COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 17, 2016) – Aided by two challenges that went its way in the final points of the fourth set, the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team eked out a win over Iran, 23-25, 25-13, 27-25, 26-24 on Friday in World League pool play action at Carioca Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
The U.S. Men improved to 2-0 and will face their host and world No. 1 Brazil (2-0) on Saturday at 7 p.m. PT. The matches will be shown live on NBC Sports Extra and on NBC Sports Network.
With Iran at set point in the fourth set, 24-23, U.S. opposite Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) attacked cross-court and the ball was called out. But before Iran could celebrate victory, U.S. Head Coach John Speraw challenged the ruling and the review showed the ball barely caught the line, and therefore was in.
With the score tied 24-24, Anderson again hit cross-court and this time it landed clearly out of bounds. However a Speraw challenge showed that the ball hit Iranian blocker Adel Gholami’s fingers for a touch call, giving the U.S. match point. A final Anderson kill to the same part of the court gave the U.S. the victory.
“I think this is one of the first times the replay system has helped our team,” U.S. Team Captain David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) said. “This was stressful. Obviously Brazil is our biggest opponent of this group phase and we face them tomorrow night. That will be our biggest test.”
Anderson came back from a sub-par performance against Argentina on Thursday to lead all scorers on Friday with 23 points on a match-high 20 kills and three blocks. Outside hitter Taylor Sander (Huntington Beach, Calif.) added 14 points and Lee finished with 10.
The U.S. put up a big block, leading the category 14-9 with outside hitter Sander and Lee each finishing with four. The U.S. also led in kills, 52-45 while Iran led in aces 3-2. As a team, the U.S. Men had a .297 hitting efficiency behind setter Micah Christenson (Honolulu, Hawaii), while Iran hit .161. Iran’s star setter Saeid Marouf started every set, but sat out much of the second set for backup Mehdi Mahdavl.
The U.S. scored on 33 Iranian errors while committing 30.
Outside hitter Aaron Russell (Ellicott City, Md.) made his first appearance of the season with the team, starting the first three sets and scoring seven points on seven kills. Garrett Muagututia (Seaside, Calif.) substituted in the third set and finished the match for him.
U.S. Starters vs. Iran
Outside hitter: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blockers: David Lee and Russell Holmes
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
U.S. Statistics vs. Iran
Kills: Matt Anderson 20, Taylor Sander 9, Aaron Russell 7, David Lee 6, Micah Christenson 5, Russell Holmes 4, Garrett Muagututia 1
Blocks: Sander 4, Lee 4, Anderson 3, Holmes 2, Christenson 1
Aces: Sander 1, Muagututia 1
Digs: Sander 14, Erik Shoji 11, Anderson 4, Muagututia 4, Christenson 4, Lee 3, Russell 2, Holmes 2