Stanford grads set for FIVB World League volleyball


Stanford grads James Shaw, Kawika Shoji and Erik Shoji are among the 19 players on the U.S. men's national volleyball team preliminary roster for the FIVB World League, which begins in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.

U.S. coach John Speraw and his staff, which includes Cardinal grad Matt Fuerbringer, can choose 14 players from the group for each of the three weekends of World League pool play and the Final Round (July 13-17 in Poland), if the U.S. qualifies.

James Shaw
The U.S. coaches will be using the World League matches to help determine their roster for the 2016 Summer Games. And while the U.S. can have 14 players on the World League roster for each weekend, only 12 can go to Rio.

"I think the biggest challenge will be choosing 12," Speraw said. "You're going to leave behind someone who has been shoulder-to-shoulder with these guys, potentially."

Six players on the 2016 U.S. World League roster have been to the Olympics before, led by three-time Olympian Reid Priddy at outside hitter and two-time Olympian David Lee at middle blocker. Both have gold medals from the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Veterans of the 2012 London Games are opposite Matt Anderson, middle blocker Russell Holmes, outside hitter Paul Lotman and middle blocker David Smith.

Micah Christenson joins Kawika Shoji and Shaw as setters. The opposites are Anderson, Murphy Troy and Ben Patch. The outside hitters are Aaron Russell, Taylor Sander, Reid Priddy, Thomas Jaeschke, Paul Lotman and Garrett Muagututia.

The middle blockers on the roster are Lee, Holmes, Smith, Max Holt and Dan McDonnell. The liberos are Erik Shoji and Dustin Watten.

"I'm finally getting healthy for the first time, so things are really looking up," Shaw told the USA website. "I would obviously love to get on the court this summer with the team and represent America, but the setting position is full of guys who are talented and have been in the gym longer than I. The coaches know, though, that I'm in it for the long haul, so I have no worries or stresses about making an immediate impact."

The Americans open pool play against Argentina, Iran and Brazil. They travel to Rome for the second weekend, June 24-26, to play Belgium, Australia and Italy and then end the preliminary round in Dallas where they will face Bulgaria, Australia and Russia.

After winning the 2014 FIVB World League title, the U.S. finished third in 2015.

Team USA ended its five-day stay in Cuba with a 25-21, 24-26, 25-17, 25-18 win of its second friendly match against the host country recently.

Both teams will move on to play in the FIVB World League and then at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The U.S. finished with nine aces, led by Muagututia with five and Lotman with two. Cuba finished with three aces.

Libero Erik Shoji was credited with five digs, including a save that fell for a point on Cuba's side. Lotman was credited with 10 excellent receptions.

"It was nice that some of the second-team guys could get in tonight and contribute so well," said setter Kawika Shoji, who scored five points on three blocks, one kill and one ace. "I think we're going to build on this for World League."

Shoji set the U.S. Men to a .388 hitting efficiency while Cuba hit .179.

Muagututia and Lotman led all scorers with 16 points each. Muagututia scored on nine kills, two blocks and five aces. Lotman scored on 12 kills, two blocks and two aces.

"For us to be able to get out on the court, put on the uniform and play a good opponent is great," Speraw said. "I think the opportunity here for a lot of guys to get a chance and a look, especially in a year we're making a lot of tough decisions, is important."

— Palo Alto Online Sports/USA volleyball

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