USA men’s national team head coach John Speraw made changes to his squad during the first week of the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Rimini, and just three players started all three matches including Micah Christenson and Erik Shoji. Those two established members of the team were joined by outside hitter Torey 'TJ' Defalco.
Defalco makes strong impression with the USA
One of the youngest players in the team, the outside hitter stands out in Week 1
Published 12:35, 02 Jun 2021
Top Scorer: Torey Defalco
A two-time collegiate champion, the 24-year-old Defalco was first called up to his country’s national team in 2017 and won medals at both the 2018 and 2019 editions of the VNL. But it is the first time he is enjoying such a sequence of starts with the team.
“It’s been great to be back with the national team and to get to compete with my teammates after such a long time,” Defalco said after the 3-1 win against Argentina. “I love the energy level we’re putting out on the court every match. And I’m sure we can improve in every single area of our game. Everything we’re doing right now we can do better and that’s what we’ll work on for next week.”
Top Scorer: Torey DeFalco
Defalco, who spent the last two club seasons in Italy with Vibo Valentia, is without question taking advantage of his extended playing time as the outside hitter tallied 15, ten and 20 points respectively against Canada, Brazil and Argentina, and was the team’s top scorer in their victories in their first and third matches in Italy.
He ranks fifth among the tournament's top scorers at the conclusion of the first week and is the highest-ranked outside hitter in the list with 45 points.
“All the credits go to my teammates because they’ve been able to help me,” the outside hitter said. “They’ve been doing a great job in helping me in the places where I’m struggling. My passers, Erik (Shoji, libero), Thomas (Jaeschke, outside hitter) and Garrett (Muagututia, outside hitter), they help a lot with alleviating some of that pressure for me to able to continue to flow and play my own game.”
Defalco’s strong play might help him secure a spot in the American roster for the Tokyo Olympics. With Aaron Russell sidelined and captain Taylor Sander currently recovering from an injury, there’s an open battle in the team for spots in the position and Defalco is making a strong case for himself.
“I’ll continue playing as hard as I can every single day in matches and training,” he guaranteed. “That’s all I can do.”