DALLAS, Texas (July 1, 2016) – The U.S. Men’s National Team’s tough blocking and receiving won out against Bulgaria’s hard hitting as the Americans took a 23-25, 25-21, 27-25, 25-21 victory in FIVB World League pool play on Friday at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Arena.
The win improves the U.S. to 6-1 while Bulgaria falls to 0-7. The U.S. Men will play Australia (0-7) at 7:30 p.m. CT on Saturday. Bulgaria will face Russia (4-3) at 5:30 p.m. CT.
The U.S. led the European side in blocks 13-5, led by middle blocker David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) with four and outside hitter Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.) with three. Team USA’s serving also made a difference as the team led 4-1 in aces. Both teams struggled with errors. Bulgaria scored 33 points on U.S. errors while committing 29.
Priddy entered the match in the second set as a substitute for Thomas Jaeschke (Wheaton, Ill.) and made several big play to help steady the U.S.
“I think the biggest difference was Reid Priddy,” Lee said. “Our oldest veteran player is just stealing the show from our young guys. He’s 38 and playing like he’s 28, he was really impressive tonight and I felt like he was the man of the match.
“I thought Reid was one of our best blockers. He’s got some unorthodox blocking that makes it difficult for the opponent.”
U.S. libero Erik Shoji (Honolulu, Hawaii) kept on his toes returning Bulgaria’s hard hits.
“Bulgaria is typically a really good serving team, so we were just hoping to pass the ball and improve our offense,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “There were certainly times when we did that, but other times when we didn’t and it gave them really big runs, so I was pleased that we were poised enough to weather those runs and come back and win a couple of those sets.”
Bulgaria’s Tsvetan Sokolov led all scorers with 24 points on 21 attacks, two blocks and one ace. Outside hitter Taylor Sander (Huntington Beach, Calif.) paced the United States with 16 points and opposite Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) added 15.
The first set came down to the final points. With the score tied 22-22, Bulgaria scored twice, including a kill from Sokolov, to reach set point. The U.S. scored once more, but a U.S. service error won the set for Bulgaria.
With the U.S. hanging on to a 21-20 lead in the second set, Lee scored on a quick, then served for two more points, including an ace, to give the U.S. set point. David Smith (Saugus, Calif.) put the set away for the U.S. with a spike.
Bulgaria jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the third set. The U.S. didn’t back down and tied the score at 17-17. The score was still tied at 25-25 when Bulgaria served into the net and Sander secured the win with a tip.
Bulgaria again took the lead in the fourth set, 10-3. The U.S. did not give up and tied the score at 15-15 on a service run by Smith. With the score tied 18-18, Bulgaria let a ball drop and then hit the next attack out of bounds. A kill and block from Anderson put the U.S. ahead 22-18 and Bulgaria could not recover.
U.S. Starters vs. Bulgaria
Outside Hitters: Taylor Sander and Thomas Jaeschke
Middle Blockers: David Lee and David Smith
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
U.S. Statistics vs. Bulgaria
Kills: Sander 13, Anderson 12, Smith 10, Lee 8, Jaeschke 4, Priddy 4, Christenson 3
Blocks: Lee 4, Priddy 3, Anderson 2, Christenson 2, Sander 2
Aces: Lee 1, Anderson 1, Sander 1, Priddy 1
Digs: E Shoji 11, Smith 7, Lee 4, Christenson 4, Priddy 4, Jaeschke 2, Sander 2, Anderson 2