Taylor Averill and Aaron Russell

ANAHEIM, Calif. (July 8, 2023) – A day after dropping a five-set, 2 hour and 41 minute match to Argentina, the U.S. Men’s National Team would not have been blamed for some lackluster play on Saturday.

While the U.S. Men didn’t play a perfect match against France on Saturday, they did sweep the defending Olympic and Volleyball Nations League (VNL) champion (25-23, 27-25, 27-25) before a crowd of nearly 5,000 at the Anaheim Convention Center.


The U.S. Men (9-2) are in second place in the VNL standings heading into Sunday’s final preliminary round match against Bulgaria (2-9), which is fighting to not be relegated from the VNL. The U.S. Men are the defending VNL silver medalists and have secured a spot in this year’s Final Round on July 19-23 in Gdansk, Poland.

“I was so tired this morning,” U.S. setter Micah Christenson said. “We were just gassed from last night. A lot of us have played three games in a row. I think it just goes to show the preparation that goes into it and the mental toughness it takes to come in here and play at a high level.”

France (5-6) went into the match in ninth place in the VNL standings and hoping it might fight its way into the top eight, which advance to the Final Round. France led the U.S. in kills (41-38). The teams tied in blocks (8-8) and the U.S. had the edge in aces (4-3).

The difference proved to be the 29 points the U.S. scored on France’s errors. The U.S. committed 21 scoring errors.

“Some of the issues that hurt us last night, hurt us tonight as well,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “I was really impressed with how we came out, even though we were battling some obvious fatigue.

“This group has done a remarkable job over the years at different times when we have been challenged, we’ve come back and done really well. I have a ton of trust in the team that they can do that.”

Outside hitter Aaron Russell led all scorers with 14 points on 11 kills, two blocks and one ace. Outside hitter T.J. DeFalco scored 11 points on nine kills and two blocks. Outside hitter Garrett Muagututia played as a substitute for DeFalco midway through the third set before DeFalco returned to finish the match.

Middle blocker Taylor Averill, who was suited up as the libero for the first two matches of the series, started and scored nine points on seven kills, one block and one ace.

Opposite Matt Anderson totaled eight points on seven kills and one ace. Middle Max Holt had five points on four kills and one ace. Setter Micah Christenson scored three points on three blocks.

Christenson set the U.S. Men to a .316 hitting efficiency. Libero Erik Shoji was credited with four digs and four successful receptions.

U.S. Men’s Roster for Preliminary Week 3
2023 Volleyball Nations League

No. Player (Position, Height, Hometown, College, USAV Region)
Matt Anderson (Opp, 6-10, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State, Western Empire)
Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State, Chesapeake)
Jeff Jendryk (MB, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola Univ. Chicago, Great Lakes)
Kyle Ensing (OPP, 6-7, Valencia, Calif., Long Beach State Univ., Southern California)
T.J. DeFalco (OH, 6-5, Huntington Beach, Calif., Long Beach State Univ., Southern California)
11 Micah Christenson (S, 6-5, Honolulu, Hawaii, Univ. of Southern California, Hawaii)
12 Max Holt (MB, 6-10, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State, Ohio Valley)
14 Micah Ma’a (S, 6-3, Kaneohe, Hawaii, UCLA, Aloha)
15 Kyle Russell (OPP, 6-9, Loomis, Calif., UC Irvine, Northern California)
17 Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola Univ. Chicago, Great Lakes)
18 Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., UCLA, Southern California)
19 Taylor Averill (MB, 6-7, San Jose, Calif., Univ. of Hawaii, Northern California)
20 David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., Univ. of California Irvine, Southern California)
22 Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford Univ., Hawaii)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Assistant Coaches: Matt FuerbringerJavier Weber
Second Assistant Coaches: Morteza ShiariMike Wall
Performance Analyst and Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Strength and Conditioning Coach: Tim Pelot
Team Manager: David Dantes
Sports Psychologist: Andrea Becker
Team Doctors: Chris Koutures, Christopher Lee, James Suchy, Eugene Yim

U.S. Men’s Schedule for the 2023 VNL
All matches will be broadcast on volleyballworld.tv

Week 1 in Ottawa, Canada
June 7 USA def Netherlands 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-21)
June 8 USA def Italy 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-19)
June 10 USA def Canada 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-20)
June 11 Brazil def USA 3-1 (19-25, 25-21, 15-25, 21-25)

Week 2 in Rotterdam, Netherlands
June 20 USA def Serbia 3-1 (22-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-21)
June 21 USA def China 3-0 (28-26, 25-22, 25-18)
June 23 USA def Iran 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-23)
June 24 USA def Poland 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-19)

Week 3 in Anaheim, California, USA
July 5 USA def Cuba 3-0 (27-25, 25-17, 25-15)
July 7 Argentina def USA 3-2 (25-18, 23-25, 23-25, 43-41, 15-12)
July 8 USA def France 3-0 (25-23, 27-25, 27-25)
July 9 at 8:30 p.m. USA vs Bulgaria

Final Round on July 19-23 in Gdansk, Poland