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Did you expect the US men’s national team to win World League?
I looked at our pool when we were going into it and I knew we had to beat Bulgaria and we did that. I knew we were in a good place to go the finals. But it was in Brazil and Brazil was playing great. Then we get smashed by Serbia and honestly barely beat Poland, it was a deuce game in the fifth. Then we end up getting Brazil in the semi so it is not looking particularly good.
We had some pretty good success against Brazil, better than anybody else. If anybody had their number, we probably did. So yeah, we pulled off the shocker vs. Brazil and then we go into the final vs. Serbia and really battle.
I stood up after we won and I go over to give Hugh a hug. You know we just won a major international tournament. Hugh looks at me and he goes “Did we just win World League?” That was the first thing he said to me. The funny thing is, I coach college so I don’t do this for money. But I remember in that semi-final vs. Brazil when that last ball dropped and we had just beat Brazil to go the finals. I thought to myself, man I just earned a lot of money. I’d never really played for money. I did a little bit on the beach but not like that. I was thinking that will go a long way toward a house down payment. It’s pretty interesting when money becomes a factor.
After winning World League, how did you feel the team’s chances were going into Beijing?
Now I’m feeling pretty good.
I’m talking to Eric Sullivan on the phone because he wants the scoop and Eric and I are really good friends from college. He is now the assistant at Nebraska. He made a comment that I thought was really good. He thought it was imperative to get on the medal stand at some point during the quad in a major international tournament. You had to do that because you had to know that you could do it before going into the Olympics. It is a pretty good point. For us to get on the medal stand at the last opportunity just before the Olympics gave our team a ton of confidence about what it could accomplish at the Olympics.
Were you confident going into the Gold Medal Match?
We were pretty confident. Brazil is a great team and we absolutely didn’t think it was going to be easy. I started feeling really good when they started messing around with the line up over on the other side. Then in game four, they put Andre at opposite and they put Murilo outside with Giba and I remember thinking they’ve never done that in four years. Maybe they had, I hadn’t seen it. I thought to myself, if they’re doing that right now, things are desperate on the other side of the net. And if things are that desperate on the other side of the net then we are in really good shape.
Sure enough we came back and we won it. It is a pretty unique moment when that last ball drops. I’ve never had a moment like that. That’s a moment.
I think some people in America are pretty spoiled with our success in the Olympics. They see a lot of gold medals and the US wins a lot of them. And obviously American television only shows you the ones you win. In particular in relation to volleyball it is such an international game where so many teams overseas are right there with us, have been better than us for a couple quads.
People make comments to me like ‘gosh it has been 20 years since you won a gold medal, how did it feel after that?’ My response is you’re lucky it’s been 20 years. I think 20 years is short myself. Obviously I’m a competitor. I think we can continue to do well here in the United States but you have to understand how competitive it is and how difficult the tournament is to win. If we win another one within the next 20 years, that’s wonderful. Maybe if I'm fortunate enough I'll be able to witness that again but that’s not something you can expect. When I watched that flag go up it was hard for me to keep it together because I really knew what that was going to be, that that was a one time shot.
What is the outlook for 2012? Are the veterans from Beijing coming back?
I think that there is a group of guys that can come back. I think Clay Stanley is a lifer. When he is 50, he is going to retire. I think I read that Gabe Gardner retired so we’ll have to find somebody else to play that opposite spot and back (Stanley) up. I think Scott Touzinsky will come back. Sean Rooney will come back. Riley Salmon, I think he’ll want to come back. He’s going to have to maintain his edge because he is a smaller player so he’s going to have to stay healthy and maintain his edge at a pretty high level to be out there on the court but I think he’s in for another four if he can stay healthy.
I think Reid Priddy will be back. Both middles Dave Lee and Ryan Millar will be back. I think you’re going to have to find another middle because I’m not sure Tom Hoff will be back. Rich Lambourne at libero probably is back.
Lloy is not coming back. But I think there are some good young setters. I’ve actually felt like setting in the US has been at a pretty good point now collegiately. I think John Winder is a special talent. I think Kevin Hansen did a great job. Tyler Hildebrand is very good. Matt Anderson from Penn State could be another great outside hitter. So I think if we can keep our guys healthy and get another four years out of them we could be pretty good for the next quad. But we’re going to have to watch out for Russia and Serbia.