Men's Juniors Team Features Newbie and Veteran

By Deb Stadick | Aug. 27, 2012, 6:59 p.m. (ET)

Deb Stadick
Communications, Intern
Phone: 719-228-6800
@USA_Volleyball - USAV Facebook

MJNT Press Kit – Event PageLive Stream Link

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 27, 2012)— The 2012 U.S. Men’s Junior National Volleyball Team (MJNT) roster features 12 athletes who have set themselves apart as the best-of-the-best in their age group. When the team opens play on Monday night at the NORCECA Men’s Junior (U-21) Continental Championship (MJCC) being held in Colorado Springs, Colo., two unique stories are in the making as Micah Christenson and Driss Guessous take the court.

Christenson (Honolulu), team captain of the MJNT, is no stranger to international competition. He has been involved with the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline since 2009 when he competed in his first international competition with the U.S. Boys’ Youth National Volleyball Team (BYNT). In contrast, Guessous (Pasadena, Calif.), will suit for his first international match on Monday night with the first serve of the MJCC.

Christenson started his volleyball career at a young age after growing up in a volleyball family. His mother, Charlene, won three national championship titles with the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

“I started playing competitively when I was about 13,” Christenson said. “But I was raised hitting a ball or balloon around on the beach with my mom and sister. My favorite thing was trying to keep the balloon off the ground.”

Guessous does not come from a volleyball background, but found his passion for the sport at a young age as well.

“I started playing in eighth grade,” Guessous recounts. “My physical education teacher was affiliated with a girls’ club program and told me that I was really tall and should try volleyball. I did and started playing with a club team.”

Guessous did not realize his volleyball potential until his junior year of high school. After a disappointing sophomore season, he made a mental decision to improve his game.

“My sophomore year, I was not playing well and was really bummed,” Guessous said. “I made the choice to get myself better at volleyball. I hit the weight room hard and just tried to touch the ball a lot more.”

At that point, Guessous realized he could take his career to the next level, but had not yet stumbled onto the national radar.

Christenson recognized his volleyball potential much earlier than Guessous. Christenson was a basketball standout in Hawaii earning Gatorade Player of the Year accolades. He made the choice to pursue volleyball after making his international volleyball debut with the 2009 U.S. BYNT.

“At that point I realized volleyball could take me farther than basketball could,” Christenson said. “I kept playing basketball but made volleyball more of a priority after that.”

Christenson undoubtedly made the right choice. After competing with the BYNT, he started to see drastic improvements in his game.

“That tournament triggered some big improvement,” Christenson said. “Playing with older players at that high level pushed me to improve. That is when I realized I could take this somewhere.”

Christenson nabbed the role of starting setter on the BYNT at his debut international event, the FIVB Volleyball Boys’ Youth (U-19) World Championship in Italy. Though he has played in multiple international events since, Christenson’s first moment on the international scene is one he will never forget.

“I served the first ball of the whole tournament,” Christenson said. “I jump served and was so scared. I knew it was my first international play ever. I basically freeballed it in and was so satisfied. The whole experience was just sort of surreal.”

While Christenson has established himself as a USA Volleyball-pipeline staple since his debut in 2009, Guessous has only recently found his way onto the national scene.

After improving over the course of his junior and senior seasons, Guessous was recruited to play middle blocker in college.

“My coach told me it would be good practice and experience to try out for the MJNT,” Guessous recalls. “I went to the tryout and felt good about my performance. I was so excited hearing I had made the team. It was a surprise to me because I was new to the pipeline. That is when I sort of new I could go somewhere with this.”

After spending three weeks training with his MJNT teammates, Guessous was excited and nervous for his international debut. The team is set to face Honduras in the first round of group play in Pool A.

“I can’t wait. I am nervous, but it is going to be fun. Having so many veteran players on the roster will be helpful. Micah (Christenson) has been showing me the ropes the past three weeks and pushing me to improve. I know tonight it will be more of the same on Monday.”

Even before the first serve on Monday, Guessous is considering his time training with the MJNT a success.

“This has been a great opportunity,” Guessous said. “It has really gotten me ready for the next level of play. My hitting and timing has gotten a lot better as I got used to the faster-pace of this high-level volleyball.”

Christenson, despite being in his fifth year on the pipeline and with one season of collegiate playing time under his belt, also sees the experience as valuable in developing his skills as a player.

“I have spent the past three weeks refining the little details of my game,” Christenson said. “It may not seem like a lot, but doing the little things right can win my team one or two more points a set. That can be the difference between winning and losing. The little things matter at this high level, and it has been great having the chance to focus in on them over the course of our training block.”

Now that both players have recognized their potential in the volleyball world, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

“It has been great playing at this high level,” Guessous said. “Playing with and against the best players at our age level has pushed me to get better, and I am excited to see where my career will take me.”

As Christenson looks to the future, he is setting his sights high.

“These guys we are playing with and against are the next class of Olympians,” Christenson said. “And that is definitely a goal for me. This program can serve as a stepping stone because it gets you in the pipeline and gets your name out there.”

2012 U.S. Men’s Junior National Volleyball Team
# - Name (Position, Hometown, Grad Year, Club, Region, College Status)
3 - Micah Christenson (S, Honolulu, Hawaii, 2011, Outrigger Canoe Club, Aloha, University of Southern California)
4 - Tony Ensbury (L, Manhattan Beach, Calif., 2011, SCVC, Southern California, Princeton University)
5 - Driss Guessous (MB, Pasadena, Calif., 2012, Manhattan Beach Surf, Southern California Signed at Ohio State)
6 - Michael Henchy (OH, Ventura, Calif., 2011, Spectrum VBC, Southern California, Ohio State)
8 - Nick Olson (MB, New Berlin, Wis., 2012, West Allis Lightning, Badger, Signed at University of Chicago-Loyola)
9 - Ben Patch (Opp, Provo, Utah, 2012, Utah Elite, Intermountain, Signed at Brigham Young University)
10 - Greg Petty (OH, Downers Grove, Ill., 2011, Sports Performance, Great Lakes, Lewis University
11 - Scott Rhein (OH, Pleasant View, Tenn., 2011, Impact Volleyball Club, Southern, Pepperdine)
14 - James Shaw (S/Opp, Woodside, Calif., 2012, Mountain View Volleyball Club, Northern California, Signed at Stanford)
16 - Matt Tarantino (Opp, Van Nuys, Calif., 2011, Santa Monica Beach Club, Southern California, Pepperdine)
17 - Matt West (S, Seattle, Wash., 2011, Space Needle Volleyball Foundation, Puget Sound Region, Pepperdine)
18 - DJ White (L/OH, Hermosa Beach, Calif., 2011, Manhattan Beach Surf, Southern California, Harvard)
Head Coach: Peter Hanson
Assistant Coach: Jonah Carson
Assistant Coach: Jay Hosack
Statistician: Jake Schick
Team Leader: Collin Powers

2012 NORCECA Men's Junior Continental Championship Schedule

Pool A

Aug. 27: Mexico def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-7, 25-10, 25-15 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 27: United States def. Honduras 25-12, 25-12, 25-16 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: Mexico def. Honduras 25-15, 26-24, 25-14 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: United States def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-8, 25-8, 25-9 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: Honduras def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-17, 25-11, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: United States def. Mexico 25-18, 25-18, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)

Pool B
Aug. 27: Puerto Rico def. Curacao, 27-25, 25-13, 25-23 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 27: Canada def. Guatemala 25-15, 25-13, 25-21 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: Canada def. Curacao 25-13, 25-7, 25-22 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: Puerto Rico def. Guatemala 25-20, 25-19, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: Guatemala def. Curacao 25-14, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: Canada def. Puerto Rico 25-13, 25-15, 28-30, 25-12 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)

Aug. 30: Puerto Rico def. Honduras 25-16, 25-16, 25-11 (Match 13) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 30: Mexico def. Guatemala 25-23, 25-17, 25-23 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)

Classification 5/8
Aug. 31: Guatemala def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-12, 25-16, 25-16 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 31: Honduras def. Curacao 25-27, 25-19, 27-25, 25-19 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)

Aug. 31: Canada def. Mexico 25-17, 25-18, 24-26, 25-21 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 31: United States def. Puerto Rico 25-15, 25-16, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)

Final Classifications
Sept. 1: St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Curacao, 11:00 a.m. (7th Place) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: Guatemala vs. Honduras, 1:00 p.m.  (5th Place) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: Mexico vs. Puerto Rico 3:00 p.m. (Bronze) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: Canada vs. United States, 5:30 p.m. (Gold) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)