ROME, Italy (June 23, 2016) – It is just the second week of the FIVB World League, but the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team already has a different look and feel.
With U.S. Head Coach John Speraw’s decision to name the 2016 Olympic Team and use just those players for the rest of World League, the U.S. is playing with a 12-man roster.\
“It was time to shift the individual player focus (of trying to make the Olympic Team) to the team focus,” Speraw said. “This is the right thing to do now.”
The U.S. 12-man roster includes outside hitters Thomas Jaeschke, Reid Priddy, Aaron Russell and Taylor Sander, middle blockers Max Holt, David Lee and David Smith, opposites Matt Anderson and Murphy Troy, setters Micah Christenson and Kawika Shoji and libero Erik Shoji.
However an injury to starting middle blocker Holt, who turned his ankle while playing Brazil on Saturday and has been rehabbing with the team in Rome, has changed the equation even more. Holt will be replaced by middle blocker Dan McDonnell (Glendale, Ariz.) for the matches against Belgium, Australia and Italy in Rome.
The U.S. Men will open against Belgium (2-1) on Friday, then play Australia (0-3) on Saturday and host Italy (2-1) on Sunday.
“Our goal this weekend is just to improve each match,” Speraw said. “We want to see if we can play better volleyball than we did last week and try to accumulate as many points as we can. I think all the teams have the same goal, which is trying to make the final six during a very important summer for high-level volleyball.”
The U.S. Men last faced Belgium at the 2014 FIVB World Championship and needed five sets to beat the Europeans. Belgium beat Australia and France during its first World League weekend in Sydney, but fell to Italy.
Australia lost to Belgium, Italy and France during the first weekend of World League. The U.S. last played Australia at the 2015 FIVB World Cup where the U.S. won, 3-0.
Italy beat Australia and Belgium but fell to France in the first weekend of World League. The U.S. beat Italy at the 2015 FIVB World Cup, which the U.S. went on to win. Italy went on to finish second and also qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
The FIVB World League is the most prestigious annual men’s volleyball competition in the world with the winner taking home a final prize of $1 million.