SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Aug. 2, 2003 – The men’s volleyball competition gets underway tomorrow evening at the XIV Pan American Games as the United States national team takes on Barbados at 6 p.m. (Eastern time) at the Pabellon de Voleibol at Olympic Park.
While a berth in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, is not at stake in this competition, the Pan American Games will serve as an important tune-up event as the American men prepare for the NORCECA zone championships in Mexico next month.
“We’re certainly not at full strength, but we have a good team here and I think we’ll play well,” said Team USA head Coach Doug Beal. “The team we would like to have at the zone championships is not the team we will have here.”
The team is missing right-side hitter Clay Stanley, who is out with a hand injury, and middle blocker and 2000 Olympian Tom Hoff, whose wife is expecting the couple’s first child any day now.
Two more Olympians from 2000, setter Lloy Ball and middle blocker Ryan Millar are scheduled to rejoin the team later this month in time for the NORCECA tournament.
The first Olympic qualifier is the World Cup in Japan from Nov. 17-30, 2003. To be one of the 12 teams to qualify for the World Cup, however, the USA men must win the NORCECA zone championships in September. World Cup invitations are given to the host country, Japan; the winners of the five respective continental confederation championships; and the next six top teams in accordance with the World Cup regulations.
The top three teams at the 2003 World Cup qualify for the 2004 Olympics along with the host country, Greece, and the five winners of the continental qualification tournaments (Africa, Asia, Europe, NORCECA and South America) held immediately after the World Cup. The final three spots will be determined at world Olympic qualifier tournament held later in 2004.
So far this season the men have only eight matches in the books, playing a five-match domestic tour against Korea in June and a three-match tour in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in July. After dropping their first match of the season to Korea, Team USA has won seven straight matches to begin the Pan American Games with a record of 7-1.
The United States, which has captured four gold medals (1955, 1959, 1967, and 1987) and three silver medals (1963, 1971, and 1995) at this competition, will be a member of Pool A along with Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Pool B consists of Brazil, Canada, Cuba and Puerto Rico. The men’s volleyball tournament will run from Sunday, Aug. 3 until Friday, Aug. 15 at the Pabellon de Voleibol at Olympic Park.
Brazil, the defending world and World League champion, is the favorite for the gold medal in this event, but don’t count out the United States just yet. Team USA was the only team to defeat the Brazilians at the World Championships in Argentina last year and posted a victory over them in 2001 during World League competition.