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2024 VNL Season

Erik Shoji hails Filipino hospitality despite USA’s setback


Erik Shoji felt so overwhelmed by requests from Filipino fans that he started making YouTube reaction videos on the Philippine men’s national team’s performance in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

Since then, and with numerous other messages of support throughout their international careers, the long-time libero for the Stars and Stripes squad knew what to expect when the team finally set foot in the country for this year’s Volleyball Nations League.

“We know that Filipino fans love volleyball, so we thank them so much for coming and cheering for us against Iran. I’m from Honolulu, so I know a lot of Filipinos. Yeah, it’s been awesome so far,” the former Stanford University standout shared.

Shoji felt thrilled to experience the same hospitality he expected from the day they landed at the airport.

“People have been so good. They really took care of us and were so nice, so accommodating. They are the nicest people in the world, I think, so we’re really happy to be here for the first time,” said the 34-year-old ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle defensive specialist.

He added, “I think it’s almost everyone’s first experience here and so far, so good, except for the match.”

Thanks to the encouragement of the adoring fans they expected at their first game, the USA managed to force a fifth and deciding set.

Shoji anchored the side’s defensive stance, while TJ De Falco scored almost 30 points in the first four sets.

However, the top seeds couldn’t complete the comeback and instead suffered a stunning upset from an erstwhile winless Iran side.

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Shoji knew they needed to quickly move on from this defeat as they would face cross-continent rivals Brazil in less than 24 hours and show a better performance in front of the Filipino fans.

“We have a quick turnaround tomorrow against Brazil, but we have to learn from this one. It’s always tough against Brazil as well.”

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.


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