U.S. Olympic Men's Volleyball Team Preview

2016 U.S. Olympic Men's Volleyball Team Media Guide

The United States has an Olympic legacy of success in men’s volleyball. The U.S. Men won the first Olympic medal for USA Volleyball when they took gold in Los Angeles in 1984 and repeated as champions in 1988 in Seoul. They took bronze in 1992 in Barcelona and returned to the top spot on the podium in 2008 in Beijing. The team finished fifth in 2012 in London. 

In 2013, California native John Speraw took over as head coach, while still serving as the head men’s volleyball coach for UCLA, and began making changes. While several London Olympians – outside hitters Matt Anderson and Reid Priddy along with middle blockers David Lee and David Smith – stayed with the team, Speraw also recruited younger players into the gym. Micah Christenson took over as the team’s starting setter in 2013 when he still had two more years to go at the University of Southern California. 

When Priddy, a three-time Olympian and 2008 gold medalist, was injured at the start of the 2014 World League, Taylor Sander, who had only recently finished his career at BYU, helped lead the team to the World League title and was named MVP. In 2015, outside hitter Aaron Russell joined the starting rotation less than a week after finishing at Penn State. 

Also in 2015, Thomas Jaeschke joined the team shortly after being named the AVCA Player of the Year with Loyola of Chicago. Jaeschke gave up his senior season with Loyola to play overseas in Poland and work to make the Olympic Team. 

Priddy returned to the team in 2016 and quickly showed that he was back to 100 percent. He is one of four returning Olympians on the team along with Anderson (2012), Lee (‘08, ‘12) and Smith (‘12). As the veterans and younger players bought into Speraw’s systems and methods, the team began to find success. Besides winning the 2014 World League, it finished third at the 2015 World League and went on to surprise the volleyball world by winning the 2015 FIVB World Cup and qualifying for the Olympic Games. Anderson, who moved from outside hitter to opposite in 2013, was named MVP, Christenson was named best setter and Erik Shoji, another new player to the team, earned best libero honors. 

The victory puts the U.S. Men, ranked fifth in the world, among the favorites at the 2016 Olympic Games, but they should expect strong challenges from several other countries. The top challenge will come from Brazil itself, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and will no doubt want to give its home crowd a gold medal in its home arena and in one of its favorite sports. Other teams who have performed well over the last quadrennial include Poland (2014 World Champion), Russia (2012 Olympic champion), France (2015 World League champion) and Italy (2015 World Cup runner-up). Other teams that have given the U.S. problems in the past are Argentina, Canada and Iran.