Some of the EIVA’s best, both past and present, had a chance to play with and against some of the world’s best volleyball players this summer.
The biggest highlight may have been for Princeton’s George Huhmann, who hit the court with the U.S. National Team for Volleyball Nation’s League matches last weekend. The rising senior was the only current collegiate player on Team USA for the VNL Finals, joining a roster that was filled with pros and Olympic veterans.
“Playing with the national team this summer has introduced me to a very different game of volleyball,” Huhmann told eivavolleyball.com this week. “It’s much faster and guys are more physical. I’ve been learning so much from the other guys and I feel that I’ve been able to adapt my game to theirs which I think will give me an advantage coming back to play in college.”
Huhmann joined three Penn State alumni at the finals in Chicago – Matt Anderson, Max Holt and Aaron Russell. All three won bronze medals at the 2016 Olympics.
Also busy earlier this month were Parker Dixon, Huhmann’s Princeton teammate, and Penn State’s Brett Wildman. They were part of the U.S. team at the World University Games in Naples, Italy. Wildman and fellow Nittany Lion rising sophomore Canyon Tuman also were on the court in May at the Pan Am Cup in Mexico, where the U.S. finished fifth.
NJIT also had a pair of athletes competing this summer, with rising junior Alvaro Gimeno and incoming freshman Martin de Chavarria on the Spanish national team roster for the CEV European Golden League, for teams not part of the VNL.
On July 14 in Chicago, the U.S. lost 3-1 to Russia in the final match to take home silver medals, improving on last year’s bronze result.
Team USA returns to the court Aug. 9-11 in the Netherlands in the qualifying tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Anderson had 18 kills and an ace against Russia, 20 kills and two blocks against Brazil in the semifinals, and finished as the VNL Finals Most Valuable Player and also was named the tournament’s Best Opposite. In the weekend’s four matches, he had 52 kills, three blocks and three aces.
“It’s tough to be happy with losing a gold medal match,” Anderson said after the match on USA Volleyball’s web site. “I am happy with the way that I played. But I can play a lot better. I’m going to work really hard these next two weeks before we take off for the qualification as I’m sure all of us are.”
Holt’s highlight match came in the Finals opener against France, against which he had eight solo blocks, plus seven kills and two aces. He had five kills and three blocks in the final. His personal total had 15 kills, 17 blocks and two aces, and he was named the VNL’s Best Middle Blocker.
Russell and 13 kills, two blocks and an ace against France, and tallied 17 kills, three blocks and two aces on the weekend.
Huhmann, a St. Louis, Mo., native, was thrilled to be at the matches in Chicago, finding out he would be there just days before first serve. He was a late addition to the roster after his performance two weeks earlier in the Americans’ final weekend of action before the VNL Finals. Huhmann started all three matches in Bulgaria at middle blocker. He had three kills in a loss to the host nation in the first match, then followed with nine kills and two blocks in a 3-1 win against Serbia, and six kills and two aces to go with a block in a 3-0 sweep of Iran.
Though he played at middle, he also was the backup libero to Erik Shoji for the VNL Finals. Huhmann has played a variety of positions with the Tigers and is a reliable passer.
“I was ready to come in if the team needed me, but I think they would’ve figured something else out if it came down to it,” the 2019 Uvaldo Acosta EIVA Player of the Year said. “But I’ve been working on my passing, so look out for me at outside next year.”
The U.S. did not perform as well at the World University Games, placing 16th in the 20-team field. The U.S. won its first two contests against South Korea and China, then dropped its final five contests. Wildman tied for the team lead with 12 kills against China, and later had nine kills, two blocks and an ace in a loss to Chile. He finished with 38 kills, four aces and three blocks.
“Tough loss, but all the guys tried to give their best energy, everything we had left in our tank,” Wildman said on USA Volleyball’s site after the team’s final match, a 3-0 loss to Argentina. “It wasn’t enough, but it was a great group of guys to play with. I’m sad to see our run end here, but I look forward to playing against these guys in the future and hopefully with them in the future.”
Dixon’s best match came in a loss to Switzerland, when he tied for the team lead with eight kills and added an ace. His tournament total saw 21 kills and two blocks to go with the ace.
“Playing at the World University Games was an awesome experience,” Dixon said. “The level of play was higher than the typical NCAA team, which will help prepare me for next season. Our coach even said the Russian squad we played had 3 players on the Olympic roster.”