By Mandy Day
AsAmNews Staff Writer
After a disastrous start to the Olympic Games for the U.S. Men’s Volleyball team, the men rallied in their final three matches of pool play to advance to the tournament’s quarterfinals. Among the team’s most valuable assets are starters Erik Shoji and Micah Christenson and reserve player Kawika Shoji. All natives of Hawaii, the three men are first time Olympians.
The Shoji brothers are the sons of famed collegiate volleyball coach, Dave Shoji who has spent more than four decades at the University of Hawaii Manoa coaching the Rainbow Wahines women’s volleyball team. A graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara, Dave Shoji played college volleyball for the Gauchos. The winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 women’s volleyball, Shoji is in Rio de Janeiro with his wife, Mary, a former basketball player at UH Manoa, along with Erik and Kawika’s sister, Cobey. Both men played at Stanford University and currently play professionally in Europe. In Rio, Erik has started every match as the team’s libero, the team’s roaming defenseman. One can easily notice him as the libero wears a different colored jersey.
Micah Christenson’s mother was also a college volleyball player at the University of Hawaii Hilo. After attending the University of Southern California, Christenson has played professionally in Italy. One of the team’s two starting setters, Christenson has proved himself an integral part of the national team’s success. At the FIVB World Cup in 2015, Christenson was named best setter in the same tournament where Team USA qualified for the Olympics when the team won the gold medal.
Losing to both Canada and Italy in the first two matches of the Olympics, the U.S. men’s team had an uphill battle to come back and qualify for the tournament’s next round. With stellar contributions by Christenson and Erik Shoji, the team rallied to beat powerhouse opponents, Brazil and France. Playing part of the third set against Mexico, Kawika saw playing time in the preliminary round, and Team USA advance with an easy win over a decidedly outmatched team.
The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team next plays Poland in the quarterfinals tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. PST. The winner will move on to play either Iran or Italy in the semi-final.
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