After a tough five-set loss to Slovenia, the U.S. Men rebounded with a sweep against Bulgaria (25-19, 26-24, 25-9) on Tuesday at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Rimini, Italy.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 23, 2021) – The U.S. Men’s National Team finished the FIVB Volleyball Nations League tournament on a good note with a sweep against Japan, 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-20) and ended with an 8-7 record on Wednesday in Rimini, Italy.
“It’s been a great tournament,” Head Coach John Speraw said. “I think we’ve learned a lot about our team. We’ve learned a lot about what we need to do over the next couple weeks to get better before Tokyo, one of them is to get healthy too. This tournament was good for us to evaluate our Olympic roster decisions and of course get together again after being apart for two years. I think the VNL was a great tournament for Team USA.”
“Yeah it’s more for the pride, for us to end this tournament on a good note and to be playing good volleyball,” setter Micah Christenson said. “I thought we got a lot better throughout the tournament so to finish on a high note like this is always good and the flight is going to be a little bit better going home and now we’re focusing on how we can get better.”
The U.S. Men dominated Japan in kills (48-35) and blocks (10-3), but tied in aces (2-2)
Speraw started T.J. DeFalco and Garrett Muagututia at outside hitter, Matt Anderson at opposite, David Smith and Max Holt at middle blocker, Christenson at setter and Erik Shoji at libero.
DeFalco was best scorer for the match (15). Muagututia led in kills (12) followed by both Anderson and DeFalco (11). Both DeFalco and Holt led all players in blocks (4). Christenson and Anderson each had an ace. Christenson led the team in digs (9).
Japan jumped out to an early lead in set one, but the U.S. Men fought their way back and took a 20-18 lead after back-to-back Christenson serves led to overpasses and DeFalco kills. Holt got the last three points of the set with a kill and two blocks.
The U.S. Men controlled set two most of the way through until Japan took a 21-20 lead. The U.S. Men took the lead and set point after a solo block from DeFalco then Christenson gave the U.S. Men a 2-0 match lead with an ace.
Japan took a quick 4-0 lead at the start of set three, but the U.S. Men came right back to tie it up. The U.S. Men controlled the set after that until Japan took a 16-15 lead after a successful block touch challenge. However, Japan didn’t hold the lead very long and the U.S. Men stormed ahead to win the set and complete the sweep.
“I think we stayed focused and stayed poised through the whole game,” Christenson said. “They put a lot of pressure on us with their serves. They went on a couple runs and we never panicked. We were always confident in our game to be able to come back and claw back in each set and I think we did a really good job of that.”
The U.S. Men will head home to get some much needed rest and family time while they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics Games beginning on July 23.
“Go home, rest a little bit, the guys need it,” Speraw said. “See some family, that’s really important for all of us. Then we have a long list: serve, pass, block , dig, hit, set, there’s a lot that we all think about as coaches. We’ll go back and have some really good staff meetings and put a list together. We’re going to have 10 total practices before we leave for Tokyo, so you have to pick the priorities and try to make those priorities as good as you can and just go compete.”
U.S. Men’s National Team 14-Person Roster for June 23
No. Player (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1 Matt Anderson (OP, 6-10, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State Univ.)
4 Jeff Jendryk (MB, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola Univ. Chicago)
5 Kyle Ensing (OP, 6-7, Valencia, Calif., Long Beach State Univ.)
6 Mitch Stahl (MB, 6-8, Chambersburg, Pa., Univ. of California Los Angeles)
7 Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford Univ.)
8 T.J. DeFalco (OH, 6-5, Huntington Beach, Calif., Long Beach State Univ.)
9 Jake Hanes (OP, 6-10, Orland Park, Ill., Ohio State Univ.)
11 Micah Christenson (S, 6-5, Honolulu, Hawaii, Univ. of Southern California)
12 Max Holt (MB, 6-10, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State Univ.)
15 Brenden Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., Brigham Young Univ.)
17 Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola Univ. Chicago)
18 Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., Univ. of California Los Angeles)
20 David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., Univ. of California Irvine)
22 Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford Univ.)
U.S. Men’s Schedule for FIVB Volleyball Nations League (all times Pacific)
May 28: USA def Canada, 3-0 (25-17, 26-24, 25-20)
May 29: Brazil def USA, 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-19)
May 30: USA def Argentina, 3-1 (23-25, 25-19, 25-15, 25-19)
June 3: Russia def USA, 3-1 (25-22, 25-29, 17-25, 25-19)
June 4: Poland def USA, 3-0 (25-17, 28-26, 25-17)
June 5: USA def Australia, 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-17)
June 9: Iran def USA, 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-23)
June 10: USA def Germany, 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 29-27)
June 11: Serbia def USA, 3-1 (25-23, 25-17, 19-25, 27-25)
June 15: USA def Italy, 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-21)
June 16: France def USA, 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 31-29, 25-22)
June 17: USA def Netherlands, 3-2 (21-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-15, 15-13)
June 21: Slovenia def USA, 3-2 (30-28, 19-25, 25-20, 26-28, 13-15)
June 22: USA def Bulgaria, 3-0 (25-19, 26-24, 25-9)
June 23: USA def Japan, 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-20)
June 26: Semifinals 1 and 2
June 27: Bronze and Gold medal matches