Home USA Volleyball Features U.S. Men Take First ...

U.S. Men Take First Step to London at NORCECA

Aug. 27, 2011, 9:11 p.m. (ET)

B.J. Hoeptner Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: (719) 228-6800
E-Mail: bj.evans@usav.org

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 27, 2011) – The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team will take its first official step toward qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games at the NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship on Aug. 29-Sept. 3 in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

The top two finishers at NORCECA will qualify for the men’s FIVB Volleyball World Cup, to be played Nov. 20-Dec. in Japan. The top three finishers at World Cup will qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The U.S. Men are looking for their eighth NORCECA title. The tournament has been held every two years since 1969. In that time, only the United States and Cuba have won the title, with Cuba winning the other 14.

Cuba won the last NORCECA Championship in 2009 with a 3-1 win over the U.S. Men in the final. The two teams met again in the final pool play match of the Final Round of the 2011 FIVB World League and the U.S. came out with a 3-2 victory.

Since World League, the U.S. Men have been back training at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim, Calif. A team of veterans and younger players did travel to London for an Olympic test event on July 20-24 with the U.S. finishing third.

U.S. Head Coach Alan Knipe said practice between the 2011 FIVB World League Final Round and the NORCECA Championship has been focused and intense.

“The guys are doing a good job of practicing with intensity,” Knipe said. “We’ve made a huge effort to clean up our transition. We’re trying to take care of the out-of-system plays at a much higher level.

“I think the guys have committed to that. When you are trying to make that change and get more balls up defensively and cover the tips, it takes its toll. It’s a physical investment.”

The U.S. Men will open the tournament in Group B along with Cuba, Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago. Group A contains Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico and St. Lucia.

In pool play, the U.S. will take on Trinidad & Tobago on Aug. 29 (10 a.m. PT), Costa Rica on Aug. 30 (3 p.m. PT) and Cuba on Aug. 31 (3 p.m. PT).

The Players

One of the good things about the U.S. Men’s 2011 FIVB World League experience is that they were able to put their top players on the floor consistently and make improvements, rather than worrying about who would be substituting week to week.

The battle for the starting setter position was won by Brian Thornton (San Clemente, Calif.), who took advantage of his opportunities to work his way into the spot during World League and looks to continue in that role in Puerto Rico.

“I thought that for a guy setting for the top team for the first time, he handled things extremely well,” Knipe said of Thornton. “We believe Brian is the best setter for the changes we have been making to our offense. Running the up-tempo offense that we want to run and the hitting combinations that we want to run is very comfortable for Brian.”

Kevin Hansen (Newport Beach, Calif.) will back up Thornton. Hansen’s season got off to a slow start due to a pre-season appendectomy and taking time off for the birth of his first child.

At outside hitter, the U.S. Men will greatly miss the offense, defense and leadership of Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.), their team captain and their leading scorer in the 2011 World League.

A quartet of younger players will look to pick up the slack, led by Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.), who started the majority of the World League matches and finished as the team’s third leading scorer.

Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) did not play in World League while recovering from injury, but was a key player for the United States at the 2009 NORCECA Championship and throughout the 2010 season.

Paul Lotman (Lakewood, Calif.) saw significant playing time during the 2011 World League  and the London Test Event. Jayson Jablonsky (Yorba Linda, Calif.) earned his way onto the NORCECA squad after leading the U.S. Men’s A2 Team to a silver medal at the 2011 Pan American Cup and playing in the London Test Event.

The U.S. Men’s National Team is probably deepest at middle blocker, where David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) and Ryan Millar (Alpine, Utah) continue to dominate. At backup is Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio), who did not see much playing time in World League this year, but was a starter at the London Test Event.

Workhorse Clay Stanley (Honolulu, Hawaii) will continue to start at opposite, backed up by Evan Patak (Pleasanton, Calif.), who took over as the backup opposite during the 2011 World League and was the team’s leading scorer at the London Test Event.

Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.) finished the Continental Round of the 2011 World League as the third-best digger and third-best libero among all players.

The Competition

Cuba dominated the NORCECA Championship until the U.S. took over in 1999 and won the last four out of six titles. The Caribbean nation took the U.S. by surprise in 2009, as then 16-year-old phenom Wilfredo Leon led his team to victory.

Prior to the 2011 World League tournament, three of Cuba’s starters – team captain Roberlandy Simon, Joandry Leal and Raydel Hierrezuelo – left or were left off the team. Although Leon helped Cuba get to the Final Round, he was not enough to help it go any farther and it lost all three pool-play matches in the Final Round.

 It is not known if those three starters will be back for NORCECA, although Hierrezuelo has reportedly returned to the team.

The other teams that could make a run at the championship are Puerto Rico and Canada. The U.S. defeated Puerto Rico in four World League pool play matches and Canada recently defeated the Caribbean nation in a 2012 World League qualifying series.

2011 NORCECA Men's Continental Championship
Aug. 29-Sept. 3
Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

U.S. Men's Roster

No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1 Matt Anderson (OH, 6-7, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2 Sean Rooney (OH, 6-9, Wheaton, Ill., Pepperdine)
3 Evan Patak (Opp, 6-8, Pleasanton, Calif., UC Santa Barbara)
4 David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
5 Rich Lambourne (L, 6-3, Tustin, Calif., BYU)
6 Paul Lotman (OH, 6-7, Lakewood, Calif., Long Beach State)
9 Ryan Millar (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Utah, BYU)
10 Brian Thornton (S, 6-3, San Clemente, Calif., UC Irvine)
13 Clay Stanley (Opp, 6-9, Honolulu, Hawai'i, Hawaii)
14 Kevin Hansen (S, 6-5, Newport Beach, Calif., Stanford)
16 Jayson Jablonsky (OH, 6-5, Yorba Linda, Calif., UC Irvine)
17 Max Holt (MB, 6-8, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)

Head Coach: Alan Knipe (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
Team Manager: Gary Sato (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Assistant Coach: John Speraw (Irvine, Calif.)
Therapist/Trainer: Frank Ciarelli
Technical Coordinator: Chris Jackson (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Medical Support: Aaron Brock (Storm Lake, Iowa)
Team Doctor: David Dyck

Schedule (All times PT)

Group A
Aug. 29: Canada vs. Mexico at 2 p.m.
Aug. 29: Puerto Rico vs. St. Lucia at 5 p.m.
Aug. 30: St. Lucia vs. Canada at 11 a.m.
Aug. 30: Mexico vs. Puerto Rico at 5 p.m.
Aug. 31: St. Lucia vs. Mexico at 1 p.m.
Aug. 31: Puerto Rico vs. Canada at 5 p.m.

Group B
Aug. 29: USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago at 10 a.m.
Aug. 29: Cuba vs. Costa Rico at noon
Aug. 30: Trindad and Tobago vs. Cuba at 1 p.m.
Aug. 30: Costa Rica vs. USA at 3 p.m.
Aug. 31: Trinidad and Tobago vs. Costa Rica at 11 a.m.
Aug. 31: USA vs. Cuba at 3 p.m.

Sept. 1: 2nd B vs. 3rd A at 3 p.m.
Sept. 1: 2nd A vs. 3rd B at 5 p.m.

Classifications 5-8
Sept. 2: 4th A vs. Loser of M14* (or M13) at 11 a.m.
Sept. 2: 4th B vs. Loser of M13* (or M14) at 1 p.m.

Sept. 2: 1st B vs. Winner of M14* (or M13) at 3 p.m.
Sept. 2: 1st A vs. Winner of M13* (or M14) at 5 p.m.

Final Classification 7-8
Sept. 3: Loser of M15 vs. Loser of M16 at 11 a.m.

Final Classification 5-6
Sept. 3: Winner of M15 vs. Winner of M16 at 1 p.m.

Sept. 3: Loser of M17 vs. Loser of M18 at 3 p.m.
Sept. 3: Winner of M17 vs. Winner of M18 at 5 p.m.