Men's Update: Neilson Moves to First Assistant

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | Nov. 10, 2017, 5:30 p.m. (ET)

Robert Neilson talks with Mitch Stahl

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Nov. 10, 2017) – It has been a year of change for Rob Neilson.

At the beginning of summer, U.S. Men’s Head Coach John Speraw hired Neilson, who lived with his family in Utah, to be a “seasonal” assistant coach.

By the end of summer, Neilson was the first assistant and had moved his family to southern California.

“It was extremely exciting for me,” Neilson said of his move into the first assistant position. “It was a no-brainer. This my throw my life and my family’s life into upheaval, but how do I make it work? I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Neilson got the first assistant role after former assistant Matt Fuerbringer joined his wife, Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer, as the associate head coach for Long Beach State’s women’s volleyball program.

Neilson points to his work with former BYU and U.S. National Team coaches Carl McGown and Hugh McCutcheon as important to his decision to joining the U.S. Men’s Team.

“I was really excited to have Rob join us,” Speraw said. “I have a great deal of respect for the BYU team he coaches. I have known him personally for quite some time. I was thrilled we were able to get him back on the volleyball court where he wanted to be.”

Neilson grew up in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and was the starting setter at BYU in 2005-06. He got his bachelor of science in neuroscience in 2006. He served as an assistant to Shawn Patchell at BYU from 2007-10. He served as interim head coach in 2011 and then was an assistant to Chris McGown before being named associate head coach in 2014.

Neilson left BYU in 2015 and worked for VolleyMetrics until joining the U.S. Men. He said his first summer with the U.S. Men was a learning experience.

“At the college level, we are teaching players algebra. These guys are playing at the level of calculus,” Neilson said. “The type of information they can handle; what’ impactful in terms of scouting reports… this is a summer where I got to improve as a coach quite a bit.”

Neilson pointed to the FIVB Grand Champions Cup match against Iran as a particularly important moment.

“We lost. We didn’t make the adjustments that we needed to make,” he said. “Understanding the level of communication and how to make those adjustments was important.”

In his personal life, Neilson and wife, Sarah, have been married for 11 years. The have four children: Etta (9), Liam (7), Charlotte (5) and Whit (3).

Olympian Brian Thornton has also joined the U.S. Men’s staff as the seasonal assistant coach as former assistant Mike Wall has stepped back to spend more time with his family in Arizona.

ITALY

Setter Micah Christenson, outside hitter Taylor Sander and Cucine Lube Civitanova handed middle blocker Max Holt and Azimut Modena its first loss of the season on Nov. 5, 21-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-21. Sander scored 18 points on 14 kills, three blocks and one ace. Christenson added a kill and set his team to a .467 hitting efficiency. Holt scored 12 points on six kills, three blocks and three aces.

Outside hitter Aaron Russell, setter James Shaw and Sir Safety Perugia continued undefeated with a 25-20, 28-26, 21-25, 25-21 victory over Biosi Indexa Sora. Russell scored 11 points on 11 kills and was credited with 22 receptions, 45 percent positive. Shaw did not play.

Outside hitter Kupono Fey started the final three sets for Sora and scored 11 points on 10 kills and one ace. He was credited with 26 receptions, 50 percent positive. Middle blocker Mitch Penning started the third set for Sora, but did not score.

Perugia also got started in the CEV Champions League on Nov. 8, beating the Belarussian team Shakhtior Soligorsk, 23-25, 25-20, 25-17, 25-16. Russell scored nine points on eight kills and one block.

Opposite Ben Patch and Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valentia defeated libero Erik Shoji and Taiwan Excellence Latina, 25-17, 19-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-13. Patch scored 14 points on 12 kills, one block and one ace. Shoji was credited with 15 receptions, 60 percent positive.

On Nov. 10, Patch and Vibo Valentia lost to middle blocker Taylor Averill and Revivre Milano, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-22. Averill started the first two sets and scored three points on three blocks. Patch scored 13 points on 10 kills and three blocks.

Setter Kawika Shoji, outside hitter Jake Langlois and Gi Group Monza beat BCC Castellana Grotte, 25-20, 25-21, 26-24. Shoji scored three points on one kill, one block and one ace. He set his team to a .451 hitting efficiency. Langlois played as a substitute.

Outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke and Calzedonia Verona beat Diatec Trentino, 25-21, 25-21, 17-25, 25-22. Jaeschke led his team with 15 points on 11 kills, one block and a match-high three aces. Jaeschke was credited with 22 receptions, 73 percent positive.

POLAND

Libero Dustin Watten and Cerrad Czarni Radom defeated middle blocker David Smith and Aluron Virtu Warta Zawiercie, 25-21, 25-21, 19-25, 19-25, 16-14 on Nov. 6. Watten was credited with 27 receptions, 56 percent positive. Smith scored 15 points on eight kills, five blocks and two aces.

Middle blocker Dan McDonnell and Trefl Gdansk fell to Espadon Szczecin, 25-21, 22-25, 25-18, 27-25 on Nov. 3. McDonnell started the second two sets and scored five points on four kills and one block.

On Nov. 10, Gdansk beat Indykpol AZS Olsztyn, 25-20, 23-25, 16-25, 25-19, 15-13. McDonnell started the second two sets and scored four points on two kills, one block and one ace.

Setter Jonah Seif and MKS Bedzin fell to Dafi SpoĊ‚em Kielce, 25-18, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22. Seif started the second two sets and scored four points on three kills and one block.

RUSSIA

Outside hitter Matt Anderson and Zenit Kazan beat Dinamo Moscow, 25-19, 25-21, 25-14 on Nov. 4. Anderson scored four points on four kills. He was credited with eight receptions, 88 percent positive.

Anyone up for a road trip! @volleyzenit #bustrippin

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FRANCE

Middle blocker Mitch Stahl and Paris fell to Toulouse, 18-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 15-10 on Nov. 3. Stahl scored 13 points on 12 kills and one ace.