CHICAGO, Ill. (July 14, 2019) – The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team made it to the mountain, but couldn’t reach the summit on Sunday at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals.
Russia repeated as VNL champion for the second year in a row, beating the U.S. in the gold-medal match, 25-23, 20-25, 25-21, 25-20 at Credit Union 1 Arena.
The United States (12-6), which improved on its 2018 bronze-medal VNL finish, will return to Anaheim, Calif., to prepare for the Olympic qualification tournament on Aug. 9-11 in Netherlands.
U.S. opposite Matt Anderson was named MVP of the VNL Finals and three other players were named to the FIVB Dream Team: Micah Christenson was named Best Setter. Erik Shoji was named Best Libero and Max Holt was named Best Middle Blocker.
“It’s tough to be happy with losing a gold medal match,” Anderson said. “I am happy with the way that I played. But I can play a lot better. I’m going to work really hard these next two weeks before we take off for the qualification as I’m sure all of us are.”
U.S. outside hitter Taylor Sander led all scorers on Sunday with 20 points on 17 kills, one block and two aces. Anderson added 19 points on a match-high 18 kills and one ace.
“They served great and that was the difference,” Sander said. “They put a lot of service pressure on us and that was the match. It’s a tough loss but we will learn and grow from it. We have a lot of stuff to work on.”
The U.S. Men led in kills (51-49), but had a kill percentage of 49.5 while Russia’s was 53.2.
U.S. Head Coach John Speraw saw his team struggling in service and reception.
“We just got beat by a team that was a little bit better than us tonight,” Speraw said. “There were some ebbs and flows where I thought we were the better team. Then they just made a lot of plays from the service line.
“We didn’t serve the ball as well as we needed to give ourselves scoring opportunities. They got more efficient offensively as the night went on.”
Speraw made various personnel changes to try to improve his team’s chances. In the first set, he brought Garrett Muagututia in at the outside for Aaron Russell. In the third set, he subbed Jeff Jendryk in for David Smith at middle. In the fifth set, he subbed Ben Patch in for Muagututia and put him at opposite, moving Anderson to the left side, where he play during the winter with his professional team.
“Garrett did a good job of passing, but we needed more punch on the left side,” Speraw said. “I tried moving Matty over to the left where he is comfortable. But it just didn’t work<
U.S. STARTERS VS RUSSIA
Outside hitters: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blockers: Max Holt and David Smith
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
Substitutes: Garrett Muagututia (OH), Jeff Jendryk (MB),Micah Ma’a (S)
U.S. STATISTICS VS BRAZIL
Kills: Anderson 18, Sander 17, Holt 5, Smith 4, Muagututia 4, Jendryk 1, Russell 1, Patch 1
Blocks: Holt 3, Sander 1, Jendryk 1, Muagututia 1, Christenson 1
Aces: Sander 2, Anderson 1, Muagututia 1, Smith 1, Christenson 1
strong>U.S. Men’s Roster for VNL Finals in Chicago
1 Matt Anderson (Opp, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2 Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State)
3C Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., BYU)
4 Jeff Jendryk (MB, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola of Chicago)
7 Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
11 Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
12 Max Holt (MB, 6-10, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
13 Ben Patch (Opp, 6-8, Provo, Utah, BYU)
14 Micah Ma’a (S, 6-3, Kaneohe, Hawaii, UCLA)
17 Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola)
18 Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., UCLA)
20 David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
22 Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
30 George Huhmann (MB, 6-11, St. Louis, Mo., Princeton)
Head Coach: John Speraw
Assistant Coaches: Rob Neilson and Brian Thornton
Consultant Coach: Mike Wall
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock