USA Men's Volleyball Update Reports From USA Volleyball & B.J. Hoeptner EvansThe U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team has begun its annual exercise in accruing frequent flier miles and is in Ekaterinburg, Russia this week for the first weekend of the 2010 FIVB World League.The U.S. Men, ranked No. 2 in the world by the FIVB, will play two matches against No. 3 Russia on June 4-5. Both matches will be at 6 p.m. in Russia (8 a.m. EDT, 5 a.m. PDT). They will stay in Europe to play two matches against Finland on June 11-12.Along with LBSU’s Alan Knipe, local boys David Lee and Paul Lotman are looking to rack up some quality minutes in Europe.After winning their first World League title in 2008, the U.S. Men met their goal of taking their pool – which included Italy, China and Netherlands – in 2009. But at the final round, the United States lost in straight sets to both Russia and Serbia in pool play and did not advance to the semifinals. Team USA finished sixth. Russia went on to place third while Brazil won its eighth World League title, defeating Serbia in the gold medal match.While some might view the United States having to play its first matches in Russia against one of the world’s top teams as a burden, U.S. Men’s Head Coach Alan Knipe (Huntington Beach, Calif.) is looking at the trip as an opportunity.“I think it’s a great schedule,” Knipe said. “I like the fact we’re playing both matches in Europe back to back. It’s nice to have a lengthier trip out of the gate. Good bonding and team dynamics come out of longer road trips.”There are a few factors working in the United States’ favor on this trip, including the return of 2008 Olympic gold medalists Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.) at outside hitter and middle blocker Ryan Millar (Alpine, Utah) to the team. Neither athlete played in the 2009 FIVB World League, needing a break after a rigorous schedule in 2008.Priddy, who is serving as the U.S. team captain for World League, is returning to Russia less than a month after he left following the completion of the Russian Super League playoffs in which his team, Lokomotiv Novosibirsk, finished fourth. Three other U.S. players making the trip to Russia also competed in the Russian league during the past winter: middle blocker David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) also plays for Novosibirsk; setter Kevin Hansen (Newport Beach, Calif.) and outside hitter Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) played for Fakel Novy Urengoi.Opposite Clay Stanley (Honolulu, Hawaii), who also played in Russia during the winter of 2009-10 for Zenit Kazan, the league champion, did not make the trip to Europe.Having U.S. players who have competed in Russia is a definite asset, said Rooney, who was the USA Volleyball Male Indoor Player of the Year in 2009 and was the United States' leading scorer in both pool play and the final round of the World League competition.“The Russian team has made some changes There are going to be a couple new faces,” he said. “They’re going to be strong. Being over there in that league is definitely beneficial to us.”Among the faces to watch are Dmitry Ilinykh, 23, Dmitri Musersky, 21 and Denis Birukov, 21, all of whom played for Lokomotiv Belogorie in the Russia league playoff.Outside hitter Semen Poltavskiy, middle blocker Alexander Volkov and opposite Maxim Mikhaylov, who led Russia in 2009, are also back on its roster.However, Russia will be missing veterans Sergey Tetukhin, who retired from the national team last year, and Alexey Verbov and Alexey Kuleshov, who are both expected to join the team later this season.Russia is coached by Italian Daniele Bagnoli, who took over at the beginning of 2009.Other U.S. Men’s players who will be making the European trip are outside hitters Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.), Paul Lotman (Lakewood, Calif.) and Riley Salmon (League City, Texas); middle blockers Russell Holmes (Fountain Valley, Calif.) and Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio); liberos Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.) and Alfee Reft (Oxnard, Calif.); opposite Evan Patak (Pleasanton, Calif.) and setter Donald Suxho (Korce, Albania).The U.S. Men have a record of 55-39 against Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) since 1981, but are 3-9 against it since 2000. One of the biggest victories came in the semifinal match of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where the United States won 3-2 (25-22, 25-21, 25-27, 22-25, 15-13).The United States will host Russia for World League on July 9-10 in Wichita, Kan.CLICK HERE for the USA Volleyball page for World League information U.S. Men’s A2 Players Among The Leaders At Pan Am CupThe U.S. Men’s A2 National Volleyball Team finished the Pan American Cup this past weekend, sweeping Argentina in the tournament’s gold medal match. The team wrapped up the Pan America Cup with a perfect 5-0 record. Ranking among the leaders were local boys Robert Tarr and Dustin Watten. Leading the way for the U.S. Men’s A2 Team was outside hitter Jayson Jablonsky (Yorba Linda, Calif.) who not only wrapped up the Cup with “Best Spiker” honors, but also was voted as tournament MVP. The outside hitter finished in the top 10 in four skill categories including best spikers, where he led the pack with 59 kills and eight errors on 110 total attempts, best blockers, placing fifth with an average of 0.67 blocks per set, best servers and best receivers. Jablonsky concluded the tournament with a total of 75 points, good for second place among leading scorers. Three other A2 players joined him in the top 20 including outside hitter Robert Tarr (Cape Canaveral, Fla.) at fifth place with 67 points, Carson Clark (Santa Barbara, Calif.) who placed 10th with 56 points and middle blocker David Smith (Saugus, Calif.) who finished at 18th place with 42 points. Along with Jablonsky, two other U.S. Men’s A2 players were listed in the top five for blocking. Pacing the United States at the net was middle blocker Theo Brunner (Ridgefield, Conn.) who fell behind the leader by only a .03 blocks per set. Brunner finished the Cup with 13 totals blocks, five faults and averaged 0.72 blocks per set. Tarr took third with 13 blocks on 48 attempts and averaged 0.72 blocks per set. Directing the offense was setter Brian Thornton (San Clemente, Calif.) who placed third among all setters with a 4.94 average running sets (assists) per set and did not receive a single setting fault for the entire tournament. Along with being dominant at the net, the U.S. Men’s A2 Team also put up a strong back-row defense. Both Andrew McGuire (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), who had a success percentage of 44.12, and Dustin Watten (Long Beach, Calif.), whose success percentage was 43.02, were listed among the tournament’s top 10 best liberos.