Halfway to Brazil.

That may be hard to fathom, but this summer marks the midpoint of the quadrennial and the U.S. Men’s National Team—in many ways as young as you could imagine—seems to be in pretty good shape after getting off to a 7-1 start in World League play.

For example, Taylor Sander, the young former NCAA star who just finished at BYU, has led the team on occasion in hitting. Setter Micah Christenson still has a year to go at USC.

“The team’s young,” veteran David Lee said. “Really young.”

“It’s cool. It’s exciting to see the new talent coming in and the depth that’s being produced in the college ranks,” said David Smith, 29, a 2012 Olympian and former UC Irvine middle. “It’s good to see.”

Lee, the 2008 and 2012 Olympian is 32 but not fazed. And he couldn’t imagine being that young in this situation.

“I wouldn’t have even been given a chance at that age,” the 6-foot-8 middle blocker said with a laugh. “But we have a different system now. Before it was somewhat seniority-based, where they took experience over youth.

“Now if you’re playing well you have a chance to start on the national team. It’s a good thing, but we go through a lot of changes.”

That’s OK with John Speraw, the former UCLA player who had such success at UC Irvine before taking over at his alma mater in 2013.

“I feel good about where we are relative to where we were last year,” says Speraw, 42. “I see that we’re better and much more integrated as a team. We understand how we want to play the game, and I actually think we’re a little further ahead at that than I thought [before the start of World League].”


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Photo cred: Ed Chan