Sunday, July 12, 2009

USA vs. Italy: Lot’s of New!


The Italian Men’s Volleyball National team will be returning to the Chicago area to play the USA Men’s National Volleyball team in the sixth round of the 2009 World League. The first match of this 2 match home series will be held tonight at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, IL. Team USA defeated Italy in both second round matches (3-1, 3-1) held in Italy in June. The last time Italy played in the Chicago area was during the 2007 World League competition where both matches were held at the brand new Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center at Chicago State University. There have been lots of changes in those two past years.

Team USA was coached by Hugh McCutcheon in 2007 and is now coached by Alan Knipe. Coach Knipe is on a leave of absence from a 9 year head coaching stint at Long Beach State University including a 2004 national championship appearance. Team Italy was coached by Gianpaolo Montali in 2007 and is now coached by Andrea Anastassi. Coach Anastassi returned to the Italian national team head coaching position in late 2007. While Coach Montali wore very sharp looking Italian suits while coaching during competition, Coach Anastassi looks comfortable wearing national team athletic coaching wear.

Team USA is returning 9 team members of the 2007 World League preliminary 19 man roster to the 2009 roster. The 2007 USA starting lineups versus Italy included Reid Priddy, Ryan Millar, Riley Salmon, Gabe Gardner and Brandon Taliaferro who are not listed in the 2009 preliminary 19 man roster. Team USA has been starting a younger lineup in the 2009 competition so far with Tom Hoff and Clay Stanley seeing little or no playing time. Off the 2007 World League starting roster, only David Lee has been a regular starter in 2009. Kevin Hansen has been splitting some time with Donald Suxho in the setter position.

Team Italy only has 7 returning players from their 2007 World League preliminary 19 man roster. Missing are names such as Mastrangelo, Cisolla, Fei and Paparoni. Mauro Gavotto, Cristian Savani and Andrea Sala are returning starters from the 2007 competition that are expected to be starting tonight.

Team USA won their first ever World League Gold medal in 2008 competition. They then went on to win their first Olympic Gold medal since 1988 in a highly dramatic run in Beijing. Team Italy, who has won 13 World League medals including 8 gold medals, has not placed in the top four since their third place finish in 2004. Italy did finish fourth in the 2008 Olympics. The US leads Pool A in the 2009 World League competition with 18 points and a 6-2 record. Italy is second with 14 points and a 5-3 record.

If you attended the 2007 World League matches, make sure you attend again this year as you will see lots of new faces. You should also see two Chicago area players, Sean Rooney (Wheaton, IL) and Andy Hein (Carol Stream, IL) in the starting line-ups. Tonight's match begins at 7 PM Central time.

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