Amid controversy and change on and off the court, the U.S. men's volleyball team meets the Soviet national team tonight at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House at 8 p.m. It is the first of a five-match, weeklong series.

In what is basically the final stretch of preparations for the 1992 Olympics, U.S. Coach Bill Neville, who's been with the team for 20 months, recently announced his resignation, effective Dec. 15.

"I have seen the kind of environment we have to have to win, and keep on winning," Neville said after practice yesterday morning. "I haven't seen the attitude necessary {by the U.S. Volleyball Association} to get that done . . . and sometimes you have to raise hell to get results.

"But I'm not here to hack anyone. The train keeps on rolling and I have a team to coach that represents the United States."

With that in mind, Neville abandoned the double swingman offense that led the U.S. to gold medals in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. He installed a one-passer system that uses what he described as "misdirection tactics."

"We're one of the smallest good teams in the world," said Neville. "We looked at our personnel and we lost all our role models from the '84 and '88 teams. This allows us to put a bigger, quicker team on the floor and we can use three middle guys or three outside hitters."

The U.S. system utilizes the quickness of George Mason graduate Uvaldo Acosta, the team's smallest player at 5 feet 11.

The new system has drawn mixed reactions from the players.

"We're the only ones in the world using the system . . . and I like it," said Acosta.

Others have not so readily accepted the system, which was put in after the Goodwill Games and will be uncloaked for the first time tonight. Particularly outspoken is 6-8 middle blocker Craig Buck, 32, a veteran of both gold medal teams. Why tinker with past success, he wonders.

"I don't inhibit guys' opinions," said Neville. "And Craig is constantly saying he doesn't get enough sets. But the irony is that {the system} relies on Craig."

Neville says he is not totally committed to the new system, and an evaluation will take place after this series. But even that must be done with the knowledge the U.S. team will not be playing the best players from the Soviet Union. This week's U.S. opponents are a collection of younger players being evaluated for possible Olympic competition.