COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 6, 2017) – A new Olympic quadrennial brings new players into the spotlight for the U.S. Men’s National Team as it looks forward to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Middle blocker Kris Johnson, 26, has made a name for himself with the U.S. Men’s National Team over the past two seasons. In 2015 he made the team for the Pan American Games and in 2016 he played in the Pan American Cup.
Johnson, who is 6-foot-11, played college volleyball at Long Beach Community College and Cal Baptist before transitioning to the National Team after graduating in 2014.
Johnson is currently playing for AJF Bastardo in the Portuguese league.
Q: What were your thoughts as you watched the 2016 Olympic tournament?
A: To be honest, I was disappointed to see some early losses; especially to Canada, who has given us problems both on the senior and Pan Am teams. Our team was fighting hard against some expected tough times in the Olympics and I was proud of that. Once they bounced back and grabbed huge wins against Brazil and France to go into the playoffs, I knew that they had the fire to push through. A point here and a point there is how close it is at the highest level. But I was ultimately proud that our team brought the bronze home.
Q: How are you feeling about your progress as a middle blocker since leaving Cal Baptist? How has training in Anaheim helped?
A: Personally, I feel like I have matured and improved on my skills and consistency so much in just three years. I came into the National Team as a raw athlete that needed to improve every single aspect in my game. This was very apparent to me in the 2014 summer as I clearly wasn’t up to par and needed to focus more on my game and mental side. This was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do because when you are at the pro level, there isn’t too much teaching. I was forced to take the ultimate responsibility for being as good as I could be; watching video to improve my game and teach myself some new skills that I didn’t have. The best players are skilled in all areas of the game and that’s what makes them so valuable, no glaring weaknesses. I’m striving for that every day because I believe I can achieve it and that’s the first step.
Training in Anaheim gives me an opportunity to work on my skills all year instead of taking four to five months off between the professional seasons. Also the USA Volleyball staff is second-to-none and always available to help when needed.
Q: What are you enjoying about playing in Portugal this season? What have some of the challenges been?
A: So I don’t think most people know this, but I’m not on mainland Portugal. I actually live in Azores on Terceira Island that is in the Atlantic Ocean about two hours off the coast. Living on the Island is really nice because there aren’t too many people so I have a lot of time to focus and free myself mentally. Also we travel pretty often since we are the only team on an island. I’ve been blessed to play in the CEV Challenge Cup with my team, so we have been to Norway, Romania and Turkey this season.
Some challenging aspects of being here in Portugal are the ebbs and flows of playing on any sports team. Sometimes we are in sync and other times we just aren’t clicking. There is also the battle within myself to want to be good and constantly improve my game every day. At times, I feel like I’m not improving at all. But then I’ll watch film of a match and that something I’ve been working on has translated to the game.
Q: What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t practicing or playing volleyball?
A: This should be a small list since I don’t like too many things outside of volleyball. In my free time I enjoy seeing my family and friends as much as possible when I’m home. I love to play video games as I’ve always done since I was a young boy. Just recently, thanks to John Xie, I’ve picked up a love for reading, which I didn’t have for most of my life. Now I read nearly every day on various topics including personal finance, real estate, present moment focus and lifelong growth.
Q: What are you looking forward to in 2017?
A: In 2017 I’m looking forward to continued growth as a person and player, striving to improve myself every day on and off the court.
HOLT AND CHRISTENSON
Middle blocker Max Holt and setter Micah Christenson are seeing a lot of each other these days. Their Italian teams are playing each other in both the semifinals of the league playoffs and the CEV Champions League.
In the Italian league playoffs, the two teams are 1-1 in the best-of-five series. In the second match on March 26, Modena won, 21-25, 27-25, 25-16, 34-32. Holt scored 13 points on seven kills, a match-high five blocks and one ace. Christenson scored two points on one kill and one ace and set his team to a .515 hitting efficiency.
The teams will play again on April 9 in Civitanova.
In the first match of the Champions League’s six-team playoff, Civitanova beat Modena, 25-23, 25-18, 29-27. Holt scored five points on three kills, one block and one ace. Christenson scored two points on two blocks and set his team to a .597 hitting efficiency.
The teams will play again on April 11 in Civitanova.
Outside hitter Aaron Russell’s Italian team, Sir Safety Perugia is also competing in the league playoffs and will host the final of the Champions League. Unfortunately, Russell will not be playing with the team after undergoing surgery on his ankle to repair ligament damage suffered during practice.
Matt Anderson, who plays outside hitter for Zenit Kazan, and his team will win the Russian league with one match left in the regular season. On March 25, Kazan improved to 25-0 with a 25-15, 25-22, 25-20 win over Belogorie Belgorod. Anderson scored 13 points on eight kills, one block and a match-high four aces. He was credited with 10 receptions, 30 percent positive.
Anderson and Kazan are also facing Belgorod in the Champions League six-team playoff. On April 4, Kazan beat Belgorod, 25-14, 25-17, 23-25, 26-24. Anderson scored 15 points on 12 kills and three aces. He was credited with 20 receptions, 40 percent positive.
Libero Erik Shoji, setter Kawika Shoji and Lokomotiv Novosibirsk is in third place at 20-5. On March 25, Novosibirsk beat Nova Novokuybyishevsk, 25-20, 17-25, 23-25, 25-23, 17-15. Erik Shoji was credited with 23 receptions, 39 percent positive. Kawika Shoji started the first two sets and played as a substitute, scoring two points on one kill and one ace.
Middle blocker David Smith, libero Dustin Watten and Cerrad Czarni Radom went 1-1 in their final two matches of the season and finished in eighth place. On March 25, Radom beat Łuczniczka Bydgoszcz, 25-11, 25-18, 23-25, 25-22. Smith scored 14 points on nine kills, four blocks and one ace. Watten was credited with 17 receptions, 41 percent positive. On March 31, Radom lost to Indykpol AZS Olsztyn, 23-25, 25-15, 25-19, 25-19. Smith scored eight points on four kills, two blocks and two aces. Watten was credited with 23 receptions, 61 percent positive.
Live as if today were our last day? What did the Stoics mean by this... as we go about our day, we should periodically pause to reflect on the fact that we will not live forever and therefore that the state could be our last. ... Reflections like this can help us appreciate how wonderful it is that we are alive and have the opportunity to fill this day with activity and love. ... When the stoics counsel us to live each day as if it were our last their goal is not to change our activities but to change our state of mind as we carry out those activities. ... With this consciousness and recognition we can invest in the things we do with an intensity that would otherwise be absent. ... Stoicism has been a powerful force in my life and helping me find the lessons in otherwise grey/difficult moments in my life once discovering Marcus Aurelius' 'Meditations'. If you're interested into learning more about stoicism check out 'A Guide to the Good Life' by William Irvine. Love and Light from Poland 🇵🇱
Radom will play LOTOS Trefl Gdańsk in the first round of the playoffs for seventh place, starting April 8.
With outside hitter Thomas Jaeschkeon the roster, Asseco Resovia Rzeszów won its last two matches and finished in second in the league. Rzeszów will play PGE Skra Bełchatów in the championship playoffs starting April 9.
Setter Jonah Seif, outside hitter Kyle Russell and MKS Będzin went 0-2 in their final two matches and finished in 11th place. In the first match of the playoff for 11th place, Będzin beat Espadon Szczecin, 25-22, 25-21, 35-37, 25-23 on April 4. Seif scored two points on two kills and set his team to a .440 hitting efficiency.
Americans Michael Brinkley, Scott Kevorken, Cody Kessel and Eric Fitterer and their team Luneburg finished their season on March 29 with a playoff loss to Duren, 23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-19. Outside hitter Kessel led his team with 20 points on 17 kills, two blocks and one ace. He was credited with 22 receptions, 64 percent positive. Opposite Fitterer finished with 13 points on 13 kills. Middle blocker Kevorken scored eight points on six kills, one block and one ace. Libero Brinkley was credited with 48 receptions, 44 percent positive.
In the first match of the best-of-three playoff quarterfinals, middle blocker Dan McDonnell and Chaumont defeated Stade Poitevin Volley Beach, 27-29, 25-20, 22-25, 25-21, 16-14 on April 5. McDonnell scored 13 points on six kills, four blocks and three aces. The teams will play again on April 8.
Outside hitter Greg Petty and Pamvohaikos have advanced to the playoff semifinals. The team finished fourth in the final regular season rankings and then went 2-0 over Kifissia in the playoff quarterfinals.
In the second quarterfinal match on April 3, Pamvohaikos beat Kifissia, 26-24, 23-25, 23-25, 25-21, 16-14. Petty led his team with 36 points on 31 kills, two blocks and a match-high three aces. He was credited with 26 receptions, 54 percent positive. Petty leads the league in aces.
Middle blocker David Lee scored 11 points as Ziraat Bankasi defeated Inegol Bld, 21-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-14 on April 6. Lee scored on a match-high seven blocks, three kills and one ace.