COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 27, 2018) – The U.S. Men’s National Team secured a spot in the semifinals of the FIVB World Championship with a 25-22, 25-23, 25-23 win over Russia on Thursday in Turin, Italy.
With the loss, Russia (6-4 overall) fell to 0-2 in the third round (it lost to Brazil on Wednesday) and was eliminated. The U.S. Men (9-0 overall) and Brazil (8-1) will both advance to Saturday’s semifinals.
On Friday, the two teams will play at 8 a.m. PT to determine semifinal seeding. The match will be shown live on FloVolleyball.tv.
The U.S. Men had previously beaten Russia, 3-1 in their third pool-play match of the World Championship.
Russia changed things up on Thursday, starting Sergey Grankin at setter instead of Alexander Butko. In the second set, Russia brought in Victor Poletaev at opposite and moved usual starting opposite Maxim Mikhaylov to outside hitter to replace Dmitry Volkov.
Russia, possibly tired after its five-set loss to Brazil on Wednesday, held leads in each set, but the U.S. Men relied on their triple offensive threat from outside hitters Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell and opposite Matt Anderson.
“Micah Christenson is a great setter and when we are in-system, he can set any position on the court from any position on the court,” Russell said. “Today, we were able to tackle them down the middle and we were able to fight off some difficult serves.”
The U.S. Men led in kills (47-34) and aces (4-2). Russia led in blocks (9-6). The U.S. kill percentage behind Christenson was 53.4 while Russia’s was 44.2. Russia scored 23 points on U.S. errors while committing 18.
Russell led all scorers with 17 points on a match-high 15 kills and a match-high two aces. Sander played a savvy match and added 15 points on 13 kills and two blocks against Russia’s much taller blockers. Anderson contributed nine points on eight kills and one ace.
Middle blockers Dan McDonnell and David Smith platooned and each scored five points. Middle blocker Max Holt added four and Christenson had two blocks at key times for the U.S. Libero Erik Shoji, one of the leading diggers and receivers in the tournament, continued with solid play for the U.S. Men.
Russia’s 7-foot-2 middle blocker Dmitriy Muserskiy was held to 12 points, including four blocks, to lead his team.
In the first set, Russia led 14-12 when a Sander kill and Russia error tied the score. At 20-20, Russia served out of bounds and Christenson got a solo block of Volkov. After a U.S. service error, Sander and McDonnell scored on two straight kills. Russia outside hitter Egor Kliuka appeared to injure his knee while receiving the ball for Russia. After another U.S. service error to make it 24-22, McDonnell scored with a spike for the U.S. win.
Russia led the second set 11-9 when Sander and Anderson scored on two straight kills and Christenson scored on a block of Kliuka, who had reentered the match. Holt followed with an ace to give the U.S. a 13-11 lead. The teams traded points until a 17-17 tie when Holt and Russell scored on two straight kills to give the U.S. a lead it would not give up.
Russia led 10-8 in the third set. Later, the U.S. led 19-15, but Russia tied it at 20-20. The U.S. Men responded with two straight kills from Russell and a block by Holt to lead 23-20. Russell gave the U.S. match point with a kill and won the match with another strike that was challenged by Russia, but was proven in-bounds.
U.S. STARTERS VS RUSSIA
Outside hitters: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blockers: Max Holt and Dan McDonnell
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
Substitute: David Smith (MB)
U.S. STATISTICS VS RUSSIA
Kills: Russell 15, Sander 13, Anderson 8, McDonnell 5, Smith 4, Holt 2
Blocks: Sander 2, Christenson 2, Smith 1, Holt 1
Aces: Russell 2, Anderson 1, Holt 1
(All times PT)
Brazil def Russia, 20-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-12
Serbia def Italy. 25-15, 25-20, 25-18
USA def Russia, 25-22, 25-23, 25-23
12:15 p.m. Poland vs Serbia
8 a.m. Brazil vs USA
12:15 p.m. Italy vs Poland
8 a.m. Semifinal 1
11:30 a.m. Semifinal 2
8 a.m. Bronze medal match
11:30 a.m. Gold medal match