RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil (July 14, 2015) – In 2008, when the U.S. Men’s Volleyball Team won its first FIVB World League title, it did so at Maracanazinho Gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro and middle blocker David Lee was one of the newest players on the team.
This week, the team has returned to Maracanazinho for another World League Final Round and Lee is the only member of that 2008 team remaining. He is also serving as the team’s captain.
When Lee walked into the stadium for practice on Tuesday, he remembered his past tournaments at the headquarters of Brazilian volleyball.
“Took silver at the 2007 Pan American Games here,” he told the newer players on the team. “Won the 2008 World League here. Got beaten twice in 2013 here...”
And while the U.S. Men are happy to be back at Maracanazinho for the World League Final Round, there is a much more important tournament that will be hosted at the storied arena: the 2016 Olympic Games volleyball tournament.
“For the U.S., it’s the main competition,” Lee said. “It’s the pinnacle of our sport.”
In fact, this year’s World League Final Round is Brazil’s first test event for the 2016 Olympic Games, which it will host in a little more than a year.
While Lee is the only Olympic gold medalist on the U.S. team in Rio this week, there are four other U.S. Olympians competing: outside hitter/opposite Matt Anderson, middle blocker Russell Holmes, outside hitter Paul Lotman and middle blocker David Smith. All but Smith were on the 2014 team that won the World League. Other players returning from that team are outside hitter Taylor Sander, who was the MVP, middle blocker Max Holt, setters Micah Christenson and Kawika Shoji and libero Erik Shoji.
Troy played in the 2013 World League and NORCECA Championship. He did not make a World League traveling squad in 2014, but returned in 2015 and has split time with Anderson at opposite.
Russell, who just finished his career at Penn State, has started at outside hitter when Anderson started at opposite.
Jaeschke has played well enough as a substitute that he recently announced he would not be returning to Loyola of Chicago to play his senior season and would instead go to Poland to play for league-leading Asseco Resovia Rzeszow.
Watten is a veteran of four Pan American Cup teams, including three that won gold.
Pool play for the 2015 World League Final Round begins on Wednesday, but the United States will open on Thursday against host Brazil, the team it beat to win the 2014 World League. The U.S. won Pool B of the 2015 World League with a 9-3 record. Brazil won Pool A with a 9-3 record.
Friday, the U.S. Men will play France, which won Pool D in the second group at 12-0, losing only five sets along the way. It then won the Group 2 Final to advance to the Group 1 Final Round.
The other pool consists of Italy, which finished third in Pool A at 6-; Poland, which finished second to the United States in Group B at 8-4 and Serbia, which finished second in Pool A at 7-5.
The United States must finish first or second in the pool to move on to Saturday’s semifinals and Sunday’s medal matches.
The United States has medaled five times at World League, placing third in 1992 and 2007, second in 2012 and first in 2008 and 2014.
U.S. Roster for FIVB World League Final Round
July 15-19, 2015
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1. Matt Anderson (OH/OPP, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2. Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State)
3. Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., BYU)
4. David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
6. Paul Lotman (OH, 6-7, Lakewood, Calif., Long Beach State)
7. Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
9. Murphy Troy (Opp, 6-8, St. Louis, Mo., Southern California)
10. Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
12. Russell Holmes (MB, 6-8, Fountain Valley, Calif., BYU)
17. Max Holt (MB, 6-9, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
21. Dustin Watten (L, 6-0, Long Beach, Calif., Long Beach State)
22. Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
|May 30||USA def Iran||25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23||Los Angeles, Calif. | USC Galen Center|
|May 31||USA def Iran||25-16, 25-16, 20-25, 25-20||Los Angeles, Calif. | USC Galen Center|
|June 5||USA def Russia||25-18, 24-26, 25-15, 28-26||Long Beach, Calif. | the Walter Pyramid|
|June 6||USA def Russia||25-23, 25-21, 25-16||Long Beach, Calif. | the Walter Pyramid|
|June 12||USA def Poland||23-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 15-9||Hoffman Estates, Ill. | Sears Centre Arena|
|June 13||USA def Poland||23-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-17||Hoffman Estates, Ill. | Sears Centre Arena|
|June 19||Iran def USA||25-19, 29-27, 25-20
||Tehran, Iran | Azadi Stadium|
|June 21||Iran def USA||25-20, 25-21, 25-19
|June 26||USA def Russia||25-21, 25-20, 25-19
|June 28||USA def Russia||25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 25-18
|July 3||Poland def USA||19-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-20, 15-12
|July 4||USA def Poland||25-20, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23
|July 16||USA vs Brazil||
||Rio de Janeiro
|July 17||USA vs France||
||Rio de Janeiro