U.S. Men Hope to Qualify for Tokyo This Week

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | Aug. 07, 2019, 7:17 p.m. (ET)

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 5, 2019) – The most important competition of 2019 for the U.S. Men’s National Team, the FIVB Tokyo Volleyball Qualification Tournament, happens Aug. 9-11 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The U.S. Men, ranked No. 2 in the world, will play teams from No. 12 Belgium, No. 24 Korea and No. 15 Netherlands in a straight round robin (each team plays the others once), with the winner qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The U.S. Men are coming off a silver-medal finish at the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals on July 10-14 in Chicago. Those matches, including victories over France and Brazil and a loss to Russia in the final, gave the team a lot to work on, Head Coach John Speraw said.

“The best part about (the VNL) is you get put under pressure,” Speraw said after the loss to Russia. “Russia was better than we were. It gives us a chance to evaluate why. We have three weeks to go in training to improve in those areas.”

The U.S. Men trained in Anaheim, Calif., and then with the French National Team in Paris on July 29-Aug. 5.

Nine players on the U.S. roster for the qualification tournament are 2016 Olympic and 2018 World Championship medalists: opposite Matt Anderson, outside hitters Aaron Russell, Taylor Sander and Thomas Jaeschke, setters Micah Christenson and Kawika Shoji, middle blockers Max Holt and David Smith and libero Erik Shoji.

Rounding out the roster are outside hitter Garrett Muagututia, opposite Ben Patch, setter Micah Ma’a and middle blockers Jeff Jendryk and Mitch Stahl.

The U.S. Men will have to designate a second libero before each match.

“I think we have a solid base that we are going to build on,” said Anderson, who hopes to qualify for his third Olympic Games. “We’re going to refine our systems and we’re going to fight a little bit harder (than at VNL Finals). We hope to play together, more solidly, as a team and hopefully qualify and put ourselves in a good position.”

The U.S. Men first competed at the Olympic Games in 1964 and ’68, but failed to qualify again until 1984. They have competed in every Summer Games since then.

The U.S. Men qualified for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games by winning the 2015 FIVB World Cup. However, the 2019 World Cup will not be a qualifier as it is being held in Japan and Japan has already qualified for the Olympics by virtue of hosting.

The next opportunity for the U.S. Men to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games would be at the NORCECA zonal qualifier, most likely sometime in January of 2020 at a site to be determined.

ABOUT THE COMPETITION

BELGIUM: The U.S. Men last played Belgium during the 2017 FIVB World League. With many starters taking off the early part of World League, the U.S. lost to the European side, 3-1. The two teams also played at the 2014 FIVB World Championships, where the U.S. won 3-2. Belgium is led by team captain and outside hitter Sam Deroo and opposite Bran Van Den Dries. It is coached by Brecht Van Kerckhove.

NETHERLANDS: The U.S. Men went 3-1 against Netherlands in 2009 when they shared the same FIVB World League pool. Netherlands was a powerhouse in the 1990s when the team won silver at the 1992 Olympic Games and gold in 1996. Italian Roberto Piazza is Netherlands’ head coach.

SOUTH KOREA: The U.S. Men last played South Korea in 2012 when the U.S. went 4-0 against the Asian team. South Korea went 1-14 during the 2018 Volleyball Nations League to finish 16th and was relegated for 2019. South Korea’s top player is Jiseok Jung, in the 2018 VNL, he scored 141 points in 15 matches. He was the top scorer for his Korean Air Jumbo club last season. South Korea’s head coach is Im Do Hun

WHERE TO WATCH
(All times PT; please check your local listings)

Friday, Aug. 9
10 a.m. USA vs. Belgium
Olympic Channel and NBCSports.com/live (broadcast may start half-hour later)
Replay at 5 p.m. on Olympic Channel
Replay at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

Saturday, Aug. 10
10 a.m. USA vs South Korea 
Olympic Channel and NBCSports.com/live (broadcast may start half-hour later)
Replay at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

Sunday Aug. 11
7 a.m. USA vs Netherlands
Olympic Channel and NBCSports.com/live
Replay at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN

U.S. Men’s Roster for Tokyo Qualification Tournament

1  Matt Anderson (Opp, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2  Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State)
3C  Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., BYU)
4  Jeff Jendryk (MB, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola of Chicago)
Mitch Stahl (MB, 6-8, Chambersburg, Pa., UCLA)
7  Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
11  Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
12  Max Holt (MB, 6-10, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
13  Ben Patch (Opp, 6-8, Provo, Utah, BYU)
14  Micah Ma'a (S, 6-3, Kaneohe, Hawaii, UCLA)
17  Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola)
18  Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., UCLA)
20  David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
22  Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Assistant Coaches: Rob Neilson and Brian Thornton
Consultant Coach: Mike Wall
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Doctor: William Stetson
Sports Psychologist: Bernard Whitney
Trainer: Tim Pelot