RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Aug. 15, 2016) – The U.S. Men’s National Team have played in Rio de Janeiro several times and visited many of the sites. But on Aug. 17, they are going somewhere new in Rio: The Olympic quarterfinals.
The U.S. Men defeated their NORCECA zone neighbor Mexico, 25-23, 25-11, 25-19 on Monday at the Maracanazinho arena. The U.S. improved its record to 3-2 and assured itself of advancing to the quarterfinals. Mexico finished its Olympic journey with an 0-5 record.
The U.S. will have to wait until the end of the day to find out its quarterfinal opponent. Depending on how the other matches go, it could finish anywhere from second to fourth in Pool A. If it does finish fourth, it would have to play Pool B winner Argentina. If it places second or third, there will be a drawing to determine if it would play the second- or third-place from Pool B.
When the Olympic tournament started, it looked like the U.S. Men wouldn’t even make it this far after they fell to Canada (3-0) and Italy (3-1). But the great comeback began with a 3-1 win over host and world No. 1 Brazil and continued with a 3-1 victory over France.
Monday brought the United States’ first sweep over an unpredictable Mexican team that almost snatched a first-set victory. The U.S. cleaned up its errors in the second and third sets and got more aggressive.
Monday marked the first Olympic points for opposite Murphy Troy, who replaced a struggling Matt Anderson in the first set and finished with 12 points on a match-high 10 kills and two blocks.
“The conversation (before the match) was that we’ve had these amazing last few games and now is not the time to slow it down. Now is the time to pick it up,” Troy said. “Keep our same intensity. Keep our focus… We didn’t want to lose a single point or a single set today.”
Outside hitter Taylor Sander provided steady passing and led the U.S. in blocks with three and had 12 points overall.
Middle blockers Max Holt and David Lee also played major roles in Monday’s match. Holt finished with 11 points, including a match-high five aces and one block. Lee had 11 points with two blocks and two aces.
U.S. Head Coach John Speraw has consistently praised Holt’s tough serving through the Olympic tournament. Holt struggled with serving to open the season.
“I think behind the service line I keep getting in the same place (mentally),” Holt said. “I just focus and center on my target then toss it and rip it.”
Middle blocker David Smit and setter Kawika Shojialso played for the first time in this Olympics on Monday. Four-time Olympian Reid Priddy, who hasn’t played since the opening loss to Canada, also played and got a kill.
“I think the enormity of the Olympic Games requires a 24-hour learning curve,” Priddy said. “We’ve been able to respond after those first two matches.”
U.S. Starters vs Mexico
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 Mexico
Kills: Murphy Troy 10, Taylor Sander 8, David Lee 7, Aaron Russell 5, Max Holt 5, Micah Christenson 2, Reid Priddy 1, David Smith 1
Blocks: Sander 3, Lee 2, Troy 2, Holt 1, Christenson 1
Aces: Holt 5, Lee 2, Sander 1
Digs: Sander 3, Troy 2, Erik Shoji 2, Matt Anderson 2, Russell 1, Holt 1, Lee 1