KRAKOW, Poland (July 14, 2016) – The U.S. Men’s National Team finds itself in a must-win situation against Brazil on Friday after losing to Italy, 25-22, 27-25, 26-28, 25-21 in the FIVB World League Final Round on Thursday at Tauron Arena.

The U.S. Men (0-1) must beat Brazil 3-0 or 3-1 on Friday if they hope to advance. Italy’s win means 10-time World League champion Brazil can’t finish worse than second in the three-team Pool K.

Mistakes proved costly for the U.S. as Italy scored 37 points on U.S. errors while committing 25. Italy’s Osmany Juantorena led all scorers with 23 points while Ivan Zaytsev added 14. But that was only part of the problem, U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said.

“When Zaytsev or Junatorena makes a great swing high off the block, it’s a great swing. You can’t do anything about it,” Speraw said. “But there were too many times that we had chances where we just didn’t take care of the ball the way we needed to.”

Opposite Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) led the U.S in scoring with 21 points on 16 kills, a match-high three aces and two blocks. Outside hitter Aaron Russell (Ellicott City, Md.) added 16 points on 14 kills, one block and one ace.

The U.S. led Italy in kills, 55-51. It also led in aces 7-4, but had 22 service errors as opposed to Italy’s 13.  Italy led in blocks, 11-9.

“We came out slower than normal,” U.S. middle blocker David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) said. “I felt like we had opportunities to win the second set and the fourth. But we squandered many opportunities to make easy points.”

The U.S. fell behind 8-3 in the first set and struggled to find its footing. Eventually it pulled to within two at 22-20, but Italy reached set point at 24-22 and won on a U.S. attack error.

Italy held a 20-17 lead in the second set, but the Europeans served into the net and the U.S. responded with an ace from outside hitter Taylor Sander (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and an Anderson strike off the block to tie it at 20-20. Italy reached set point first at 24-23 but served out of bounds. The U.S. fought off a second set point before if served into the net and Italy got a block to win the set.

Between the second and third sets, Speraw substituted Thomas Jaeschke (Wheaton, Ill.) for Taylor Sander (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and David Smith (Saugus, Calif.) for Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio). It was the United States’ turn to take set point in the third set, reaching it first at 24-23 and again at 25-24 and 206-25. With the scored tied 26-26, Russell managed an out-of-system kill and Anderson scored with an ace to give the U.S. the win.

The fourth set was tied 20-20 when Osmany scored with a kill and the U.S. followed with two straight hitting errors to put the match out of reach.

U.S. Starters vs. Italy
Outside Hitters: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle Blockers: Max Holt and David Lee
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji

U.S. Statistics vs. Italy
Kills: Matt Anderson 16, Aaron Russell 14, Thomas Jaeschke 8, David Lee 6, Micah Christenson 4, Max Holt 3, David Smith 2, Taylor Sander 2
Blocks: Christenson 3, Anderson 2, Holt 2, Russell 1, Lee 1
Aces: Anderson 3, Christenson 1, Sander 1, Jaeschke 1, Russell 1
Digs: Erik Shoji 16, Anderson 7, Jaeschke 6, Christenson 5, Russell 4, Sander 4, Lee 2, Holt 1