Stanford grads Erik Shoji and Kawika Shoji, along with fellow U.S. Olympic volleyball players including Matt Anderson, Micah Christenson, Max Holt and Aaron Russell will compete at the NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs beginning Tuesday.
Ten teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean will compete in the event, which is a qualifier for the 2018 FIVB World Championship on Sept. 10-30 in Italy and Bulgaria.
The U.S. Men are ranked No. 2 in the world and No. 1 in NORCECA. They won the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The top three tournament finishers will qualify for the 2018 FIVB World Championship. Matches are free and open to the public.
The team is hungry for some hardware after finishing fourth at both the FIVB World League and the FIVB Grand Champions Cup.
“We want to see if we can get on the podium and hopefully win our zone,” U.S. coach John Speraw said. “Obviously the goal is to qualify for the World Championship, but we would like to do a little more and finish at the top.”
Originally, a total of 12 teams were supposed to compete at NORCECA, but Cuba and Puerto Rico were unable to attend for weather-related issues
Canada, ranked No. 2 by NORCECA, has defeated the United States three out of the last four times they have played. Mexico and Dominican Republic are the next-highest ranked teams.
The U.S. Men bring in nine players who won bronze medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, including the Shoji's.
Others include outside hitters Taylor Sander and Thomas Jaeschke and middle blockers David Smith.
Also on the roster are opposites Ben Patch and Carson Clark, libero Dustin Watten and middle blockers Dan McDonnell and Mitch Stahl. McDonnell and Stahl are the only two on the team who didn’t compete at the FIVB Grand Champions Cup.
“Because this is the last tournament of the year and Mitch has been playing really well and Dan has been with us for a while, we need to look at them,” Speraw said. “We want to see how they looked on the court and with this group and how that changed the dynamic and what skill set they could bring to make us better.”
In the United States, the matches will be broadcast online on the USA Volleyball site.