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United States of America

The U.S. Men’s national Volleyball team is looking to regain some of the shine that it had when it won three straight Olympic medals in Los Angeles (gold in 1984), Seoul, South Korea (gold in 1988) and Barcelona, Spain (bronze in 1992).

To get to that point, however, Hall of Fame
head coach Doug Beal needs more consistency from a relatively young team that went 19-17 in 2002 and finished ninth at the World Championships in Argentina.

At that tournament the men won their first four matches, including a come-from-behind five-set thriller over eventual world champion Brazil, and was in a perfect position to reach the quarterfinals. But a crushing five-set loss to Greece and a four-game setback to
Serbia and Montenegro in the final match of the second round ended the season for Team USA.

“Winning that match (against Greece) would have automatically put us in the top eight, which would have met our goals,” recalls Beal, who was also the head coach of the gold-medal-winning team in 1984. “We would have been feeling pretty good about ourselves. But our inconsistency prevented that from happening.”

The men, ranked No. 13 in the world to start this new year, showed glimpses of its potential to return to the upper echelon of the
Volleyball world last season, posting wins over three of the top four teams in the world (No. 2 Brazil, No. 3 Serbia and Montenegro and No. 4 Italy).

But losses to teams like No. 20 Bulgaria, No. 20 Canada and No. 19 Czech Republic revealed the dark side of the team’s potential.

“What we showed last summer was we have the ability to play at a very high level,” said Beal. “Now we have to show that we have not only the ability to play at that level, but the maturity and the consistency to play at that level for every match of a long tournament, whether it’s the NORCECA championships, or the World Cup, or the Olympic Games. We have to play at a very high level for a much longer period of time than we did in Argentina at the World Championships.”

Young talent like Brook Billings, Clay Stanley, Jim Polster, Adam Naeve, Dave McKienzie, Reid Priddy and Chris Seiffert all emerged as possible players that Beal can depend on this coming season. It’s just a matter of how much their maturity and skill levels have developed since the end of last season.

Beal is also hopeful that 2000 Olympians like Kevin Barnett, Tom Hoff, George Roumain and Andy Witt can recover from a variety of injuries they have suffered in the past two years to return to the squad and make an impact along with his younger players.

“With the maturity and growth of guys like Stanley and Naeve and Priddy and Polster and Billings and McKienzie—and with the return of a Hoff, a Barnett, a Witt, a Roumain, a (Brandon) Taliaferro—we could be a force, I think,” said Beal. “Obviously I am hoping we can get every one of those guys in the gym. Realistically, however, I doubt all of those players will be healthy or available. We have a lot of (people) that may not play, but if one or two of them do with the group we had last summer, we can be a substantially different, a substantially stronger, a substantially better team.”