Wheaton native Rooney named to Olympic volleyball team
USA outside hitter Sean Rooney of Wheaton, here smashing a shot in an international match, has been named to his second Olympic team.
Associated Press/2009 file
Olympic gold medalists Clay Stanley and Reid Priddy were among the players chosen for the U.S. men's volleyball roster for the London Games, along with three other teammates from the 2008 Olympic team: outside hitter Sean Rooney of Wheaton, libero Rich Lambourne, and middle blocker David Lee.
The roster announced Thursday by coach Alan Knipe was submitted to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Stanley and Priddy will be playing in their third Olympics, and it will be the second Olympics for Rooney, Lambourne and Lee. Both Stanley and Priddy were starters on the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the Beijing Games.
A 6-foot-9 outside hitter for Team USA since 2007, Rooney graduated from Wheaton-Warrenville South High School, where he was named Illinois State Player of the Year in 2001 and led the Tigers to a state championship. He played college volleyball at Pepperdine before joining the U.S. national team.
Newcomers headed to London on Team USA include outside hitters Matt Anderson and Paul Lotman, middle blockers Russell Holmes and David Smith, setter Brian Thornton and opposite David McKienzie. Setter Donald Suxho, who played in the 2004 Athens Games but did not play in Beijing, was also named to the squad.
The U.S. men were in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Thursday to play in the final round of the FIVB World League tournament, the last international competition before the London Games. The Americans were scheduled to play Germany on Thursday night.
Knipe told The Associated Press earlier this year that roster decisions often ultimately come down to the best combinations for the team, especially at the Olympic level.
"You're talking about a very small margin of difference between these players," he said. "It is incredibly difficult. It is by far the hardest part of the job."
The United States, currently ranked sixth in the world, won the World League in 2008 before the gold medal victory in Beijing.
The team went undefeated in the 2008 Olympics, upsetting top-ranked Brazil in the final match under coach Hugh McCutcheon. Stanley was chosen most valuable player with 146 total points on 116 kills, 15 blocks and 15 aces. He led the U.S. team's scoring in seven of eight matches during the competition.
Following Beijing, McCutcheon shifted over to the U.S. women's national team, which won the Olympic silver medal. The women are currently ranked No. 1 in the world.
Knipe took leave from his job as the head coach at Long Beach State to take over the national team for the 2009-12 Olympic quadrennial.
The men will open the London Games against Serbia on July 29.
Since volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1964, the U.S. team has won three Olympic gold medals, at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, the Seoul Games in 1988 and in Beijing. The men won the bronze in 1992.
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