Sports

Chicago feels like home to California dreamers

U.S. men's volleyball team set to play Finland in World League competition

Sean Rooney anticipates a nice reception Friday night when the United States' men's senior national volleyball team takes the court against Finland at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Rooney, an outside hitter for Team USA, is a native of the area and feels right at home there. His American teammates, Stanford grad Kevin Hansen included, feel the same way even though the team trains in Anaheim.

The Illinois city hosts its third set of FIVB World League matches (Finland and the U.S. also play Saturday) in three years.

"I'm really looking forward to going to Chicago this year," Rooney said. "I'm looking forward to seeing my family and friends. The fans there know volleyball and we always get really good support."

The U.S. also played Finland at the Sears Centre two years ago, winning both matches on its way to winning both its first World League title and the Olympic gold medal in Beijing. The Americans have won 15 of the past 17 meetings between the two countries.

At the halfway point of the World League Continental (pool play) round, the United States rests in second place in Pool C with a 4-2 record while Finland is in third at 1-5. Russia leads the pool with a perfect 6-0 record.

Hansen, an Olympic gold medalist, will start at setter for the U.S., with Tyler Hildebrand serving as his backup. Part-time starter Donald Suxho, an Olympian, was injured during the Americans' win over Egypt last weekend.

"It's about what we do on our side of the net," U.S. coach Alan Knipe said. "It's our attention to detail. We need better preparation. We need to be better on serve receive; both individually and as a team. We need better swings out of system."

Outside hitter Matt Anderson is Team USA's leader in scoring with 61 points on 51 kills, three blocks and four aces. U.S. middle blocker David Lee leads all World League players in blocks with 28 and a per-set average of 1.22.

Opposite Antti Siltala leads Finland in scoring with 96 points on 85 kills, six blocks and five aces.

Women's water polo

Stanford grads Brenda Villa and Lolo Silver will be joined by current Cardinal players Melissa Seidemann and Annika Dries on the United States senior national team that will compete at the FINA World League Super Final at the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex in La Jolla.

U.S. coach Adam Krikorian made his decision, in part, on how players performed during the recent three-game exhibition series with China, which concluded with an American victory Thursday night at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center.

"I had to pick 15 out of the group of 21," Krikorian said. "Somebody had to be left out of the mix, at least for this tournament. The players did not make it easy. It was one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make."

Maggie Steffens, whose older sister Jessica played for Stanford and the U.S. Olympic team, made the traveling squad. She's the only high school athlete on the 15-player roster.

In addition to the U.S. and China, the Super Final includes Australia, Canada, Russia, Hungary, the Netherlands and Greece.

The Americans open against Greece on Monday at 7:15 p.m. in group play. They will also meet Australia and Russia before Thursday's quarterfinals.

-- Special thanks to USA volleyball's B.J. Hoeptner Evans for contributing to this report.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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