put in Pool A (along with Netherlands, Italy and China) thanks to its 2008 World League victory. But the team competing in Rotterdam will be very different from the one that won the 2008 World League final round, and went on to take the Olympic gold medal in Beijing.

The changes start right at the top as U.S. Head Coach Alan Knipe (Huntington Beach, Calif.) heads into his first high-level international competition. Knipe, who is taking a leave of absence as the head men’s volleyball coach at Long Beach State University, coached U.S. Men’s teams to a bronze medal at the 2007 World University Games and a gold at the 2008 Pan American Cup.

Knipe’s staff in Netherlands will include Gary Sato (Los Angeles), who was an assistant coach for the 1988 and 1992 U.S. Men’s Olympic Teams. He is also bringing John Hawks (Huntington Beach, Calif.), an assistant coach for him at Long Beach State, and Chris Jackson (Phoenix, Ariz.) as the technical coordinator.

Two familiar faces do return from the 2008 staff for the trips to Netherlands and Italy. Rob Browning (Newport Beach, Calif.), the head women’s volleyball coach at Saint Mary’s College (Moraga, Calif.) and a former U.S. Men’s assistant coach, will serve as team leader as he did at the 2008 World League and Olympic Games. Athletic trainer Aaron Brock (Storm Lake, Iowa) also remains with the team.

The U.S. Men’s roster also has a different look. Thanks to an FIVB rule change, 14 players are being allowed on the World League roster, including two liberos.

Five players from last year’s championship team are traveling to Netherlands: setter Kevin Hansen (Newport Beach, Calif.), libero Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.), middle blocker David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) and outside hitters Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) and Scott Touzinsky (St. Louis, Mo.).

“I think we have the ability to win our pool if we execute,” Hansen said. “I don’t know much about Netherlands except that they won the Olympic gold medal 12 years ago.”

Two other players, opposite Brook Billings (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and setter Donald Suxho (Korce, Albania), are veterans of the 2004 Olympic team and both played in the 2006 World League pool play matches.

Suxho injured his Achilles tendon in the spring of 2007 and has not played a tournament with the U.S. Men’s Team since then. Billings played in pool play matches in 2007 and 2008, but looks to play a bigger role this year with the retirement of opposite Gabe Gardner (San Clemente, Calif.).

“I’m going to do the best I can. I’m not looking to be the star,” Billings said. “I just want to be part of the team and help the team repeat as World League champion.”

Five of the remaining seven players on the roster for Netherlands – outside hitter Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.), opposite Evan Patak (Pleasanton, Calif.), middle blocker Andrew Hein (Carol Stream, Ill.), outside hitter Jayson Jablonsky (Yorba Linda, Calif.) and libero Alfee Reft (Oxnard, Calif.) – were part of the 2008 Pan American Cup team that won the gold medal.

That same group, plus middle blocker David Smith (Saugus, Calif.), were part of the U.S. Men’s Team that won the bronze medal at the 2007 World University Games under Knipe.

That leaves middle blocker Russell Holmes (Fountain Valley, Calif.) as the only player on the roster who has not played internationally with a U.S. team. Holmes, who played collegiately at BYU and was named an AVCA All-American first teamer his senior year, played overseas last winter for Austria’s HYPO TIROL in the Middle European Volleyball Zone Association.

World League Tickets: Tickets for the World League matches in San Jose, Calif., (June 26-27 against China), Hoffman Estates, Ill., (July 10-11 against Italy) and Wichita, Kan., (July 17-18 against Netherlands) are on sale.

For San Jose tickets, click here.

For Hoffman Estates tickets, click here.

For Wichita tickets, click here.

For more information on World League, please visit USA Volleyball’s World League web site at http://usavolleyball.org/event/event/573.

To visit the FIVB World League web site, click here.

2009 U.S. World League Roster for June 13-14

1 Matt Anderson (OH, 6-10, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2 Sean Rooney (OH, 6-9, Wheaton, Ill., Pepperdine)
3 Evan Patak (Opp, 6-8, Pleasanton, Calif., UC Santa Barbara)
4 David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
5 Rich Lambourne (L, 6-3, Tustin, Calif., BYU)
7 Donald Suxho (S, 6-5, Korce, Albania, USC)
8 Andrew Hein (MB, 6-11, Carol Stream, Ill., Pepperdine)
10 David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
11 Brook Billings (Opp, 6-5, Santa Barbara, Calif., USC)
14 Kevin Hansen (S, 6-5, Newport Beach, Calif., Stanford)
15 Russell Holmes (MB, 6-8, Fountain Valley, Calif., BYU)
16 Jayson Jablonsky (OH, 6-5, Yorba Linda, Calif., UC Irvine)
18 Scott Touzinsky (OH, 6-6, St. Louis, Mo., Long Beach State)
19 Alfee Reft (L, 5-10, Oxnard, Calif., Hawai'i)

Head Coach: Alan Knipe
Assistant Coach: Gary Sato
Assistant Coach:
John Hawks
Technical Coordinator: Chris Jackson
Team Doctor:
Michael Terry
Medical Support: Aaron Brock

2009 FIVB World League Schedule

Date: June 13-14
Opponent: Netherlands
Location: Rotterdam

Date: June 19 and 21
Opponent: Italy
Location: Florence and Catania

Date: June 26-27 (7 p.m. both days)
Opponent: China
Location: San Jose State University Event Center Arena in San Jose, Calif.

Date: July 4-5
Opponent: China
Location: Nanjing

Date: July 10-11 (7 p.m. both days)
Opponent: Italy
Location: Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Date: July 17-18 (7 p.m. both days)
Opponent: Netherlands
Location: Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kan.

Date: July 22-26
Event: Final Round (teams must qualify)
Opponents: TBD
Location: Belgrade, Serbia