COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (March 2, 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.
This week, we have a Q&A with middle blocker Dan McDonnell (Glendale, Ariz.). McDonnel, 28, was an alternate to the 2016 Olympic Team and played in some FIVB World League matches last season after Max Holt was injured. He won the 2012 NCAA Men’s DI-II Championship with UC Irvine and is currently playing professionally for Chaumont in France.
McDonnell answered the questions via email.
Q. You spent a lot of time with the 2016 National Team during World League and exhibitions. What were your thoughts as you watched the 2016 Olympic tournament?
A. It was really cool to watch all of my friends playing in the Olympics. It was my first time having such a personal connection to the athletes that were competing. As a player, I was really proud of how hard they fought throughout the entire tournament. I knew how much time they had spent training and preparing for the Olympics, and it was really exciting to watch it all come together.
Q. How are you feeling about your progress as a middle blocker since leaving UC Irvine?
A. There's a big jump in level of play from university to the National Team. The game is faster and everyone is more physical. I think I have improved a little bit each year in all aspects of the game since graduating from UC Irvine. I'm happy with how far I have come and look forward to improving every day.
Q. Your French team Chaumont is among the league leaders, what are you enjoying about playing with this team? What are some of the challenges of playing for an international team?
A. We have great team chemistry on and off the court. One challenge of playing on an international team (we have around eight different countries represented) is that everyone is coming from different cultural, language and volleyball backgrounds. Our team found a great rhythm together and has been playing well in the French League and Challenge Cup.
Q. What do you like to do in France when you are not practicing or competing?
A. We don't get a whole lot of free time during the season. Before the season started, my girlfriend and I did a lot of traveling throughout France and Belgium. Playing card games, reading and watching movies helps the long road trips go by faster.
Q. What are you looking forward to in 2017?
A. I'm really looking forward to getting back into the USA gym and training and competing with all the guys again. I played in my first World League game last summer and have been working hard this pro season to keep improving.
CEV CHALLENGE CUP
Dan McDonnell and Chaumont have advanced to the semifinals of the Challenge Cup after going 2-0 against Slovakia’s Spartek Myjava in the quarterfinals. On Feb. 28, Chaumont beat Myjava, 25-17, 25-20, 22-25, 25-23. McDonnell did not play.
Chaumont will play Turkey’s Ziraat Bankasi Ankara in the semifinals. Middle blocker David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) is on Ankara’s roster but has not been playing in the Challenge Cup matches.
CEV CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Five European club teams with U.S. players have advanced to the playoff phase of the CEV Champions League.
Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.), who plays outside hitter for Zenit Kazan, and his Russian team lost only one set in six matches as they finished 6-0 in pool play. On March 1, Kazan beat Turkey’s Arkas Izmir, 25-15, 26-24, 25-16. Anderson scored nine points on six kills, one block and two aces. He was credited with nine receptions, 78 percent positive.
Setter Micah Christenson (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Cucine Lube Civitanova won their pool and will advance with a 5-1 record after finishing pool play with a 25-14, 25-23, 25-15 victory over Germany’s Berlin Recycling Volleys on March 1. Christenson scored four points on four kills and set his team to a .545 hitting efficiency.
Outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke (Wheaton, Ill.) and Poland’s Asseco Resovia Rzeszow shared the pool with Civitanova and finished third with a 3-3 record, but will advance. On March 1, Rzeszow beat Czech Republic’s Dukla Liberec, 20-25, 25-18, 25-19, 25-18. Jaeschke played as a substitute and scored one point on a kill.
Middle blocker Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Italy’s Azimut Modena won their pool with a 5-1 record. On March 1, Modena beat Slovenia’s ACH Volley Ljubljana, 25-21, 23-25, 25-27, 25-20, 15-11. Holt started the final three sets and scored seven points on four kills, two blocks and one ace.
Outside hitter Aaron Russell (Ellicott City, Md.) and Sir Safety Conad Perugia also won its pool with a 5-1 record. The team is hosting the Champions League finals and therefore will advance automatically. ON March 1, Perugia beat Turkey’s Halkbank Ankara, 23-25, 25-18, 25-20, 25-16.
The first round of the playoffs will begin March 14-16.
Italian teams played their last matches of the regular season on Feb. 26.
Micah Christenson and Cucine Lube Civitanova finished the regular season in first place at 22-3. Christenson did not play in the final match, a 3-2 loss to Exprivia Molfetta.
Aaron Russell and Sir Safety Conad Perugia finished third at 20-5. In their final match, Perugia beat Calzedonia Verona, 25-15, 25-21, 25-22. Russell scored 12 points on 11 kills and one ace. He was credited with 10 receptions, 30 percent positive.
Max Holt and Azimut Modena placed fourth at 20-5. Modena beat LPR Piacenza in their final match, 25-19, 19-25, 25-21, 25-19. Holt scored nine points on five kills, one block and three aces.
The top eight teams in the league advance to the top-level playoffs, which begin March 4-5. The quarterfinals are best of three. Civitanova will play Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valtentia. Perugia will face LPR Piacenza and Modena will play Calzedonia Verona.
The final four teams will battle in a second-level playoff. Setter James Shaw (Woodside, Calif.), middle blocker Taylor Averill (San Jose, Calif.) and Kioene Padova finished the season in ninth out of 12 teams. In their final match, they beat Biosi Indexa Sora, 40-38, 25-23, 25-20. Shaw played as a substitute. Averill scored eight points on six kills, one block and one ace. Padova will play will play Sora in the best-of-three semifinal series, which begins on March 12.
Middle blocker David Smith (Saugus, Calif.), libero Dustin Watten (Long Beach, Calif.) and Cerrad Czarni Radom fell to Lotos Trefl Gdansk, 22-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-20 on Feb. 26. Smith scored six points on four kills, one block and one ace. Watten was credited with 25 receptions, 60 percent positive.
Setter Jonah Seif (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and MKS Bedzin defeated AZS Czestochowa, 27-29, 25-19, 25-14, 25-10 on Feb. 24. Seif scored 10 points on seven kills, two blocks and one ace. He set the team to a .505 hitting efficiency. Outside hitter Kyle Russell (Loomis, Calif.) played as a substitute.
Matt Anderson and Zenit Kazan beat libero Erik Shoji (Honolulu, Hawaii), setter Kawika Shoji (Honolulu) and Lokomotiv Novosibirsk, 25-23, 25-13, 25-21 on Feb. 25. Anderson scored six points. Kawika Shoji sat out the match due to illness. Erik Shoji played but statistics were not available.
Dan McDonnell and Chaumont beat Narbonne, 25-23, 28-26, 25-23 on Feb. 24. McDonnell started the first two sets and scored two points on two kills.
SVG Luneburg, including Americans Michael Brinkley, Scott Kevorken, Cody Kessel and Eric Fitterer, fell to VfB Friedrichshafen, 25-23, 25-23, 25-16 on Feb. 25. Outside hitter Kessel (Colorado Springs, Colo.) led his team with 11 points on eight kills, two blocks and one ace. He was credited with 35 receptions, 63 percent positive. Middle blocker Kevorken (Westlake Village, Calif.) added 10 points on seven kills and a match-high three aces. Opposite Fitterer (Edwardsville, Ill.) played as a substitute and scored one points on a kill.
Outside hitter Greg Petty (Downers Grove, Ill.) and Pamvohaikios defeated APS Kyzikos N. Peramou, 25-22, 25-20, 25-17 on March 1. Petty led all scorers with 15 points on 13 kills, one block and one ace. He was credited with 12 receptions, 75 percent positive.
Outside hitter Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.) has written a book called the Max Potential Playbook and it is available for free on his web site.
MAKING A MOVE
Tyler Hildebrand, who has served as a consultant coach with the U.S. Men's National Team and as an assistant coach for the men's team at Long Beach State University, has accepted a position as assistant coach for the Nebraska women's volleyball team under Head Coach John Cook.