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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Wearing the red, white and blue of Team USA is a dream for any athlete and three Penn State men’s volleyball alums will have the opportunity to don the colors of the United States at the 2018 Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) Volleyball Nations League.
The Penn State trio of Matt Anderson, Max Holt and Aaron Russell will all compete for a spot on the USA roster along with 23 other of the top volleyball players in the country. The roster will be cut to 21 by May 15 and the 14-man travel roster will be determined each weekend from that pool.
“Watching our alumni succeed on or off the court in a professional setting is always exciting,” said head coach Mark Pavlik. “To see three young men that did so much for our program living out their dreams by playing for Team USA is absolutely incredible. The competitiveness they will bring to the gym and the team-first attitude are two reasons they are seeing success on the professional and international levels.”
This is the first year of the Volleyball Nations League, which will include 12 core teams and four challenger teams battling for five weekends in a round robin format. The top five teams and the host country of France will compete in the Final Round on July 4-8 in Lille, France.
The U.S. Men are ranked No. 2 in the world and will host the VNL on June 15-17 at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The U.S. Men will play Serbia on June 15, Poland on June 16 and Iran on June 17. The complete preliminary roster and more information from USA Volleyball can be found by clicking here.
Anderson is a two-time Olympian, helping Team USA to a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and was the 2015 FIVB World Cup MVP helping the U.S. Men win the tournament and secure a spot at the 2016 Olympic Games. A four-time USAV Male Indoor Player of the Year (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015), Anderson was the 2008 AVCA Co-Player of the Year after leading the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Men’s Division I Championship, earning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honor.
The 6-foot-9 outside hitter/opposite has been the leading scorer for the U.S. Men’s team every season since 2011, including finishing No. 2 among all players in points (128) at the 2016 Olympic Games. Anderson ranks No. 15 all-time at Penn State with 1,212 kills, including a Penn State single-match rally scoring record 35 kills at UC Santa Barbara in 2007.
A bronze medalist at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Holt was also an alternate for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Volleyball team. At the Rio Games, the middle blocker finished No. 2 in blocks (20; .65 bps) and service aces (12; .39 aps). Named USAV's 2013 Male Indoor Most Improved Player after ranking No. 2 in the organization with 177 points (3.05 pps) and leading the men’s team with 54 blocks (.93 bps).
Helping Penn State to the 2008 NCAA national title, Holt still owns the Penn State record for service aces in a single season (79; 2009) and a career (207; 2006-09). His 2009 single season total ranks second among NCAA student-athletes from 2001-10 (30-point scoring era). His .562 attacking percentage is still the single-season NCAA record during the 30-point scoring era.
The Penn Stater on the 2016 bronze medal winning squad at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Russell started 27 sets at the games and finished No. 3 among all players in kills (96 kills) on a .335 hitting efficiency. The No. 5 scorers at the 2016 Olympic Games, he compiled 107 points adding seven blocks and four aces to his 96 kills.
During his time on the University Park campus, Russell totaled 1,534 kills to rank No. 4 all-time at Penn State. His kill total is the highest for a Nittany Lion during the rally scoring era and his 198 career service aces are No. 2 all-time in the blue and white, behind Holt’s 207. In 2015, he won the inaugural Karch Kiraly Award as the best outside attacker in NCAA DI-II men's volleyball.