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Knipe expecting to face improved Polish team

Clay Stanley (13) of the United States puts up a block against Poland's Bartosz Kurek during their FIVB World League match on May 28 in Poland
Illinois, USA, June 14, 2011 – With six FIVB Volleyball World League matches down and six to go, USA head to Hoffman Estates, Illinois for its most important matches of the tournament so far on June 17 and 18 against Poland at the Sears Centre Arena.

The US sits in second place at 4-2 in Pool A while Brazil leads the group at 5-1 with Poland third at 3-3. To make it to the World League Final Round on July 6 to 10 in Poland, the side must finish ahead of Poland, which, as the host country, gets an automatic bid to the Final Round.

The U.S. went 1-1 against Poland in their first two World League matches, played on May 27 and 28 in Lodz, Poland. Although he was happy the United States came back to win the second match, US coach Alan Knipe was frustrated with his team’s loss in the first match.

“We’ve got to do a better job in our first match in World League,” he said. “It took a while to get back into team competition mode. We did some good things the first night, but we weren’t able to sustain them.”

However, since that first match in Poland, Knipe has been happy with his team’s progress, particularly a victory over Brazil on June 12 that was the South American country’s first 2011 World League loss. But he suspects that Poland will also be an improved team and will attract a large Polish crowd from nearby Chicago.

“They’ve had a nice first half and gotten some good wins,” Knipe said of Poland. “They know they’re hosting. They are working toward the Final Round. I expect them to play better.”

Since those first two matches in Poland, the biggest change for the United States has come at setter. Brian Thornton was brought in during the second set of the first US match against Puerto Rico and has started in the position ever since.
 
“He’s setting with a lot of confidence right now,” Knipe said. “He’s setting with good location. He is the product of some good opportunity with Donald Suxho continuing to make strides (coming back from a 2010 knee injury) and Kevin Hansen coming back from emergency appendectomy and the birth of his daughter.”

The trip to Hoffman Estates will also see the return of outside hitter Sean Rooney to the team. Rooney grew up in nearby Wheaton.

  

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