Men's National Team Excited for 2018 Season

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | May 23, 2018, 4:43 p.m. (ET)
The U.S. Men celebrate a great play
Members of the U.S. Men's National Team cheer after a great play at the Sears Centre Arena in 2017 
 

The U.S. Men’s National Team officially began its 2018 season on May 7 with its first team practice at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim, Calif. 

It will open competition on May 25 in their first FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) match in Ningbo, China.

The team has a busy schedule for the summer. After the inaugural VNL in May, June and July, they have the FIVB World Championship in September and some intense training matches in between.

The U.S. Men are ranked No. 2 in the world and coming off a season with fourth-place finishes at the FIVB World League and Grand Champions Cup. They ended the season on a high note by hosting and winning the NORCECA Continental Championship for the first time since 2013.

“I feel good because I know we are returning a lot of guys who had a good World League,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “We learned a lot last season. I am excited about getting together again and becoming a better team.”

RETURNING PLAYERS

Nine players return from the team that took bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, led by two-time Olympians Matt Anderson and David Smith. Anderson plays at opposite and outside hitter while Smith is a middle blocker.

Other Olympic veterans on the roster are setters Micah Christenson and Kawika Shoji, middle blocker Max Holt, libero Erik Shoji and outside hitters Aaron Russell, Taylor Sander and Thomas Jaeschke.

Players who made an impact for the team in 2017 include libero Dustin Watten, middle blockers Taylor Averill, Jeff Jendryk and Mitch Stahl, opposites Ben Patch and Carson Clark and outside hitters T.J. DeFalco and Jake Langlois.

New players to watch include Taylor Sander’s little brother Brenden, who just finished his college career at BYU. Also keep an eye on Long Beach State opposite Kyle Ensing, who just won an NCAA National Championship with the beach and still has a year of eligibility.

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Sweet Home Chicago

The U.S. Men will be back in Hoffman Estates, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, on June 15-17 to play Iran, Poland and Serbia in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. Outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke, a 2016 Olympic bronze medal winner, and middle blocker Jeff Jendryk both grew up in the area and both were AVCA All Americans at Loyola of Chicago.

New Guard

New, young players got a chance to compete with the senior team in 2017 as several veterans took a break and/or were injured. The 2018 season will begin to show which of those young players has what it takes to get a spot on the roster for the 2020 Olympic Games. Averill, Jendryk, Stahl, Patch, DeFalco and Langlois will all be looking for a spot.

Other players looking to break in include Watten and setters James Shaw and Jonah Seif.

Oh, Brother

Setter Kawika Shoji and libero Erik Shoji have been competing together on the U.S. Men’s National Team since 2013. The 2018 season could bring a second set of brothers to the team as outside hitter Brenden Sander has graduated from BYU and is hoping to join his brother, outside hitter Taylor Sander.

2018 World Championships

Everything the U.S. Men are doing this season will be geared toward their performance at the World Championship. The U.S. Men finished tied for seventh at the 2014 World Championship after a crushing 3-2 loss to Argentina sent them home instead of advancing to the third round.

2018 SCHEDULE

FIVB Volleyball Nations League

May 25-27 in China: China, Bulgaria, Argentina
June 1-3 in Brazil: Brazil, Japan, Korea
June 8-10 in Canada: Canada, Germany, Australia
June 15-27 in Hoffman Estates, Ill.: Serbia, Poland Iran
June 22-24 in Italy: Italy, Russia, France
July 1-4 in Lille France: Final Round (must qualify)

July 22-29: Training camp in Honolulu, Hawaii

July 27 at Kamehameha HS: Red-Blue scrimmage at 7 p.m.
July 28 at Moanalua HS: Red-Blue scrimmage at 7 p.m.

FIVB World Championship

First Round in Bari, Italy
Sept. 12: USA vs. Serbia
Sept. 13: USA vs. Australia
Sept. 15: USA vs. Russia
Sept. 16: USA vs Cameroon
Sept. 18: USA vs Tunisia

Second Round
Sept. 21-23

Third Round
Sept. 26-27

Semifinals and Finals on Sept. 29-30 in Torino, Italy