COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 14, 2015) – Here is something that’s hard to believe. Until 2015, Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) had never won an individual award at a major FIVB tournament.
He has certainly been among the statistical leaders at FIVB tournaments. But for whatever reasons, it never worked out that he was named Best Server or Best Spiker (the FIVB term), let alone Most Valuable Player.
That’s why U.S. Men’s National Team supporters were excited to see Anderson, 28, walk onto the floor of Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo as the MVP of the 2015 FIVB World Cup after the U.S. Men won the tournament and qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games.
But while it may have taken a while for the FIVB to recognize Anderson, USA Volleyball has awarded him its Men’s Indoor Player of the Year Award for the fourth year in a row in 2015.
Anderson knows that volleyball is a team sport and that he can’t win any awards by himself.
"I can’t become MVP without a supporting cast,” Anderson said. “I played well, but the team played extremely well together and fought through some really tough matches and some really tough times. We put ourselves in a great position. So MVP is for the team, not me."
But there is no way the U.S. Men would have won the World Cup without him. He led the U.S. Men in scoring with 172 points in 37 sets, including 137 kills, nine blocks and a tournament-high 26 aces.
"Matt had an incredible World Cup," U.S. Men’s Head Coach John Speraw said. "There were times he carried us to victory on his back."
The World Cup performance came at the end of a long season, both physically and mentally for Anderson, who took a break from the sport last fall while playing for his Russian team Zenit Kazan.
"My mental strength for sure was the hardest obstacle to get past this year," Anderson said. "With the break I took, I was able to look inward and see what really made me a happy person. I was able to address personal issues. That allowed me to put even more of myself and more focus into training and competition."
Although some fans feared he was retiring from the sport, Anderson actually returned to Kazan after spending some time with his family in New York. He called winning the CEV Champions League with Kazan in March one of his favorite moments of 2015 along with winning the World Cup, meeting his new niece Brooklyn and spending time with his family.
As the U.S. Men look forward to the 2016 World League and the Olympic in Rio, Speraw said he is looking forward to seeing how Anderson improves at opposite, a position he moved to in 2013 from outside hitter.
"We rely on him to take so many important swings," Speraw said. "He is continuing to grow into that position. I am eager to go into this summer, where we know for sure what everyone's position will be."
And whether or not he wins any individual awards, Anderson plans to continue to be a leader for Team USA.
"I try to first lead by example with my work ethic and attention to our team's system," Anderson said. "I also try to keep things light in talks with other players because of the high-stress environment or competition.
"Sometimes all we need is to get a little boost in confidence to shake the tunnel vision the stress can cause."
Music is a big part of Anderson’s preparation and he often provides the music on the bus to and from tournaments along with during practice. Here are the top 10 songs/albums Anderson was listening to in 2015:
1. Drake - 6 God Album
2. Rick Ross - Mastermind Album
3. Jason Aldean - Night Train
4. Jason Aldean - When She Says Baby
5. Florida Georgia Line - Cruise
6. The Weeknd - Shameless
7. Lang Lang - The 50 Greatest Piano Pieces by Lang Lang Album
8. The Black Keys - Chulahoma Album
9. Diplo & Friends mix by Kygo
10. Black Label XL2 mix by Trampa