Men's Update: Five Things About Aaron Russell

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | March 30, 2016, 6:30 a.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (March 30, 2016) – Outside hitter Aaron Russell (Ellicott City, Md.) joined the U.S. Men’s National Team full time in 2015, shortly after finishing his collegiate career at Penn State.

His importance to the team increased throughout the summer until the final three matches of the FIVB World Cup, when he led the team in scoring as the U.S. Men won the tournament and qualified for the FIVB World Cup.Aaron Russell

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This winter, Russell is playing for Sir Safety Conad Perugia in Italy and is locked in a battle with fellow U.S. outside hitter Taylor Sander and Calzedonia Verona to see which team will advance to the playoff semifinals.

Here are five things you might not know about Aaron Russell:

  • In high school, he was one of Maryland’s top soccer goalies.
  • Maryland doesn’t have high school boys’ volleyball, so he played club volleyball and helped his school’s girls’ team practice.
  • One of his club volleyball coaches was 1984 Olympic gold medalist Aldis Berzins.
  • He is the second oldest of five brothers. Brother Peter plays for a professional club in Germany.
  • He recently became engaged to Kendall Pierce, who also played volleyball at Penn State.

SPOTLIGHT ON AARON BROCK
Aaron Brock has been the athletic trainer for the U.S. Men’s National Team for 11 years. In 2009, he added the title of Director of Sports Medicine and Performance to the U.S. National Teams and began overseeing sports medicine for both the U.S. Men's and Women's National Teams.

National Athletic Training Month is held every March in order to spread awareness about all that athletic trainers do. In honor of that, U.S. volleyball fan and photographer Suzie Houseworth put together this profile of Brock.

ITALY
In the playoff quarterfinals, outside hitter Taylor Sander and Calzedonia Verona are tied with outside hitter Aaron Russell and Sir Safety Conad Perugia, 2-2. The teams will play their final match on April 3 to determine which advances to the semifinals.

Verona won its last two matches to remain alive in the playoffs. On March 23, Verona won 23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 20-25, 15-11. Sander scored 20 points on 16 kills, two blocks and two aces. He was credited with 31 receptions, 52 percent positive. Russell started the first three sets and scored seven points on seven kills. He was credited with 19 receptions, 37 percent positive.

On March 27, Verona beat Perugia, 17-25, 27-25, 26-24, 18-25, 15-12. Sander scored 20 points on 16 kills, one block and three aces. He was credited with 34 receptions, 50 percent positive. Russell started the first three sets and scored seven points on six kills and one block. He was credited with 14 receptions, 43 percent positive.

Setter Micah Christenson, outside hitter Reid Priddy and Cucine Lube Banca Marche Civitanova had an easier time as they beat Ninfa Latina, 3-0 in the best-of-five series. On March 20, Civitanova won 25-21, 25-17, 25-14. Christenson scored two points on two kills and set his team to a .571 hitting efficiency. Priddy played as a substitute in the third set and scored three points on two kills and one ace.

Outside hitter Brian Cook, middle blocker Taylor Averill and Tonazza Padova were eliminated from the playoffs by DHL Modena, 3-1. With the teams tied 1-1, Padova dropped its next two matches. On March 20, Modena won, 25-18, 22-25, 25-15, 25-20. Cook led Padova with 16 points on 13 kills and a team-high three blocks. He was credited with 24 receptions, 42 percent positive. Averill scored eight points on five kills, two blocks and one ace. On March 27, Modena won, 21-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 15-12. Cook scored 15 points on 13 kills and three blocks. Averill did not play in the match.

FRANCE
With one week left to go in the regular season, David Smith and Tours are in second place with a 16-8 record. Tours went 1-1 in its last two matches. On March 19, Tours beat Paris, 25-27, 25-17, 23-25, 25-14, 15-8. Smith scored 17 points on eight kills, a match-high eight blocks and one ace. On March 29, Tours fell to Beauvais, 18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22. Smith scored 10 points on four kills and a match-high six blocks.

Libero Dustin Watten and Nancy are in last place in the league and will not advance to the playoffs. On March 18, Nancy lost to Sete, 25-19, 25-18, 31-29. Watten was credited with 20 receptions, 50 percent positive. On March 29, Nancy defeated Lyon, 27-25, 25-23, 25-21. Watten was credited with 20 receptions, 100 percent positive. The final matches of the regular season will be played April 5.

GERMANY
In the first round of the playoffs, libero Erik Shoji, outside hitter Paul Lotman and the Berlin Recycling Volleys beat Mitteldeutschland, 25-18, 25-19, 25-23 on March 26. Lotman led his team with 16 points on 14 kills and two blocks. He was credited with 26 receptions, 46 percent positive. Shoji was credited with 11 receptions, 36 percent positive. The teams will play again April 6. The playoffs are best-of-three.

In the best-of-three playoff for fourth place, Luneburg and middle blocker Scott Kevorken beat setter Matt West and the SWD powervolleys Duren, 2-0. On March 26, Luneburg won 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 16-25, 15-8. Kevorken scored five points on four kills and one block. West scored four points on two kills, one block and one ace and set Duren to a .435 hitting efficiency. On March 30, Luneburg won, 25-17, 23-25, 25-23, 28-26. Kevorken did not play for Luneburg. West did not score, but set Duren to a .320 hitting efficiency.

In the playoff for third-sixth place, setter Graham McIlvaine, outside hitter Peter Russell and TV Ingersoll Buhl lost 2-0 to the United Volleys RheinMain. On March 19, RheinMain won, 25-20, 25-14, 25-19. McIlvaine scored two points on one kill and one block. He set Buhl to a .260 hitting efficiency. Russell did not play. On March 23, RheinMain won, 25-20, 25-21, 25-23. McIlvaine started the first set and played as a substitute in the second and third. He did not score. Russell played as a substitute in the first set and scored one point on a kill.

TURKEY
Turkey finished its regular season on March 27. Setter Kawika Shoji and Arkas Spor finished the season with two straight victories and finished the regular season in third place. On March 20, Arkas Spor beat M.Milli Piyango, 32-30, 26-24, 25-23. Shoji scored two points on one kill and one ace. He set his team to a .320 hitting efficiency.

On March 27, Arkas Spor beat opposite Will Price and Istanbul BBSK, 31-29, 23-25, 14-25, 25-19, 15-9. Shoji scored three points on three kills and set Arkas to a .400 hitting efficiency. Price led all scorers with 22 points on 22 kills. Instanbul finished the season in fourth place.

GREECE
On March 19, outside hitter Jayson Jablonsky, middle blocker David Lee and PAOK fell to Olympiakos, 25-21, 25-22, 25-16. Jablonsky scored eight points on eight kills and was credited with 25 receptions, 56 percent positive. Lee scored seven points on five kills and two aces.

POLAND
Opposite Murphy Troy and Lotos Trefl Gdansk beat Indykpol AZS Olsztyn, 25-22, 25-17, 20-25, 25-17 on March 30. Troy started the first set and scored four points on four kills. Gdansk is in fourth place in the league.

RUSSIA
Middle blocker Max Holt and Dinamo Moscow beat Belogorie Belgorod, 25-20, 25-16, 25-20 on March 26. Holt scored nine points on seven kills and two blocks.

CEV CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Matt Anderson
, who plays outside hitter for the Russian team Zenit Kazan, and his team swept Poland’s PGE Skra Belchatow, 25-19, 25-23, 25-19 on March 24 to advance to the semifinals of the Champions League. Anderson scored 13 points on nine kills, three blocks and one ace. He was credited with 21 receptions, 62 percent positive. Kazan will face outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke, middle blocker Russell Holmes and Poland’s Asseco Resovia Rzeszow in the semifinals, which begin on March 16. Rzeszow will host the semifinals and finals.

Micah Christenson, Reid Priddy and Italy’s Cucine Lube Civitanova will play Italy’s Trentino Diatec in the other semifinal. On March 23, Civitanova fell to Turkey’s Halkbank Ankara, 27-29, 26-24, 25-22, 20-25, 15-13 to tie the Turkish team. Civitanova won the golden set 17-15 to advance. In the final match, Christenson scored one point on one kill and set his team to a .472 hitting efficiency. Priddy played as a substitute and started the final two s4ets and scored 10 points on nine kill and one block. He was credited with 12 receptions, 50 percent positive.

CEV CUP
Erik Shoji, Paul Lotman
and the Berlin Recycling Volleys won their first match of the two-part final of the CEV Cup, beating Russia’s Gazprom-Ugra Surgut, 28-26, 16-25, 25-17, 20-25, 15-11 on March 29. Lotman scored 15 points 10 kills, one block and a match-high four aces. He was credited with 38 receptions, 55 percent positive. Shoji was credited with 28 receptions, 50 percent positive. The teams will play again on April 2.

Berlin reached the final by beating Belgium’s Knack Roselare, 2-0 in the semifinals. Max Holt and Russia’s Dinamo Moscow played Surgut in the semifinals and went 1-1 before losing a golden set.

CEV CHALLENGE CUP
Taylor Sander
and Calzedonia Verona won the first match of the final of the CEV Challenge Cup, 25-18, 27-25, 18-25, 23-25, 15-13 on March 30. Sander scored 18 points on 18 kills. He was credited with 32 receptions, 53 percent positive. The teams will play again on April 3.