The captain of Team USA at the 2017 FIVB World League, setter Kawika Shoji, has signed a contract to play for Monza of the Italian Superleague. The move takes him from his previous home with Lokomotiv Norbisk in Russia to the northern Italian metropolis of Milan.
Shoji, who is playing as the backup setter for the American men during their improbable run to the World League semi-finals with a young, inexperienced squad. Shoji has seen some action in the tournament both as a spot-server and spelling Micah Christenson – the best setter in the Italian league last year with Civitanova – including a 4-set start against Belgium.
Shoji was a member of last year’s Olympic team that took bronze at the Rio Olympic Games. Part of a family of American volleyball royalty, his dad Dave Shoji was the head coach at Hawaii for 42 years through last season, and his younger brother Erik is also a member of the USA Volleyball National Team. Kawika and Erik played together in Russia last season.
Shoji will fill the roster spot left when last season’s secondary setter, Nicola Daldello, departed the club for cross-town rivals Power Volley Milano. He will likely battle with last year’s starter Nikola Jovovic, the Serbian National Teamer, who was the team’s primary setter last season. Monza finished in the bottom half of the league last season in offensive attack percentage. As a team, Monza finished 7th in the regular season table with an 11-15 win-loss record (34 points – half of Christenson’s league leaders Civitanova).
Shoji’s astonishing leadership should be equally as exciting for Monza fans as the 29-year olds on-court abilities. He’s captained an American World League squad that is leaning heavily on rookies to the semi-finals of the international competition. That includes recovering from an 0-3 start in early June.