Over the weekend in Tokyo, the U.S. men’s volleyball national team qualified for the 2024 Olympics, where they’ll be one of 12 squads competing for gold in Paris next summer.
Four players with Hawaii ties were on the U.S. roster that helped the U.S. qualify in libero Erik Shoji (Punahou), setters Micah Ma’a (Punahou) and Micah Christenson (Kamehameha), and middle blocker Taylor Averill (University of Hawaii).
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For Shoji, the 2024 Games will be his third overall, another step in his journey with the national team, which has spanned over a decade.
“It means a lot. You know, we have a lot of pride in Hawaii volleyball,” Shoji told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “I think all of us that are from Hawaii, have ties here, played for Hawaii, we want to represent the state as best we can. So, we’re playing for the USA. But I think specifically for us, we’re also playing for our state. And there’s a bunch of us out there. It feels awesome to play with guys that grew up competing with and against. I think we’re showing that we’re a volleyball state out there and we’re doing some great things, so it feels really awesome.
“This is, I believe, my 11th or 12th year on the team, so I am sort of a veteran. Micah Christianson and I have been on the team basically since 2013 together, so we’re kind of the vets out there and it’s crazy to think that I looked up to Robyn Ah Mow, Lindsey Berg, Clay Stanley, players like that who were my idols growing up, and now I’m kind of the older one. So we’re just trying to play as best as we can, set a great example. Hopefully we can kind of be those role models for the younger kids out there like we had when we were growing up.”
The 2024 Summer Olympics runs from July 26 to Aug. 11.