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Indoor Volleyball

After Having Their Medal Hopes Spiked in Atlanta, U.S. Men, Women Will Try to Right the Ship Down Under

September 10, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN and FO(2 photos) Youth will be served for the U.S., as 24-year-old George Roumain, left, and Ryan Millar, 22, will try to rise tooccasion.


* OVERVIEW--The skid marks might still be seen on the floor of the Omni in Atlanta, evidence of an embarrassing and abrupt end to an unprecedented Olympic run by U.S. men's volleyball teams.

Four years ago, the U.S. men went without a medal for the first time since the 1980 boycott, finishing ninth in the 12-team format.

Not even home-court advantage could stop the fall of the U.S. team, which had won gold medals in 1984 and 1988 and grabbed a bronze in 1992.

Drastic measures were taken after the meltdown. They had to be.

Doug Beal, who coached the U.S. in 1984, returned for his second tour of duty, replacing Fred Sturm, now a women's volleyball coach at Boise State.

Beal revamped the roster, bringing in an infusion of youth.

George Roumain, 24, represents the power and pop of the U.S. attack. Built more like a linebacker than a volleyball player, the 6-foot-7, 265-pound opposite hitter was a two-time NCAA player of the year at Pepperdine.

Ryan Millar, a 22-year-old middle blocker who attended Brigham Young and Highland High in Palmdale, brings quickness and explosiveness.

The duo came aboard in May 1999 and helped the U.S. work its way up from No. 9 to No. 5 in the world as it enters Sydney, where a tough six-team pool awaits. Included in the group is Italy and Russia, the top two teams in the world.

If the U.S. advances out of its pool, it might be ready to make Sydney a memorable experience.

At least more memorable than Atlanta.

* OTHERS TO WATCH--Italy. Failed to win despite being the favorite in 1992 and 1996. Is again the deepest and most skilled team in the world.

Russia. Has size with 7-foot-3 Alexei Kazakov and 6-9 Roman Olikhuer in the middle. Traditionally strong program failed to win a medal in 1996.

* BEST STORY--Setter Lloy Ball played for his father at tiny Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne University. Ball struggled as a starter at the 1996 Olympics, but his skills have improved. Will he make Pop proud?

* SOUTHLAND ATHLETES ON U.S. TEAM--Ryan Millar, 22, Palmdale Highland High; Dan Landry, 30, UCLA; Jeff Nygaard, 28, UCLA; Erik Sullivan, 28, UCLA; Tom Sorensen, 29, Pepperdine; Chip McCaw, 27, Pepperdine; Tom Hoff, 27, Long Beach State; Kevin Barnett, 26, Pepperdine; George Roumain, 24, Pepperdine; Reid Priedy, Loyola Marymount.

* KEY DATES--Sept. 19, U.S. vs. Russia. A chance for the U.S. to make noise early against longtime nemesis. Sept. 25, U.S. vs. Italy. The last pool-play match for the U.S. comes against the top-ranked team. Sept. 27 and 29, quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. Oct. 1, bronze- and gold-medal matches.


Fast Fact

George Roumain (Pepperdine, 1997 and 1998) and Jeff Nygaard (UCLA, 1994 and 1995) are the only players to win the NCAA coaches' player of the year award twice.

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