COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 15, 2018) – After winning two five-set matches to open the FIVB World Championship, the U.S. Men’s National Team shortened things up and beat Russia, 25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 25-20 on Saturday in Bari, Italy.
The U.S. Men (3-0), ranked No. 2 in the world, got the full three points for the win and moved into first place in the pool. In their first two matches, they needed five sets to beat Serbia and Australia and only got two points for each victory.
They will play Cameroon at 8 a.m. PT on Sunday and Tunisia (0-3) at 8 a.m. PT on Sunday and Cameroon (1-2) at 8 a.m. PT on Tuesday. All men’s World Championship matches will be shown live on FloVolleyball.tv, which has reduced the subscription price 20 percent for the event.
The U.S. Men knew they would get a battle from Russia, which won the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in July.
“We didn’t come in with any expectations, especially not to win in four and get three points,” U.S. setter Micah Christenson said. “We knew Russia, the defending VNL champions, they’re on top of the volleyball world right now internationally. They had a target on their backs from all the teams.”
The match came down to the fourth set. With the U.S. trailing 14-12, Russia served out of bounds and the U.S. came up with three straight blocks from middle blocker David Smith, outside hitter Taylor Sander and Christenson to put the U.S. ahead 16-14. Russia tied it at 17-17, but the U.S. scored the next two points, including a kill from Smith, to take the lead for good.
“Obviously we played better than we did the first two matches,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “When Russia did great things, I thought we recovered really well. And obviously, they do great things.
“In the end, this match was just about serving. It was about two serving teams bombing away and playing the game from 10-12 feet. That’s where we played a lot of the match.”
The U.S. Men led in aces (7-4) and kills (50-45). Russia led in blocks (8-7). The U.S. scored 31 points on Russian errors while committing 33.
Outside hitter Aaron Russell led all scorers with 17 points on a match-high16 kills and one block. Opposite Matt Anderson scored 16 points on 13 kills, two aces and one block. Sander was credited with 13 points on 10 kills, two aces and one block.
Middle blockers Max Holt and Smith each finished with six points. Smith substituted for Taylor Averill in the second set and stayed in the rest of the match.
While Speraw was pleased with the win, he knew that if the U.S. Men meet Russia again, it could be a much more difficult match.
“This is a long tournament. The teams will all be better by the time they get to Turin (where the finals will be held),” Speraw said. “I anticipate them being in the final six. They get their serves going, they are an incredibly difficult team to beat.”
U.S. STARTERS VS RUSSIA
Outside hitters: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blockers: Max Holt and Taylor Averill
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
Substitutes:David Smith (MB)
U.S. STATISTICS VS RUSSIA
Kills: Russell 16, Anderson 13, Sander 10, Smith 6, Holt 6, Christenson 4, Averill 2
Blocks: Christenson 2, Sander 1, Anderson 1, Russell 1, Holt 1, Smith 1
Aces: Anderson 2, Sander 2, Christenson 2, Holt 1
Digs: E Shoji 17, Christenson 9, Russell 9, Anderson 8, Sander 5, Averill 1