Three Stanford grads, all with ties to an NCAA championship, will be representing the United States at the 2016 Rio Olympics in men's volleyball this August.
Kawika Shoji and brother Erik Shoji helped the Cardinal win the 2010 national title, while American assistant coach Matt Fuerbringer was part of Stanford's 1997 championship season.
The Shoji's are two of the eight newcomers to the team, announced by coach John Speraw.
Erik Shoji ranks among the best liberos in the world, while Kawika Shoji will serve as the U.S. back-up setter. Recent Stanford grad James Shaw was in training camp with the team.
Four Olympic veterans, including two gold medalists, top the 12-man roster. Outside hitter Reid Priddy was named to his fourth Olympic team while middle blocker David Lee joins his third. Both players won gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
It will be the second trip to the Games for opposite Matt Anderson, the four-time USAV men'si ndoor Athlete of the Year and MVP of the 2015 FIVB World Cup, and middle blocker David Smith.
Other first-time Olympic team members include setter Micah Christenson, outside hitters Thomas Jaeschke, Aaron Russell and Taylor Sander, middle blocker Max Holt and opposite Murphy Troy.
"I felt the team dynamic we've had the entire (Olympic) quadrennial has been great," Speraw said. "This is a tight-knit group. They are empathetic to the situation of teammates who don't get to go to the Games. But now we have an opportunity to focus on the task at hand."
The average age of the team is 27.8, with nine players under 30. Speraw knows a lack of experience will be one of this team's greatest challenges.
"The goal is to make sure we are the best team we can be in Rio," Speraw said. "In order for us to achieve our goal, we are going to need one of the greatest collective efforts in USAV history. We don't have the experience that past teams have had. For us to go through this is going to require all of us to be at our very best."
At 38, Priddy will be the senior member of the team and only the second U.S. men's volleyball player to play in four Olympic Games after setter Lloy Ball. Priddy's hopes for a fourth Olympics were nearly halted two years ago when he tore his ACL. But after double knee surgery (doctors used a ligament from his good knee to repair the damaged one) he has worked hard to return to the court in top form.
Speraw brings his own Olympic experience to the table, having served as an assistant coach at the Games in Beijing (2008) and London (2012). Erik Sullivan will serve as team leader. Sullivan is a two-time Olympian who is now an assistant women's volleyball coach at the University of Texas.
"Erik Sullivan is one of my best friends who also is a great volleyball mind," Speraw said. "He brings a perspective and thought process that is respected by me and everyone on staff."
Speraw has built a dedicated staff over the past three years, including Fuerbringer and assistant coach Mike Wall, technical coordinator Nate Ngo, sports psychologist Andrea Becker and athletic trainer Aaron Brock. Springfield men's volleyball coach Charlie Sullivan and former U.S. men's technical coordinator Anton Brams will serve as scout coaches. David Dantes will provide technical support.
The U.S. Men qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games by winning the marathon FIVB World Cup last year.
The U.S. men have qualified for 10 previous Olympic Games: 1964, '68, '84, '88, '92, '96, 2000, '04, '08 and '12 and have won the Olympic gold medal in 1984, '88 and 2008 and the bronze in 1992. The U.S. Men finished tied for fifth at the 2012 London Olympics.
The Americans begin play in the Olympics on Aug. 7 against Canada.
The team is playing this weekend (June 24-26) in the FIVB World League in Rome and will be back in the U.S. on July 1-3 to play World League matches in Dallas.