COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 13, 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.
Libero Michael Brinkley has started for the United States on the last four Pan American Cup teams and at the 2015 Pan American Games.
Brinkley, who turns 25 this year, was the first three-time AVCA First Team All-American at UC Irvine and won two NCAA National Championships with the Anteaters.
He recently finished his first international club season with Luneburg in Germany’s top division.
Q: What were your thoughts as you watched the 2016 Olympic tournament?
A: The 2016 Olympic tournament was awesome to watch. Every game is such a battle. The men’s team was fairly young this quad and I could not be happier for the guys to bring home the bronze medal for USA!
Q: How are you feeling about your progress as a libero since leaving UC Irvine? How has training in Anaheim helped?
A: Since leaving UCI, I have learned a lot more about becoming a better libero and a better teammate. Each person on the national team is really skilled, smart, and pretty athletic so it’s awesome to compete with the best players in the nation. Last year, I didn’t play overseas so I was able to stay and train in Anaheim. I did reps with the guys who stayed back or went overseas for the second half of the season. Matt Fuerbringer helped me a lot. He took the time to help train me over the last winter and I focused a lot on float serve reception with him. The international ball gives some pretty tough float serves. Also, since I’m not the strongest guy in the USA gym, I worked out a lot with (strength trainer) Tim Pelot, focusing on gaining strength and speed for my position. Training in Anaheim pushes you every day because you have to bring your best every day. You are playing with the best. It’s a great opportunity to be in the gym and you have to take advantage of that.
Q: What are you enjoying about playing in Germany this season? What have some of the challenges been?
A: Playing in Germany has been a great learning experience. The European style of volleyball is different than the U.S. We have different systems. It also took me a little while to get the rotations correctly since we use different ones in the U.S. This is the first time I have ever been to Europe and away from my home, friends, and family for seven months and it’s been a huge growing experience. Driving stick shift was one of things I had to learn fast in order to get to practice. One challenge I had this year was the change in weather since Southern California doesn’t have much change in weather. I have never lived in a real winter until now. The snow was awesome, but ice isn’t so fun to deal with. Another challenge has been not seeing my puppy. Daisy is the cutest golden retriever and I cannot wait to take her back to the beach when I return.
Q: What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t practicing or playing volleyball?
A: In my free time I love to travel. I went to Amsterdam, Barcelona, and many places within Germany. I am lucky to live in Europe and travel easily and see other countries and cultures. We make friends all across the world. I also watch a decent amount of Netflix, not going to lie. How To Get Away With Murder is my favorite show. We have little viewing parties with teammates and girlfriends to watch it. I also love getting lunch or dinner with friends in the city. Eating at new restaurants and trying to figure out what you just ordered in German is always really fun.
Q: What are you looking forward to in 2017?
A: In 2017, I am really looking forward to training in Anaheim for the summer. I can’t wait to get my tan back and lie out on the beach. Also I’m excited to see my family and friends. You really start to miss them when you are not there for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have amazing people in my life and I miss them. Also, I am excited to keep growing as a player and a person.
CEV CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Matt Anderson, who plays outside hitter for Zenit Kazan, and his Russia team have advanced to the semifinals of the Champions League along with setter Micah Christenson and his Italian team Cucine Lube Civitanova.
Anderson and Kazan swept Russia’s Belogorie Belgorod, 2-0 in the playoff round of six. In the second match on April 13, Kazan won 25-22, 30-28, 25-21. Anderson scored 12 points on eight kills and four aces.
Christenson and Civitanova swept middle blocker Max Holt and Italy’s Azimut Modena, 2-0, winning the second match, 25-21, 25-21, 25-18. Christenson scored two points on an attack and a block and set his team to a .446 hitting efficiency. Holt scored five points on three kills, one block and one ace.
Civitanova will play Italy’s Sir Safety Conad Perugia in the semifinals. Kazan will play Germany’s Berlin Recycling Volleys.
Champions League matches can be watched at laola1.tv.
Christenson and Civitanova hold a 2-1 lead over Holt and Modena in Italy’s league semifinals. On April 9, Civitanova beat Modena, 25-21, 26-24, 21-25, 15-25, 15-12. Christenson scored four points on two kills and two blocks. He set his team to a .362 hitting efficiency. Holt scored 14 points on a match-high seven blocks, four kills and three aces. The teams will play again on April 19.
In the final match of the regular season, Anderson and Zenit Kazan beat Neftyanik Orenburg, 25-23, 24-26, 25-15, 20-25, 15-7 on April 8. Anderson led all scorers with 19 points on 15 kills, two blocks and two aces. Kazan won the league with a perfect 26-0 record.
The top two league finishers, Kazan and Dinamo Moscow, advance directly to the “Final Six,” while the third- through 10th-place finishers compete in best-of-three playoff matches.
Libero Erik Shoji, setter Kawika Shoji and Lokomotiv Novosibirsk finished the regular season in third place at 20-6. Novosibirsk lost its final regular-season match to Yenisey Krasnoyarsk, 25-17, 25-18, 25-21. Neither Shoji brother started in the match. Novosibirsk will play Krasnoyarsk again in the playoffs.
Middle blocker David Smith, libero Dustin Watten and Cerrad Czarni Radom finished the season in seventh place after going 1-1 in the playoffs against LOTOS Trefl Gdańsk. In the second match on April 13, Radom won, 25-19, 28-30, 25-18, 25-18. Smith scored 13 points on a match-high five aces, six kills and two blocks. Watten was credited with 23 receptions, 57 percent positive.
Asseco Resovia Rzeszów is 0-2 against PGE Skra Bełchatów in the playoff semifinals with outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke playing as a substitute. On April 9, Rzeszów fell to Bełchatów, 25-21, 25-15, 25-13. On April 12, Bełchatów won 21-25, 25-19, 21-25, 25-18, 15-8.
Setter Jonah Seif, outside hitter Kyle Russell and MKS Będzin went 2-0 in their playoff against Espadon Szczecin for 11th place. In the second match on April 12, Będzin won 25-23, 26-24, 25-15. Seif started the first two sets and scored two points on a kill and a block. Russell started the third set and scored two points on a kill and a block.
Middle blocker Dan McDonnell and Chaumont swept Stade Poitevin Volley Beach in the playoff quarterfinals, 2-0. In the second match on April 8, Chaumont won, 25-18, 17-25, 25-12, 25-22. McDonnell scored seven points on three kills, three aces and one block.
Middle blocker Russell Holmes and Paris Volley are 1-1 with GFC Ajaccio in the quarterfinals. In the second match on April 12, Paris fell, 25-19, 21-25, 25-23, 16-25, 15-11. Holmes scored 14 points on a match-high six blocks and eight kills. The teams will play a tie-breaker on April 15.
Outside hitter Greg Petty and Pamvohaikos are 0-2 against Olympiacos in their playoff semifinal. In the first match on April 10, Pamvohaikos fell, 25-23, 25-20, 25-18. Petty was the only player on his team to score in double figures with 16 points on a match-high three blocks, 12 kills and one ace. Pamvohaikos lost the second match on April 13, 25-16, 26-24, 25-14.
Middle blocker David Lee and Ziraat Bankasi beat Inegol BLD, 25-16, 25-23, 25-22 on April 9. Lee scored four points on two kills and two blocks. 25-23, 25-20, 25-18 on April 10.