ROME, Italy (June 24, 2016) – The U.S. Men’s National Team weathered a difficult first set and found its rhythm by the fifth to beat Belgium 17-25, 25-20, 25-21, 21-25, 15-10 in an FIVB World League match on Friday at the Pala Lottomatica in Rome.
The U.S. Men improve their record to 3-1 in World League pool play. Belgium falls to 2-2. The U.S. Men will play Australia (0-3) on Saturday at 8 a.m. PT.
It is not the first time the U.S. has struggled against Belgium, which took the Americans to a tie-breaker in the first match of the 2015 FIVB World Cup.
On Friday, Belgium was leading the fifth set 4-3 when it served out of bounds and U.S. setter Micah Christenson (Honolulu, Hawaii) took the serve, sparking a 3-0 run including two blocks from middle David Lee (Alpine, Calif.). The U.S. still led at 12-10 when Christenson got the serve again on a U.S. attack. Lee’s fourth block of the match and Christenson’s fourth ace gave the Americans the win.
The U.S. Men got another strong performance from opposite Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) who scored 22 points on 20 kills, one block and one ace. Outside hitter Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.), who came into the first set as a substitute, finished with 14 points on 13 kills and one block.
“You’ve got to hand it to Belgium. They played really well. They served really well,” he said. “I think we’re still working some things out early in the season. I’m just thankful we worked hard and stayed in the game and came out with the victory.”
After falling behind 7-2 in the first set, the U.S. rode a 7-0 serving run by middle blocker David Smith (Saugus, Calif.), including two aces, to lead 9-7. But with the U.S. leading 11-9, it lost the serve to Belgium’s Tomas Rousseaux, who served for six straight points as U.S. errors took their toll.
U.S. Head Coach John Speraw brought in Priddy for outside hitter Aaron Russell (Ellicott City, Md.) in the first set.
“He brings steadiness,” Speraw said of Priddy, who will compete in his fourth Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. “He’s been here so many times before. There’s a poise that comes with experience that we need sometimes. He’s been great off the bench for us. I’m happy to see that he’s been able to fill that role for us.”
The U.S. led in kills (77-69), blocks (13-4) and aces (8-5). Belgium scored 32 points on U.S. errors while committing 26.
Gert Van Walle led Belgium with 24 points on 20 kills, one block and three aces.
U.S. Starters vs. Belgium
Outside Hitters: Aaron Russell and Taylor Sander
Middle Blockers: David Lee and David Smith
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
U.S. Statistics vs. Belgium
Kills: Matt Anderson 20, Reid Priddy 13, Taylor Sander 12, David Smith 6, David Lee 3, Micah Christenson 2
Blocks: Lee 4, Smith 4, Christenson 3, Anderson 1, Priddy 1
Aces: Christenson 4, Smith 2, Lee 1, Anderson 1
Digs: Anderson 7, Sander 6, Priddy 5, Christenson 5, Erik Shoji 5, Smith 3, Lee 1