COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (March 8, 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.
Setter James Shaw (Woodside, Calif.), 23, was an alternate to the 2016 Olympic Team and has trained with the U.S. Men’s National Team for the past three years. While at Stanford, he was named the 2016 MPSF Player of the Year and received the Lloy Ball Award as the nation’s best setter in NCAA DI-II from Off the Block. He was also a 2016 AVCA First-Team All- American. He is playing for Kioene Padova in the Italian league along with U.S. middle blocker Taylor Averill.
Q: What were your thoughts as you watched the 2016 Olympic tournament?
A: First of all, I was incredibly proud to be watching my two best friends, Tom (Jaeschke) and Aaron (Russell), as well as the rest of the guys whom I worked alongside for three great summers, living their dreams in the Olympics. Of course, selfishly I wanted one of those guys to be me – any competitive athlete would feel the same way, I’m sure. It wasn’t easy to turn on the TV for those three weeks or so and be reminded of not having made the squad, but I realize I hadn’t earned it as Kawika (Shoji) and Micah (Christenson) definitely had. I knew coming into the summer that I had a massive gap to close between myself and the second setter spot, so it was no surprise that I didn’t make any travel rosters leading up, and didn’t end up making it on the final Rio squad. I was just really so proud to see those guys achieve their dreams and do so well in the Games, after having worked so hard the whole quad leading up.
Q: How are you feeling about your progress as a setter since leaving Stanford?
A: I feel really strongly that since becoming a professional player I’ve grown a lot as a player and as a person. As a setter, I’ve gained an all-important year of experience in one of the world’s most challenging leagues, which is something that I hope I’ll never take for granted. I came out of each summer with the national team the last three summers always with major things to work on, and this past summer was no different. I feel like I’ve been able to focus on those skills this year in a way that simply couldn’t be duplicated with the speed of play in collegiate ball versus the speed here in Italy. Having those things to get better at in my mind throughout such a physically and psychologically demanding year as this has been is really a huge thing for my progress as a setter. I’m excited to see how I measure up when I get back to Anaheim, no doubt about it.
Q: What are you enjoying about playing with your Italian team? What are some of the challenges of playing for an international team?
A: The great thing about playing in Italy is the amount of passion this country has for volleyball. It’s something we don’t necessarily see so often in America, and I knew coming in that the culture would be different in this way. My team specifically is very young, and basically everyone on the squad has had a learning curve compared to other teams in the league, so we’ve had virtually no issues with big egos or locker room issues. This youth has also been our greatest challenge. Sometimes we lack a go-to guy for leadership and wisdom, where other teams are averaging an age of about 30 (we average something like 22 or 23). Of course the adjustment to a completely new culture was at first very difficult, but it’s something that everyone deals with. Being away from my home and my family and basically everything I’ve known for 22 years for such a long time has been a truly challenging personal struggle. I’m sure pretty much every American athlete who has done this would say the same types of things.
Q: What do you like to do in Italy when you are not practicing or competing?
A: I absolutely love to get out and explore the beautiful cities in this region of the world. Taylor (Averill) and Stephen (Maar, my Canadian teammate) have had some incredible trips to other countries or major Italian cities on our days off here, and I live for these kinds of adventures. Other than the exploring, I love to cook and listen to music that reminds me of home and the West Coast and I’ve had my face buried in books the entire 7 months I’ve been here. I would be lost without my books and my music.
Q: What are you looking forward to in 2017?
A: I’m looking forward to finally being healthy (just knocked on wood) coming into the summer season and taking each opportunity given to me in the gym in stride. I’m excited to train and compete alongside so many great guys, to live in Newport Beach with my roommates and closest friends Tom and Aaron. I’m also really looking forward to finding some time to travel and explore what I have yet to see in America. Our country is so vast and beautiful and diverse, and one of my biggest dreams is to spend quality time in each and every of the 50 states and hopefully share those experiences with those close to me. I couldn’t be more ready for some California sun back in my life, too.
WORLD LEAGUE FINAL GOING TO BRAZIL
The FIVB has announced that the 2017 World League Final Round will be held July 4-8 in the Arena da Baixada, a 43,000-seat soccer stadium Curitiba, Brazil.
The top six teams from pool play will compete in the Final Round with Brazil being guaranteed a spot as host. The Finals will be the culmination of six weeks of competition among 36 teams.
This is the second time that a major FIVB tournament will be played in a football stadium following the opening match of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Poland, which was played at the National Stadium in Warsaw. The match was attended by 63,000 fans, a record for the volleyball World Championship.
Setter Micah Christenson (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Cucine Lube Civitanova have advanced to the semifinals of the league playoffs after beating Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valentia twice in their best-of-three quarterfinal series.
On March 5, Civitanova beat Vibo Valentia, 25-13, 25-15, 25-20. Christenson scored seven points on three kills and a match-high four aces. He set his team to a .655 hitting efficiency. On March 8, Civitanova defeated Vibo Valentia, 25-16, 25-18, 25-18. Christenson was named the match MVP as he scored five points on four kills and one ace and set his team to a .514 hitting efficiency.
Civitanova will play either Azimut Modena or Calzedonia Verona in the semifinals, which start March 19.
Outside hitter Aaron Russell (Ellicott City, Md.) and Sir Safety Perugia also swept their quarterfinal series against LPR Piacenza. On March 4, Perugia beat Piacenza, 25-13, 25-17, 25-18. Russell scored 10 points on eight kills and two aces. He was credited with seven receptions, 43 percent positive. On March 8, Perugia defeated Piacenza, 25-23, 25-20, 25-23. Russell led all scorers with 15 points on 14 kills and one block. He was credited with seven receptions, 43 percent positive.
Perugia will play Diatec Trentino in the semifinals.
Middle blocker Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Azimut Modena lost their first playoff match to Calzedonia Verona, 25-23, 18-25, 29-27, 30-28 on March 4. Holt scored 10 points on eight kills and two blocks. The teams will play their second match on March 9 and a third match, if necessary, on March 12.
Libero Erik Shoji (Honolulu, Hawaii), setter Kawika Shoji (Honolulu) and Lokomotiv Novosibirsk beat Ural Ufa, 25-19, 25-20, 25-18 on March 5. Kawika Shoji scored six points on a match-high four blocks along with one kill and one ace. He set Novosibirsk to a .619 hitting efficiency. Erik Shoji was credited with 16 receptions, 31 percent positive.
Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y), who plays outside hitter for Zenit Kazan, helped his team to a 25-21, 25-22, 22-25, 25-23 win over Gazprom-Ugra on March 5. Anderson scored 16 points on 15 kills and one block. He was credited with 28 receptions, 57 percent positive.
Outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke (Wheaton, Ill.) played as a substitute and scored one point on a kill as Asseco Resovia Rzeszow defeated AZS Czestochowa, 25-21, 25-20, 25-15 on March 8.
On March 4, Radom beat Cuprum Lubin, 27-25, 26-24, 25-21. Smith scored nine points on seven kills, one block and one ace. Watten was credited with nine receptions, 44 percent positive. On March 8, Radom fell to ONICO AZS Politechnika Warszawska, 25-20, 25-20, 21-25, 25-18. Smith scored three points on one kill and two aces. Watten was credited with 21 receptions, 67 percent positive.
Setter Jonah Seif (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and MKS Bedzin went 2-0 in their last two matches. On March 4, Bedzin beat BBTS Bielsko-Biala, 20-25, 25-17, 25-24, 28-26. Seif scored four points on four blocks. He set his team to a .442 hitting efficiency. Outside hitter Kyle Russell (Loomis, Calif.) played as a substitute. On March 8, Bedzin defeated Effector Kielce, 25-22, 25-13, 19-25, 25-20. Seif scored four points on one kill, one block and two aces. He set his team to a .494 hitting efficiency. Russell again played as a substitute.
In the league playoffs, outside hitter Taylor Sander (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Beijing fell to Shanghai, 25-22, 20-25, 21-25, 26-24, 15-12 on March 5. Sander scored 10 points, including three blocks.
Middle blocker Dan McDonnell (Glendale, Ariz.) and Chaumont swept Toulouse, 25-20, 25-17, 25-23 on March 4. McDonnell scored seven points on six kills and one ace.
Outside hitter Greg Petty (Downers Grove, Ill.) and Pamvohaikios fell to Panachaiki, 25-23, 25-20, 28-26 on March 4. Petty led his team with 18 points on a team-high 14 kills, a team-high three blocks and one ace. He was credited with 19 receptions, 47 percent positive.
The German league regular season concluded on March 5. Luneburg, including AmericansMichael Brinkley, Scott Kevorken, Cody Kessel and Eric Fitterer, finished fifth, ending with a victory over Rottenburg, 25-17, 25-14, 25-21. Fitterer (Edwardsville, Ill.), at opposite, led all scorers with 19 points on a match-high 14 kills, a match-high four blocks and one ace. Outside hitter Kessel (Colorado Springs) added 10 points on eight kills, one block and one ace. Middle blocker Kevorken (Westlake Village, Calif.) totaled nine points on six kills, two blocks and one ace. Libero Brinkley (Huntington Beach, Calif.) was credited with eight receptions, 75 percent positive.