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Updated on Friday, September 8, 2023 at 9:00 a.m.
The U.S. Men’s National Team held off a tough challenge from Cuba to win their match and their pool 3-2 (25-22, 25-17, 24-26, 22-25, 15-12) on Thursday at the NORCECA Senior Men’s Continental Championship in Charleston. The U.S. Men advance straight to Saturday’s semifinal while Cuba (2-1) will play Mexico (0-2) in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. on Friday. The Dominican Republic (1-1) will play Puerto Rico (1-2) in the other quarterfinal.
Original story posted September 7, 2023
The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team opened its campaign at the 2023 NORCECA Men’s Senior Continental Championship with a 3-0 (25-14, 25-9, 25-10) pool play victory over Suriname at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center this week.
Nine Olympians make up the 14-player roster for the team competing in the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation Continental Championship (NORCECA).
Each team will receive points toward their world rankings. That helps determine who qualifies for the 2024 Olympic Games.
The U.S. Men, ranked No. 1 in the region and No. 2 in the world, are hosting teams from Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Suriname.
Micah Ma’a is a setter who plays offense for the U.S. team who is going up against Cuba on Thursday night. He said both teams are considered along with Canada to be top contenders for the Olympics.
“Cuba’s one of the most physical teams in the world and we can be just as physical at times,” Ma’a said. “For whatever reason that is what will be really exciting for people to see – the physicality, the speed and how strong the athletes are.”
The team will use the tournament to prepare for the Road to Paris Olympic qualifying tournament on Sept. 30 to Oct. 8 in Tokyo, Japan.
Ma’a, who developed his love for the sport from his family, says each game plays an important role when it comes to the team’s chances to reach the Olympics.
“They’ve changed the Olympic qualification to a system where every match matters that the national team plays,” he said. “So whatever competition you are in, whether you win or lose, will have an effect and points will be added or taken away from your total point count.”
The U.S. Men have won the regional title nine times, most recently in 2017. In 2021, the U.S. Men finished fifth.
The sport draws enthusiasts from around the world.
“It’s definitely a growing sport. I think we’re really proud of the growth it’s had – both on the men’s and the women’s side,” Ma’a said. “So I think the future’s looking really promising and hopefully we get some people in the crowd to follow along and hopefully inspire them to join the sport if they’re already in it and if they’re not hopefully they could be motivated to join.”
President and CEO of USA Volleyball Jamie Davis said while the team is ranked No. 2 many teams show great promise.
“There are several strong teams that are here but certainly Cuba is very good,” Davis said. “We’re ranked number two in the world right now but there’s a lot of teams from all over the world that are going to be big contenders for the Olympics. The Italians are very good, the Japanese, believe it or not, are good, the Brazilians are very good, the French are very good, the Russians – whether they get to compete or not, are very good. So there’s a lot of teams out there, but certainly the Cubans are a very formidable team.”
Davis says while they don’t want to see young athletes specializing in one sport at a very young age to avoid burnout, he attributes the strength of the U.S. Men’s volleyball team to early recruitment efforts and training opportunities.
The U.S. Men’s National Team opened its campaign at the 2023 NORCECA Men’s Senior Continental Championship in Charleston on Monday.
Credit/Scott Abbott for USA Volleyball
“I think that part of the recipe to success of what we do is a couple of things,” Davis said. “One is we have our national team development program so at a young age, eleven, twelve, thirteen, we have our scouts who start identifying them through the junior clubs and tournaments we throw. Potential athletes, if you will, and we invite them to training camps to be able to help them develop their skills with the hope that they’ll be able to put the USA on their back and represent our country.”
The U.S. Men’s team will go head-to-head with Cuba Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.
For more info on the NORCECA schedule visit https://usavolleyball.org/events/