Men's Indoor Volleyball Preview

The U.S. men’s national volleyball team, ranked No. 3 in the world, will bring a large contingent of veterans to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021.

Eight players who won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 will return to the Olympic team in 2021, and have helped Team USA garner several impressive results leading up to the Games. The U.S. men earned bronze at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League and the 2018 FIVB World Championship. They then opened 2019 with silver medal in Nations League play and took bronze at the FIVB World Cup. After the Nations League skipped 2020, the U.S. finished fifth at the 2021 event in June. 

The team’s star continues to be opposite Matt Anderson, a two-time Olympian who was named best opposite of the 2018 Nations League and 2018 World Championship, as well as MVP of the 2019 Nations League. He is also USA Volleyball’s six-time Male Indoor Player of the Year.

Outside hitter Taylor Sander, middle blockers Max Holt and David Smith, setters Micah Christenson and Kawika Shoji, and libero Erik Shoji, Kawika’s younger brother, are all veterans of the Rio Games. Outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke, a 2016 Olympian, tore his ACL during the 2018 Volleyball Nations League and returned to the team for the 2019 Nations League. He then dislocated his shoulder during the 2019 World Cup but is now fully healthy for Tokyo. 

John Speraw is in his seventh year as the team’s head coach and continues to bring in newer, younger talent in hopes of finding the right combination for gold in Tokyo. Rounding out the team are outside hitters Garrett Muagututia and T.J. DeFalco, middle blocker Mitch Stahl and opposite Kyle Ensing.

The U.S. men qualified for Tokyo 2020 by winning the International Olympic Qualification Tournament on Aug. 9-11, 2019, in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The U.S. men beat Belgium, South Korea and the Netherlands in a round-robin tournament.

The 12-team Olympic tournament consists of a round-robin preliminary round followed by an eight-team knockout stage.

Updated on June 29, 2021. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

• During the national team offseason, U.S. indoor players compete in pro volleyball leagues in other countries. Most U.S. players were abroad when the pandemic hit in 2020 and had to find their way back to the United States as the leagues shut down.

• Outside hitters Taylor Sander and Thomas Jaeschke, both key players on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, each dealt with injuries in the lead up to Tokyo qualifying. Sander had shoulder surgery while Jaeschke suffered two severe injuries at events in 2018 and 2019.

• Team USA coach John Speraw started the First Point Volleyball Foundation to drive excitement for boys’ and men’s volleyball in the U.S. In addition to coaching the U.S. men, Speraw also coaches UCLA’s men’s team, and took the Bruins to the NCAA championship match in 2018, falling to Long Beach State University.

• Four U.S. men’s players — Matt Anderson, Taylor Sander, Micah Christenson and Kawika Shoji — became fathers for the first time in 2018 and 2019, while David Smith had his second child. A team that was so young at the Rio Games is now growing up and starting families.

• Matt Anderson, 34, is a six-time USA Volleyball Male Indoor Player of the Year and MVP of the 2019 Volleyball Nations League, where the U.S. earned silver. He is considered one of the most versatile players in the world, excelling at both outside hitter and opposite positions. Anderson’s Russian club team, Zenit Kazan, hung his jersey from the rafters in 2019 after he announced he would be playing for a club team in Italy the following season.

• Micah Christenson, 28, captained the U.S. men to their bronze medal at the 2019 World Cup as well as the gold medal at the Olympic qualifying tournament that booked their place in Tokyo. The setter plays professionally in Russia.

• Brothers Erik and Kawika Shoji are of Japanese descent on their father’s side and are competing together in Tokyo for second straight Olympic Games. Father Dave Shoji was the longtime head coach of the women’s team at the University of Hawaii. Under his leadership, the Rainbow Wahine won four national titles in 1979, 1982, 1983 and 1987.

• David Smith, 36, is making his third Olympic appearance alongside Anderson as the only members of the team with that long of a tenure. A member of the national team since 2009, Smith was the 2017 USAV Male Indoor Player of the Year and plays professionally in Poland.

• July 24, 2021: Olympic competition gets underway with preliminary round play; the U.S. men will meet France in their first game.
• July 26, 2021: U.S. vs. Russian Olympic Committee
• July 28, 2021: U.S. vs. Tunisia
• July 30, 2021: U.S. vs. Brazil
• August 1, 2021: U.S. vs. Argentina
• August 3, 2021: Quarterfinals
• August 5, 2021: Semifinals
• August 7, 2021: Bronze- and gold-medal matches