COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Oct. 4, 2019) – The U.S. Men’s National Team started strong and then held on to defeat defending World Champion Poland 25-19, 25-20, 24-26, 27-25 on Friday at the FIVB World Cup in Fukuoka, Japan.
The U.S. (2-1) will face host Japan (1-1) in their next match at 3:20 a.m. PT on Saturday. All World Cup matches are being shown on FloVolleyball.tv.
Related: OFFICIAL STATISTICS
Opposite Matt Anderson provided the spark for the U.S. and led all scorers with 23 points on a match-high 22 kills and one block. Outside hitter Aaron Russell came up big again with 18 points on 16 kills, one block and one ace.
Middle blocker Max Holt was clutch, providing a match-high five blocks and match-high three aces.
Many were watching Poland outside hitter Wilfredo Leon, a superstar in his native Cuba who now calls Poland home and started playing with the national team this season. He did not disappoint, leading Poland with 18 kills, two blocks and one ace.
But on this night, Anderson, Leon’s former teammate on Russia’s Zenit Kazan club team, and his teammates were a little better.
“Obviously it was a big match,” U.S. setter Micah Christenson said. “Poland is the world champion and they came with a very strong roster.
“It was easy to wake up for this game. I was super excited with how we played and how we executed our game plan.”
The United States led in kills (55-49) and blocks (9-7) and the teams tied in aces (4-4). The U.S. kill percentage was 53.9 while Poland’s was 49.5.
After the U.S. won the first two sets without much struggle, Poland came fighting back in the third, not wanting to lose its first match of the tournament.
In a nail-biting fourth set, the U.S. reached match point at 24-23, but Poland fought it off with a kill.
At 24-24, the teams had a spectacular rally that included a flying back-row dig from libero Erik Shoji and a sliding dig by outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke that led to the point-scoring kill by Anderson.
On the dig, Jaeschke slid into the standard with his left shoulder and had to leave the match in pain.
The next U.S. serve went into the net to tie the match, but Anderson notched kills on the next two plays to get the win.
Christenson predicted the team would carry its momentum into the next match.
“We will carry some of the amazing hustle that was shown,” Christenson said. “Thomas Jaeschke leaving his body on the line for us… Words can’t express how great an example that is for us.”
Jaeschke returned to the bench before the end of the match.
U.S. STARTERS VS POLAND
Outside hitters: Aaron Russell and Garrett Muagututia
Middle blockers: Max Holt and David Smith
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero Erik Shoji
Substitutes: Mitch Stahl (MB), Thomas Jaeschke (OH)
U.S. STATISTICS VS POLAND
Kills: Anderson 22, Russell 16, Muagututia 7, Smith 4, Holt 3, Christenson 2, Stahl 1
Blocks: Holt 5, Anderson 1, Russell 1, Muagututia 1, Christenson 1
Aces: Holt 3, Russell 1