Grand Canyon senior makes Israeli roster for World Championship qualifier

A returning starter for Grand Canyon will spend his off-season competing for his nation in Europe’s biggest continental tournament of the summer.

All-MIVA outside attacker Shalev Saada was one of the 22 players selected to the Israeli roster for the European qualification tournament to the 2018 FIVB World Championship.

Saada, an incoming senior from Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk, Israel, finished last season with the Antelopes in the conference’s top 25 averaging both a 2.39 kills per game and a 1.28 digs per game. He also had 13 kills in a postseason upset victory versus Lewis to help Grand Canyon reach the MIVA Tournament finals for the first time in program history.

Israel enters the European qualification for the second consecutive time after reaching second round of the last tournament in 2013. In that tournament four years ago, Israel finished in second place in its first-round pool and then went 1-4 in the second round to be eliminated from FIVB World Championship contention.

Besides Saada, the Israeli roster will feature two players who recently ended their college careers.

Former UC Irvine All-American outside attacker Tamir Hershko was among the national leaders with a 3.20 kills per game average last season. In addition, Grand Canyon setter Michael Milstein was fourth in the MIVA with a 9.61 assists per game average.

Israel is in Pool C for the European qualifier along with Belgium, Georgia, Latvia, Portugal and Slovenia. The pool champion will earn an automatic berth to the World Championship, while the runner-up will advance to the European qualifier third-round and the last-chance round-robin event to earn a World Championship berth.

Israel will play Latvia on Wednesday in its first of five pool play matches.