Anderson and Russell share award as USA Male Player of the Year

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, January 25, 2020 – Matt Anderson and Aaron Russell were given recognition by USA Volleyball as the 2019 Male Indoor Volleyball Co-Players of the Year. Anderson and Russell were both important parts of the veteran group of players that led the USA men’s team to a silver medal at the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League and a bronze at the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Cup.

They both also helped the USA team qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by winning the three-match qualifier in August 2019 in the Netherlands.

In 2019, Anderson led the USA squad in scoring with 268 points, while Russell was right behind him in second with 223.

Anderson earned the title for the sixth time (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018), while it was a new honour for outside spiker Russell.

“Matt has always played a big role for us as a go-to guy in important situations and this summer was no different,” Russell said. “I admire the way he’s adapted to what the team needs most as the squad has changed so much during his career.”

“Aaron stepped up big time in the Olympic Qualification tournament in the Netherlands,” Anderson said. “He also played solidly for another entire grueling and long World Cup.”

Both players cited player injuries as the biggest challenge of the 2020 season. Russell missed most of the VNL preliminary round with a knee injury, while his teammates Taylor Sander and Thomas Jaeschke also suffered shoulder injuries last year.

“I think the players who stepped into bigger roles did a great job,” Russell said. “In a way, this was really good for our programme in growing our depth as a squad.”

“That’s why we train the way we do,” Anderson said. “So we can try to acclimate to line-up changes as soon as possible.”

Both are also looking forward to carrying their Olympic experience into Tokyo in 2020.

“Every Olympic experience is different in some ways and the same in others,” said Anderson, a two-time Olympian. “Being able to turn it off to start recovery and to free yourself of what has happened just hours before will allow me to move on to the next opponent and match. Dealing with the grand scale of everything that comes with an Olympic Games is another thing that comes with it not being my first rodeo.”

“I remember being nervous before the first games in Rio,” said Russell, who is also happy to have an Olympics under his belt. “I was worried that I wouldn’t play well on such a big important stage. But after starting 0-2 in the preliminary round, my mentality had to change. I told myself that the only difference between these Olympic matches vs any other match is the amount of exposure and hype.”