2017 FIVB WORLD LEAGUE
In spite of an 0-2 start to their 2017 World League run, Team USA is learning a lot about the young talent in their roster and what they have to work with into the future.
With Matt Anderson taking the summer off and Murphy Troy retiring after last summer’s Olympics, the Americans, who weren’t that deep at opposite to start with, have had to start digging for their next star at the crucial offensive position.
In the team’s opener on Friday, 28-year old veteran Carson Clark got the start. scoring 11 points in a 4-set loss with 11 kills and 5 errors on 24 attempts (45% success rate, .250 hitting efficiency). Ben Patch only got limited court time in the 3rd set against Serbia, where he had 2 kills on 2 swings.
In the team’s 2nd game against Canada, however, Clark didn’t see even a single rotation, spending the entire game on the bench. Thus the opposite role was turned over to one of the USA’s biggest and most athletic prospects – high-flying 6’8″ Ben Patch, who just finished his collegiate career at BYU by turning pro with one remaining season of eligibility.
Patch didn’t end his collegiate season the way he might have liked. BYU lost to Ohio State in the NCAA Championship match for the 2nd-straight season, and Patch missed over half the year with an abdominal injury.
Now fully healthy, though, Patch was the Americans’ main offensive weapon on Saturday against Canada (another loss), picking up 17 points. He had 17 kills, 6 errors, and 34 attempts (50% success rate, .324 hitting efficiency), and was active on defense as well with 4 digs.
Patch’s day wasn’t perfect – he had 5 service errors and no aces in 10 total attempts – but he was the clear focal-point of the American offensive scheme receiving sets from veteran Micah Christenson. Patch was a force in the match by the eye test.
Just shy of his 23rd birthday, Patch is at an age to enter the prime of his career. While he’s certainly not ready to supplant Matt Anderson in the American starting lineup when he chooses to return, the experience Patch is gaining in this World League makes him a viable backup to Anderson. If he develops, the Americans will have the option of sliding the versatile Anderson back to outside hitter and allowing Patch to start at opposite when next year’s World Championships role around.
Is this the beginning of the Ben Patch era for Team USA? There are some veterans who would have something to say about that. In the least, however, Patch emerged on Saturday as capable on the international stage.