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US men 'on the right track' for Grand Champions Cup medal


Colorado Springs, Colorado, November 15, 2013 - Prior to the 2013 NORCECA Continental Championship in September, Lloy Ball visited with the US Men’s National Team in Anaheim, California.

Ball, the four-time Olympic setter who capped his career with the US men’s team with an Olympic gold medal in 2008, came away feeling positive about the team’s prospects.

“I was impressed with the level of play in the gym,” Ball said. “The team trained at a high energy level with focus and attention to detail.

“I think John (Speraw) and his staff have the team in the right path to not only be medal-ready in Rio, but much before that.”

The US men proved Ball right by winning the gold medal at the NORCECA Championship. With the victory, they earned the right to try for their second medal of the 2016 Olympic quadrennial on November 19 to 24 at the FIVB Men’s World Grand Champions Cup in Japan.

But winning another medal will not be easy as the US men, ranked No. 4 in the world, will have to play No. 1 Brazil, No. 2 Russia and No. 3 Italy along with No. 12 Iran and No. 17 Japan.

“We know we are going to be playing some very good volleyball teams that have been playing well,” Speraw said. “We’re looking forward to it. Our ability to adapt will be critical.”

Brazil, Iran, Russia and the United States all qualified for the FIVB Men’s World Grand Champions Cup by winning their zone championships. Italy was invited with a wild card and Japan is competing as the host country.

The US men have played Brazil twice this year in World League pool play matches, losing 3-1 and 3-0. They played two matches against Japan while training in Tokyo the week before the start of the Men’s World Grand Champions Cup.

“We’re going to have a wonderful opportunity to train with the Japanese at the Japanese Institute of Sports Science,” Speraw said. “We’re very grateful to the (Japan Volleyball Association) for the opportunity and look forward to training against Japan as we practice.”

The US men have not faced Russia and Italy since the 2012 Olympic Games (where they fell to both European sides) and they last faced Iran at the 2011 FIVB World Cup, where they defeated the Asian zone champions 3-0.

After a 12th-place finish at the 2013 FIVB World League that saw the US men miss out on playing in the Finals, Speraw is glad to have the opportunity to play some more top teams.

“As we prepare for the 2014 World Championship, the opportunity to play other teams is of great benefit to us and our preparation,” he said.

Speraw also said that he and his staff are far from finished evaluating talent as the team takes the long view toward the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“I think we’re going to keep evaluating players for some time,” he said. “We have the potential through that process to develop some depth, which is what the top teams in the world are doing.”

No matter what the outcome of the World Grand Champions Cup, Ball has high hopes for the future of the US men’s National Team.

“I believe USA Volleyball should and can be a realistic champion in every tournament, every year,” he said.

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