The World Championship ended Wednesday, but there are many things college men’s volleyball teams and fans should take away from the U.S. Men’s Junior National Team’s performance.
No. 9 United States reached the final four for the first time in World Championship history before losing to No. 1 Argentina in the semifinals and No. 5 Serbia in the bronze medal game. The United States roster was comprised of 15 current college men’s volleyball players and four incoming freshmen.
Check out the top five things to take away from the World Championship for the upcoming NCAA men’s volleyball season in January.
1. Growth of USA Volleyball
It was an ugly finish for the United States at the World Championship. Despite not medaling, the tournament was an absolute success for USA Volleyball. The United States’ fourth-place finish was its best finish in the 40-year history of the World Championship. The team also had an upset victory in the second round against No. 4 Iran and almost upset No. 2 Russia. This tournament was another positive sign of growth for U.S. men’s volleyball. U.S. national teams in the five years have continued to produce results, ranging from winning the 2008 Olympics to this World Championship finish. Domestically more colleges, especially at the NAIA and Division III levels, are adding the sport and youth participation continues to increase. As men’s volleyball continues to grow the level of expectation will continue to increase for the United States at these international tournaments.
2. Taylor Sander standout performance
The unofficial “Taylor Sander for 2012 National Player of the Year” campaign was launched at the World Championship. Sander finished second among all players at the tournament with 131 kills and led the United States in kills in six of the team’s eight matches. The BYU All-American outside attacker also had more than 20 kills against No. 11 Spain and No. 1 Argentina. As a freshman, Sander finished last season in the nation’s top 25 for kills and attack percentage and was named the AVCA Newcomer of the Year. With the Cougars returning almost its entire starting lineup and a preseason favorite to win the 2012 NCAA title, expect for Sander and other BYU players to get consideration for the National Player of the Year.
3. Micah Christenson is the real deal
Not that anyone was doubting it, but USC incoming freshman setter Micah Christenson proved at the World Championship he can play at the next level. Christenson, the 2011 Honolulu Star-Advertiser Boys Volleyball Player of the Year and Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selection, was fourth at the tournament in assists per game average. The big question for Christenson following the World Championship is what role he will play on the Trojans as a freshman. USC All-American starting setter Riley McKibbin graduated after helping lead the Trojans to their second Final Four in three years. However, USC already has three setters from its 2011 roster returning for the upcoming season.
4. Pepperdine’s new outside attacker combination
After a season of offensive struggles and failing to reach the MPSF Tournament, Pepperdine might have found its new offensive option at outside attacker with incoming freshman Joshua Taylor. Taylor played sporadically throughout the World Championship and finished fifth on the team with 47 kills, including a team-high 12 kills in a victory against No. 4 Iran. In addition, Pepperdine outside attacker Maurice Torres was second on the United States and in the tournament’s top 20 with 72 kills. Torres during the NCAA 2011 season was in the nation’s top 15 with a 4.04 kills per game average, but no other Pepperdine player averaged more than 2.50 kills per game. Taylor, a Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selection, could give Pepperdine that second offensive option as a freshman and help the Waves return to the postseason.
5. Dylan Davis dominance in the middle
At times forgotten last season because of all of UC Santa Barbara’s offensive weapons, Dylan Davis is emerging as one of the top middle attackers in the nation. Davis led the United States and finished fourth among all players at the World Championship averaging 0.73 blocks per game. As a sophomore, Davis ended the 2011 season second on UC Santa Barbara and in the nation’s top 50 with a 0.86 blocks per game average. Davis is the only UC Santa Barbara returning starter after the Gauchos reached the NCAA championship match for the first time in more than 20 years. Despite all the new starters, Davis could be contender for the 2012 Off the Block Blocker of the Year award.