When it comes to the numbers, the 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Volleyball Team is a pretty even bunch. A four-year selection process has concluded with 12 men today named to the roster by USA Volleyball; among them are two gold medalists, four returning Olympians and eight newcomers.
Leading the way are outside hitter Reid Priddy and middle blocker David Lee, both members of the gold-medal team from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Completing a comeback from an ACL injury, Priddy will compete in his fourth Olympic Games in Rio, matching Lloy Ball for the most Olympic appearances by a U.S. men’s player. Lee has been named to his third Olympic team, while Matt Anderson, an opposite who was earned four USA Volleyball Men’s Indoor Player of the Year honors, and middle blocker David Smith make their second Olympic appearance.
First-time Olympians comprise two-thirds of the squad. Brothers Kawika and Erik Shoji (a setter and a libero, respectively) are joined by setter Micah Christenson; outside hitters Thomas Jaeschke, Aaron Russell and Taylor Sander; middle blocker Max Holt and opposite Murphy Troy. With so many young players on the squad (nine under the age of 30), the average team age is 27.8 years, something coach John Speraw hopes to overcome with tight teamwork.
“The goal is to make sure we are the best team we can be in Rio,” he said. “In order for us to achieve our goal, we are going to need one of the greatest collective efforts in USAV history. We don’t have the experience that past teams have had. For us to go through this is going to require all of us to be at our very best.”
The gold medal in Beijing eight years ago broke a string of three consecutive Olympic Games for the U.S. men without a podium finish. A bronze medal at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games closed out a run of three straight medal-winning performances (two golds and a bronze). The back-to-back golds won by the American men in 1984 and 1988 is a feat only one other nation, the former Soviet Union, has accomplished. The host nation, Brazil, hopes to extend its run of medals in the past three Olympic Games, with gold in 2004 and silvers in 2008 and 2012, while Team USA hopes to improve on its fifth-place finish from four years ago.