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U.S. Men Take on Challenge of World Cup

By B.J. Evans | Sept. 07, 2015, 7:57 a.m. (ET)

HIROSHIMA, Japan (Sept. 7, 2015) – The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team gets its first chance to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games at the FIVB World Cup on Sept. 7-23 in Japan.

The highlight of the team’s 2015 season was a third-place finish in the FIVB World League, but third won’t cut it at the World Cup. Only the top two finishing teams qualify for Rio. The World Cup format is a straight round-robin. Every team plays every other team once. For each team, that’s 11 matches in 16 days.

The teams also have to travel during the tournament. The United States will play its first five matches in Hiroshima before moving on to Osaka and then finishing in Tokyo. The matches will be shown on the Universal Sports Network.

“The most challenging part about this tournament is the mental side; being able to reach peak performance day after day,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said.Matt Anderson

Four of the top-five ranked teams will compete. No. 1 Brazil will not be at World Cup because as the Olympic host country, it cannot compete in qualifying tournaments. No. 2 Russia, No. 3 Poland and No. 4 Italy are all in Japan along with the No. 5 United States.

But lower-ranked teams should not be overlooked, Speraw said.

“I think the status of the men’s game is that there are several teams, maybe 10 or more, that can beat you on any given night,” Speraw said. “I know from watching (No. 15) Egypt that it’s going to be a really challenging match for us (at World Cup). Egypt looks very good to me. That’s a good example of a team that’s not in the top rankings that we have to be careful of and respect.”

The U.S. roster is the same one it used for the World League final round, with one exception. Outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke, who has had a strong rookie season, suffered an injury during the USA Volleyball Cup friendly matches against Brazil. Although Jaeschke is with the team in Japan, he will not play in World Cup. Jayson Jablonsky will take his place.

Five players on this year’s roster have competed in a previous World Cup: outside hitter/opposite Matt Anderson, outside hitter Paul Lotman and middle blockers David Lee, Russell Holmes and Max Holt.

The U.S. Men have medaled at the World Cup twice: in 1985 they won the gold medal and in 1991 they finished third.

U.S. Roster for the FIVB World Cup
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1. Matt Anderson (OH, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2. Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State)
3. Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., BYU)
4. David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
6. Paul Lotman (OH, 6-7, Lakewood, Calif., Long Beach State)
7. Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
9. Murphy Troy (Opp, 6-8, St. Louis, Mo., Southern California)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
12. Russell Holmes (MB, 6-8, Fountain Valley, Calif., BYU)
16. Jayson Jablonsky (OH, 6-5, Yorba Linda, Calif., UC Irvine)
17. Max Holt (MB, 6-9, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
21. Dustin Watten (L, 6-0, Long Beach, Calif., Long Beach State)
22. Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford) 

Head Coach: John Speraw
Team Manager: Andrea Becker 
Assistant Coaches: Matt Fuerbringer and Mike Wall
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock

U.S. Schedule for the 2015 FIVB World Cup (All times PT)

Round 1 in Hiroshima
Sept. 7: USA v Australia | TV Universal Sports, 2:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 9 at 3:20 a.m. USA v Japan | TV Universal Sports, 3:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 9 at 11:10 p.m. Canada v USA | TV Universal Sports, 2 p.m. ET
Sept. 11 at 8:10 p.m. USA v Italy | TV Universal Sports, 1 p.m. ET
Sept. 12 at 8:10 p.m. Egypt v USA | TV Universal Sports, 7 a.m. ET

Round 2 in Osaka
Sept. 15 at 8:10 p.m. USA v Venezuela
Sept. 16 at 8:10 p.m. USA v Iran
Sept. 17 at 8:10 p.m. USA v Tunisia

Round 3 in Tokyo
Sept. 21 at 1:10 a.m. USA v Poland | TV Universal Sports, 6 p.m. ET
Sept. 22 at 1:10 a.m. USA v Russia | TV Universal Sports, 6 p.m. ET
Sept. 23 at 2:40 a.m. USA v Argentina | TV Universal Sports, 6 p.m. ET