Stanford sophomores Brian Cook, Steven Irvin and Eric Mochalski join the United States junior men's national volleyball team next week at the FIVB Junior World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Competition opens Monday with the Americans meeting Bulgaria in a Pool A match. The U.S. plays host Brazil on Tuesday, followed by a match against Japan on Wednesday.
"Most of our players have played a major role on their collegiate teams and that experience should carry over quite well for us," U.S. coach John Hawks said. "I feel like we are not going to be physically outmatched by anyone. This year's team has tremendous depth and we can start a wide variety of line-ups and still maintain a high level of cohesion on the court."
The team trained for two weeks in July at the GaREAT Sports Complex in Geneva, Ohio.
The top two teams in each of the four pools advance to the top eight in the second round with another round-robin pool in Rio de Janeiro. The teams finishing third and fourth in the first round drop into the 9-16 classification second round in Niteroi. The second round begins Friday. The semifinal and final classification round is set for Aug. 9, while the medal rounds will be held Aug. 10.
The U.S. Men's Junior National Team, ranked ninth in the world by the FIVB, is making its fourth consecutive appearance at the World Championship.
The Americans earned a spot in the 2011 championship by winning the 2010 NORCECA Men's Junior Continental Championship in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. The team went 5-0 and defeated host Canada in the final. The team did not lose a set in the tournament.
Nine players on the World Championship roster participated in those championships.
Mochalski joins Scott Kevorken and Dylan Davis as middle blockers. Mochalski was named to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation All-Freshman team after establishing Stanford's single-season record for hitting percentage.
Irvin and Cook comprise half of the team's outside hitters, along with Taylor Sander and Taylor Crabb.
Irvin, a redshirt with the Cardinal last winter, is a two-time AVCA first-team high school All-American. He was a member of the 2008 FIVB Under-19 World Beach Volleyball team.
Cook was a member of the 2010 team that won the NORCECA championships.
"Our goal is to win the gold medal" Hawks said. "We started thinking about that as a possibility when selecting this team and the guys have been thinking about it since we qualified last summer in Canada for the FIVB World Championship. We realize that the United States has never medaled at this event which makes this challenge even more exciting for us all. We are not guaranteeing anything, but we will guarantee that we will compete in every single play."
A total of 11 Stanford players off last year's 12-1 team have made their way to NFL camps. The latest include Richard Serman (fifth round) and Ryan Whalen, who signed with Seattle and Cincinnati, respectively, on Thursday.
Seven other former Cardinal players signed free-agent contracts on Wednesday, four going to the San Francisco 49ers and ex-Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh. The Niners signed tight end Konrad Reuland, center Chase Beeler, offensive lineman Derek Hall and defensive end Brian Bulcke.
Former Stanford placekicker Nate Whitaker will try to earn a roster spot with Minnesota, Thomas Keiser will join former teammate Sione Fua with the Carolina Panthers while wide receiver Doug Baldwin joins Sherman in Seattle. Earlier, Owen Marecic was drafted and signed, giving Stanford 11 in the NFL.