RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Aug. 13, 2016) – After a big win over host Brazil on Thursday, it is not surprising that U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach John Speraw was concerned about letdown against a tough French team on Saturday.
“(A letdown) is something we talked a lot about,” Speraw said. “We had three team meetings and the pre-game talk and it was an element of each one of those meetings.”
While France put up a fight, the U.S. Men stayed focused and won its second match of the Olympic Games, 25-22, 25-22, 14-25, 25-22 at the Maracanazinho arena.<
With the victory, the U.S. Men improved to 2-2 in pool play with one match left against Mexico (Aug. 15 at 10:35 a.m. ET). France is also 2-2 and will play Brazil (2-1) on the 15th.
Letdown became a greater concern in the first set as the U.S. Men fell behind 17-10.
“France plays some amazing defense,” outside hitter Aaron Russell said. “When you see a ball that you think is going outside the court and they’re able to bring it back, it’s a little bit scary. I think we held our composure in the end.”
The U.S Men worked their way back in the first set with a 5-0 run behind the serving of outside hitter Taylor Sander. The run included an ace and two blocks and pulled the team to within two at 17-15. With France leading 19-17, it served into the net and the U.S. scored the next four straight points behind opposite Matt Anderson’s serving to lead 22-19.
The U.S. took set point at 24-20 on and Anderson kill. France scored on a kill and a U.S. violation before Russell connected on a kill to end the set.
Anderson and Russell, who went into the match leading all scorers in the tournament, led the U.S. on Saturday as each had 18 points. Sander added 13 points. France’s Antonin Rouzier led all scorers with 25 points.
France led in kills (55-47) and aces (4-3) while the U.S. led in blocking (11-8). The U.S. scored on 28 of France’s errors while committing 24.
After the U.S. came back from a 16-13 deficit to win the second set, France came out with strong serving and passing in the third set and took a 10-3 lead before sailing to the 25-14 victory.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to get up 2-0 and maintain our focus,” Speraw said. “We’re going to have a little chat about that.”
Anderson felt good about the way the U.S. Men came back in the fourth.
“We had a little bit of a lull in starting the third set, giving us a big rut to climb out of,” Anderson said. “But we got a little bit of energy toward the end of the third set and came back in the fourth.”
The U.S. jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the fourth set, but France tied the score at 10-10. The score was still tied at 18-18 when France serve out of bounds and Anderson tooled the block. France’s Earvin Ngapeth responded with a kill, but setter Micah Christenson got a kill of his own and the U.S. scored two more points on France’s net violation and an Anderson kill. The U.S. reached match point at 24-21 on a Sander kill. A U.S. serving error gave France its final point before Rouzier hit the ball out of bounds to give the U.S. the victory.
U.S. Starters vs France
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 France
Kills: Aaron Russell 15, Matt Anderson 14, Taylor Sander 11, Max Holt 3, Micah Christenson 2, David Lee 2
Blocks: Anderson 3, Russell 3, Holt 2, Lee 1, Christenson 1, Sander 1
Aces: Holt 1, Anderson 1, Sander 1
Digs: Erik Shoji 10, Lee 2, Russell 2, Sander 1