Another week, another U.S. volleyball team going to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Just as the U.S. women did last weekend in Louisiana, the U.S. men won their pool in the Netherlands, sweeping Pool B at the FIVB Men’s Volleyball Intercontinental Qualification Tournament to officially clinch a berth at the Games.
In a winner-take-all final game, Team USA beat host Netherlands 25-18, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21 in Rotterdam.
With the result, the U.S. qualifies for its 12th Olympic Games in men’s volleyball, and its 10th in a row since 1984. The Americans will be aiming to improve upon their 2016 Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo. Head coach John Speraw was a Team USA assistant at the London Games in 2012 before leading the bench in Rio.
The winners of each of the six pools taking place simultaneously around the globe this weekend automatically booked their places in Tokyo. Team USA, ranked No. 2 in the world, was expected to be a top contender for first place, being the highest-ranked nation in its group over Belgium (12), the Netherlands (15) and South Korea (24).
That proved to be the case as the U.S. opened with a 3-1 win over Belgium on Friday, and followed that with a 3-0 win over South Korea Saturday. Both the U.S. and the Netherlands had won their first two matches. That meant either way, the winner of this match would be going to Tokyo.
The U.S. joins five other teams in qualifying for Tokyo, with Japan earning an automatic berth as host. Five more teams will qualify through continental tournaments in January 2020.
Outside hitter Aaron Russell was dominant for the U.S. in the qualification tournament, leading the team in scoring in the first two games. On Sunday opposite Matt Anderson led the scoring for Team USA with 18 points, followed by Russell with 17.
Anderson and Russell are two of nine players this weekend in Rotterdam who played on both the 2016 Olympic and 2018 world championship teams, both of which won bronze medals. The others were outside hitters Taylor Sander and Thomas Jaeschke; setters Micah Christenson and Kawika Shoji; middle blockers Max Holt and David Smith and libero Erik Shoji.
The 2018 world bronze marked the U.S. men's first world championship medal in 24 years.
The U.S. men's impressive run continued this summer. After a slow start in the FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League, they found some momentum and, competing in the Finals on home soil in Chicago, made a run to the championship game before falling to Russia, improving upon their bronze from the inaugural season last year. Sander proved a force to be reckoned with in the final round, finishing as the third-leading scorer and the No. 1 attacker.
Team USA has a proud history at the Olympic Games, having won three gold medals in men’s volleyball, with the most recent on coming in 2008. The Americans also have two bronze medals.
The 12 men who represent the U.S. in Tokyo will be named by early July of next year.