Garrett Muagututia serves
Garrett Muagututia

ANAHEIM, Calif. (July 9, 2023) – The U.S. Men’s National Team finished preliminary round play in the Volleyball Nations League on Sunday night with a 3-0 win over Bulgaria (29-27, 25-19, 25-21).

The win vaulted the U.S. Men (10-2) to first place in the final preliminary VNL standings. They now move on to the VNL Final Round in Gdansk, Poland, and will play No. 8 seed France in the quarterfinals on July 19. Last year, the U.S. Men won the VNL silver medal.

After an exhausting week in Anaheim that included a marathon loss to Argentina on Friday night, U.S. Head Coach John Speraw rested some of the usual starters, going with a lineup of setter Micah Ma’a, outside hitters Thomas Jaeschke and Garrett Muagututia, middle blockers David Smith and Jeff Jendryk, and opposite Kyle Ensing.


Bulgaria (2-10) kept the U.S. Men at bay in set one. When Bulgaria took a 17-14 lead, Speraw replaced Ensing with Matt Anderson. It took a few more points for the U.S. to adjust with the new lineup, and Bulgaria led 23-19 before the U.S. took control. A Bulgarian service error made it 23-20, and three consecutive monster U.S. blocks, including a solo from Ma’a, moved the score to 23-23. The U.S. fought off three set points before eventually winning on an Anderson kill.

The U.S. Men controlled the rest of the match, leading Bulgaria in kills (44-30), blocks (10-7) and aces (4-1).

After the match, Ma’a talked about returning to lead the U.S. offense.

“The guys are so helpful; that’s the No. 1 thing I can think of in my mind,” Ma’a said. “When you’re out there and you’re a little nervous, they keep you so grounded. They give you a lot of confidence and encourage you a lot, so it’s  really just a tribute to our team and our teamwork.”

Muagututia led all scorers with 14 points on 13 kills and one block. Jaeschke had 12 points (10 kills, two blocks) and led the team with 10 digs; Anderson scored eight on six kills, one block and one ace; and Jendryk scored eight on six kills and two blocks. Smith had six points on five kills and a block. Libero Erik Shoji had five digs and two succesful receptions.

Ma’a had five points on two kills, two blocks and an ace, and had five digs. He set the team to a .354 hitting efficiency.

“We’ve got really good leaders; guys with a lot of experience who have been here before,” Ma’a said. “They give the young guys a lot of confidence. They’re running the show a lot of the time; we’re just trying to be good followers, follow in their footsteps and learn what we can. It’s a tribute to our older guys who carry a lot of the load. You look at the Spurs and Tim Duncan; it’s kind of like that part of our USAV journey, with guys like Matt and Max and Dave, that are experienced and really selfless.”

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

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 USA def Bulgaria, 3-0 (29-27, 25-19, 25-21)