U.S. Men's Roundup: Five Questions with Erik Shoji

By BJ Evans | Jan. 27, 2015, 6:21 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 26, 2014) – U.S. libero Erik Shoji (Honolulu, Hawaii) is playing in Berlin this winter for the Recycling Volleys club along with his brother, U.S. setter Kawika Shoji.

Erik Shoji
   Erik Shoji (22) listens to the National Anthem.

Erik took time to answer some questions for USA Volleyball via e-mail.

Q: What has been your favorite experience with the U.S. National Team thus far?
A: Winning World League has to be my favorite experience with the National Team thus far. We had our backs against the wall 4 times that tournament where we needed to win or we were done for the tournament. We came together as a team and won every match and eventually won the gold medal. To be a part of something special like that and to see how our team came together at those moments was an awesome experience.

Q: Do you have a pre-match routine that helps you get ready to compete?
A: I do have a pre-match routine that I try to follow before every match, although it doesn't always follow the same order. I always study the scouting report, take a nap (sometimes matches are early and a nap isn't possible), shower, eat a snack, visualize, and pray before every match. This routine helps me get focused and mentally prepared for each game.

Q: If you make a mistake during a tough match, how do you recover to prepare for the next point?
A: Mistakes happen all the time at every level. What's important is to learn from the mistake and move on as quickly as you can. Ask yourself questions like, "Where should I have been?" or "What could I have changed about my technique to make that play better?" Ask questions like these, answer them, and then move on to the next point. When you can learn from your mistakes and move on to the next play as fast as possible you are focused and better prepared for the next point.

Q: What is one thing that few people know about your history with the sport?
A: People always assume that volleyball was the only sport I played. However, that is not the case. Before volleyball I played soccer, baseball, and basketball. Throughout high school I also played tennis. Volleyball was never a full time sport until I got to college.

Q: Can you describe a major setback or turning point in your career and how it has shaped you into the athlete you are today?
A: A major turning point in my career was when I decided to attend to Stanford University. Despite its outstanding reputation, I had never even thought about attending Stanford to play volleyball because of the work I knew I would have to put in to both school and volleyball. When I chose Stanford as my college, I knew my work ethic needed to improve to succeed in and out of the classroom. So that's what I did. I started studying harder in school and working harder in the gym. If I didn't attend Stanford I don't know if the change in work ethic would have happened, and I don't know if I'd be where I am today without it.

CEV CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

With the conclusion of pool play on Jan. 27, six teams with U.S. players look to be advancing to the playoff round of 12 teams from the original 28. The seven pool-winning teams advance to the playoffs along with the five best second-place teams.

In Pool B, Lokomotiv Novosibirsk from Russia, which includes U.S. middle blocker David Lee (Alpine, Calif.), went 5-1 to win the pool. In the final pool play match on Jan. 27 against Marek Union-Ivkoni Dupnitsa of Bulgaria, Lee scored five points on a match-high five blocks as Novosibirsk won, 26-24, 25-18, 25-18.

In Pool C, Poland's Asseco Resovia Rzeszów, including U.S. middle blocker Russell Holmes (Fountain Valley, Calif.) and outside hitter Paul Lotman (Lakewood, Calif.), won its final matches on Jan. 21 and 27 to finish first. In the Jan. 21 victory over ACH Volley Ljubljana of Slovenia (25-19, 25-12, 25-16), Holmes led the team with 18 points on 11 kills, one block and a match-high six aces. Also in Pool C, the Berlin Recycling Volleys, including Erik Shoji, Kawika Shoji and outside hitter Scott Touzinsky (St. Louis, Mo.), won their final two matches to place second in the pool. It looks like Berlin will advance as one of the five best second-place teams.

In Pool D, Russia’s Zenit Kazan, which welcomed back U.S. outside hitter Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) last week, ran the table without losing a set. On Jan. 21, Kazan beat Greece’s Olympiacos and U.S. opposite Carson Clark (Santa Barbara, Calif.), 25-20, 25-14, 25-19. Anderson scored eight points on five kills, two blocks and one ace. Clark had 10 points on seven kills and a match-high three aces. On Jan. 27, Kazan defeated Germany’s VfB Friedrichshafen and U.S. middle blocker Nick Vogel, 25-21, 25-22, 25-22. Anderson scored six points on five kills and one block. Vogel had eight points on three kills, a match-high four blocks and one ace. Friedrichshafen finished second in the pool and will advance as well. Olympiacos will not move on after placing fourth.

In Pool F, Austria’s Hypo Tirol Innsbruck, which includes U.S. middle blocker Andy Hein (Carol Stream, Ill.), finished third and will not advance.

In Pool G, Italy’s Sir Safety Perugia, including U.S. outside hitter Joe Sunder (Greensburg, Pa.), won the pool despite losing to Turkey’s Halkbank Ankara, 25-17, 19-25, 25-19, 25-18 on Jan. 27. Sunder scored nine points on nine kills in the match.

Also in Pool G, France’s Tours, including U.S. middle blockers David Smith (Saugus, Calif.) and Dan McDonnell (Glendale, Ariz.), after finishing third. On Jan. 27, Tours won its final pool play match over Belgium’s Noliko Maaseik, 25-15, 26-24, 25-20. Smith did not play while McDonnell scored eight points on five kills and a match-high three blocks.

For their play in their pool play matches on Jan. 21, Holmes and Kawika Shoji were honored by the CEV and Loala1.tv as part of the “Dream Team of the Week.” View the video at Laola1.tv.

GERMANY

The Berlin Recycling Volleys, including Kawika Shoji, Erik Shoji and Scott Touzinsky defeated TSV Herrsching, 36-34, 25-17, 25-16 on Jan. 24. Kawika Shoji was named the match MVP after scoring eight points on two kills, two blocks and a match-high four aces. He also set Berlin to a .463 hitting efficiency. Touzinsky scored seven points on five kills, one block and one ace. He was credited with 18 receptions, 50 percent positive. Erik Shoji was credited with 16 receptions, 50 percent positive. Berlin is in second place in the league behind Nick Vogel and VfB Friedrichshafen

ITALY

U.S. outside hitter Taylor Sander (Huntington Beach, Calif.) scored 17 points on 16 kills and one ace as his Italian team Calzedonia Verona defeated Copra Piacenza, 25-21, 25-27, 25-19, 25-22 on Jan. 24. Sander was also credited with 25 receptions, 48 percent positive. Verona has risen to fourth place in the league.

Joe Sunder played as a substitute and scored three points on three kills as Sir Safety Perugia defeated Top Volley Latina, 25-21, 21-25, 21-25, 25-19, 16-14. Perugia is in fifth place in the league.

U.S. setter Riley McKibbin (Honolulu, Hawaii) played as a substitute and scored one point with a kill as his Italian team CMC Ravenna defeated Altotevere Città di Castello-Sansepolcro on Jan. 24, 19-25, 25-19, 26-24, 16-25, 15-11. Ravenna is in sixth place in the league.

RUSSIA

U.S. middle blocker Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio) scored seven points on five kills and two blocks as Dinamo Mosco defeated Gubernya Nizhny Novgorod, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 25-23 on Jan. 24. Moscow is in third place in the Russian SuperLeague.

POLAND

Asseco Resovia Rzeszów, including Russell Holmes and Paul Lotman, beat Cerrad Czarni Radom, 23-25, 26-24, 19-25, 25-14, 15-12 on Jan. 24. Holmes started the final three sets and scored four points on four kills. Lotman started the first two sets and scored two points on two kills. Rzeszów is in second place in the league.

U.S. opposite Murphy Troy (St. Louis, Mo.) led his Polish team Lotos Trefl Gdańsk with 20 points on 18 kills and two aces as if fell to BBTS Bielsko-Biala, 26-28, 25-22, 25-10, 23-25, 15-11 on Jan. 24. Gdańsk is in third place in the league.

U.S. outside hitter AJ Nally (Rochester, N.Y.) and Transfer Bydgoszcz defeated Cuprum Lubin, 25-17, 13-25, 25-14, 25-19 on Jan. 24. Nally started the first two sets and scored one point.

FRANCE

David Smith scored seven points on two kills, two blocks and three aces and Dan McDonnell added seven points on four kills, one blocks and two aces as their French team Tours defeated Tourcoing, 25-21, 25-17, 28-26 on Jan. 24. Tours is in fourth place in the league.

U.S. libero Dustin Watten (Long Beach, Calif.) was credited with 14 receptions, 100 percent positive as his team Ajaccio fell to AS Cannes, 22-25, 25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 15-10. Ajaccio is in sixth place in the league.

Outside hitter Connor Hughes (Costa Mesa, Calif.) started the first two sets and scored two points as his French team Montpellier fell to Beauvais, 22-25, 26-24, 25-22, 21-25, 15-11 on Jan. 23. Montpellier is in 10th place in the league.