VNL Men's Final Round Rosters Released

The men’s VNL Final Round begins Wednesday, with the six remaining teams battling it out for three nights of pool play before Saturday’s semifinals and Sunday’s medal rounds. 

The rosters for all six teams have been released. Check who will be in action this week in Chicago. 

Watch the VNL Final Round live right here on FloVolleyball, July 10-14, 2019.

USA

1 Matt Anderson (OPP)

2 Aaron Russell (OH)

3C Taylor Sander (OH)

4 Jeff Jendryk (MB)

7 Kawika Shoji (S)

11 Micah Christenson (S)

12 Max Holt (MB)

13 Ben Patch (OPP)

14 Micah Ma’a (S/OH)

17 Thomas Jaeschke (OH)

18 Garrett Muagututia (OH)

20 David Smith (MB)

22 Erik Shoji (L)

30 George Huhmann (MB)

In my opinion, there are two major surprises in the lineup selected by John Speraw for the VNL Final Round. George Huhmann, a 21-year-old with a season of collegiate eligibility remaining at Princeton, earned the fourth middle blocker spot after being added to the VNL roster for the final week of preliminary play. He started all three matches of Week 5, finishing the week with 18 kills, three blocks, and two aces, exactly matching the statistics of Taylor Averill, the player he beat out for the Final Six roster spot. (The other two middles on the original 25-player VNL roster, Mitch Stahl and Dan McDonnell, are injured.) 

Speraw also chose to travel to Chicago with just one libero—Olympian Erik Shoji, of course—which made space for versatile setter/outside hitter rookie Micah Ma’a on the roster. Ma’a started in seven preliminary round matches, including the last three. Five of those starts were in the setter position, while in the other two, he played outside. Ma’a also came off the bench in six matches and traveled with the team for all five weeks of preliminary play. 

Brazil 

1C Bruno Mossa Rezende (S)

2 Isac Santos (MB)

3 Eder Carbonera (MB)

4 Thales Hoss (L)

6 Fernando Kreling (S)

8 Wallace De Souza (OPP)

9 Yoandy Leal Hidalgo (OH)

14 Douglas Souza (OH)

16 Lucas Saatkamp (MB)

18 Ricardo Lucarelli Souza (OH)

19 Mauricio Borges Almeida Silva (OH)

21 Alan Souza (OPP) 

22 Maique Reis Nascimento (L)

23 Flavio Gualberto (MB)

Brazil’s head coach Renan Dal Zotto has brought a star-studded roster with him to Chicago, including his three top scorers from the preliminary rounds: Yoandy Leal Hidalgo, Ricardo Lucarelli Souza, and Wallace De Souza. Brazil also boasts a dynamic pair of liberos. Passing specialist Thales Hoss boasts the best serve reception efficiency in the entire men’s VNL, while defense-minded Maique Reis Nascimento ranks 10th among all players with 1.34 digs per set. Of course, setter and captain Bruno Mossa Rezende brings leadership and gamesmanship to the Brazilian side.

France

1 Jonas Aguenier (MB)

4 Jean Patry (OPP)

6C Benjamin Toniutti (S)

7 Kevin Tillie (OH)

8 Julien Lyneel (OH)

10 Kevin Le Roux (MB)

11 Antoine Brizard (S)

16 Daryl Bultor (MB)

17 Trevor Clevenot (OH)

18 Thibault Rossard (OH)

19 Yacine Louati (OH)

20 Nicolas Rossard (L)

21 Barthelemy Chinenyeze (MB) 

More than who has been included, I’m struck by who is missing from France’s Final Six roster. There’s no Steven Boyer, France’s No. 2 scorer from the preliminary rounds with 115 points, and no Earvin Ngapeth, who played only sparingly in the prelims but is without a doubt one of the most deadly players in the French national team gym. 

Without those two offensive weapons, France will rely heavily on Jean Patry, the 22-year-old opposite who led the team in points during the preliminary rounds; veteran middle Kevin Le Roux, who plays professionally for top Brazilian club Sada Cruzeiro; and former UC Irvine Anteater outside Kevin Tillie.

France’s star libero Jenia Grebennikov, who ranked third among all players with 2.09 digs per set in the preliminary rounds, has also been left off of the travel roster, leaving Nicolas Rossard to fill in. (Like the USA, France chose to bring only one designated libero to Chicago.)

Iran

2 Milad Ebadipour Ghara H. (OH)

4C Mir Saeid Marouflakrani (S)

5 Farhad Ghaemi (OH)

6 Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi (MB)

7 Purya Fayazi D. (OH)

8 Mohammadreza Hazratpourtalatappeh (L)

9 Masoud Gholami (MB)

10 Amir Ghafour (OPP)

14 Mohammadjavad Manavinezhad (OPP)

15 Aliasghar Mojarad (MB)

16 Ali Shafiei (MB)

19 Mohammadreza Moazzen (L)

20 Porya Yali (OPP)

24 Javad Karimisouchelmaei (S)

Iran made a clear statement with this roster: this team is serious about winning a medal at VNL. The Iranians are bringing top offensive contributors Amir Ghafour, Milad Ebadipour, and Purya Fayazi; big blockers Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi and Ali Shafiei; magical setter captain Saeid Marouf; and 20-year-old libero with the longest name imaginable Mohammadreza Hazratpourtalatappeh, aka Mohammad Reza Hazratpour.

Iran has never finished higher than fourth at a major international tournament, but this group could be the one that breaks through and earns a spot on the podium.

Poland

2 Maciej Muzaj (OPP)

4 Marcin Komenda (S)

5 Lukasz Kaczmarek (OPP)

8 Jedrzej Gruszczynski (L)

16 Bartlomiej Boladz (OPP)

18 Bartosz Kwolek (OH)

19 Marcin Janusz (S)

21 Tomasz Fornal (OH)

22 Bartosz Bednorz (OH)

23 Jakub Popiwczak (L)
27 Piotr Lukasik (OH)

77C Karol Klos (MB)

88 Andrzej Wrona (MB)

99 Norbert Huber (MB) 

The reigning World Champion Poland will compete for a VNL medal without its top scorer from the preliminary rounds, Aleksander Sliwka, and without its star from the 2018 Worlds tournament, Bartosz Kurek, who has sat out this entire tournament recovering from back surgery.

The Poles will also be missing middle Jakub Kochanowski, the Poles top blocker from the prelims, and World Championship-winning setter Fabian Drzyzga.

Head coach Vital Heynen elected to bring three opposites with him to Chicago—Maciej Muzaj, Lukasz Kaczmarek, and Bartlomiej Boladz—all three of whom saw playing time in the preliminary rounds.

Russia

3 Dmitry Kovalev (S)

4 Denis Zemchenok (OPP)

7 Dmitry Volkov (OH)

8 Anton Semyshev (OH) 

9 Ivan Iakovlev (MB)

10 Fedor Voronkov (OH)

11 Igor Philippov (MB)

14 Yaroslav Podlesnykh (OH)

15 Victor Poletaev (OPP)
18 Egor Kliuka (OH)

20 Ilyas Kurkaev (MB)

22 Roman Martynyuk (L)

24C Igor Kobzar (S)

27 Valentin Golubev (L) 

I thought, or perhaps hoped, that Russia would bring in more of its star players for the Final Six, specifically opposite Maxim Mikhaylov, but it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, first-year head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo is sticking with the core guys who led the way throughout the preliminary rounds. 

Top scorers Victor Poletaev, Illyas Kurkaev, and Egor Kliuka highlight that group, along with setter and captain Igor Kobzar, and libero Valentin Golubev, the sixth-best digger of the preliminary rounds.

With this group, Russia went 12-3, losing to France, Iran, and Brazil. France and the USA, along with Russia, make up Pool A in the Final Round, so the question will be: can this team get by a somewhat depleted France this time around and will they be able to win again over the USA, this time fortified with a much more veteran roster? 

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