RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Aug. 9, 2016) – The U.S. Men’s National Team gave a better performance on Tuesday and won its first set of the Olympics, but it wasn’t enough to beat Italy and the U.S. fell 28-26, 20-25, 25-23, 25-23 at the Maracanazinho arena.
Things won’t get any easier on Thursday when the U.S. (0-2) will face top-ranked Brazil (1-0) at 9:30 p.m. ET.
“They were way better tonight (than against Canada on Sunday). I thought we were close,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said of the U.S. Men. “This is our journey. It is what it is. This is the team. This is what we signed up for. We knew what we were getting into four years ago and here we are. It’s a tough journey.”
The United States’ first-time Olympians put up better numbers than they did Sunday in a 3-0 loss to Canada. Outside hitter Aaron Russell led all scorers with 22 points on 19 kills, one block and two aces. Outside hitter Taylor Sande and middle blocker Max Holt each contributed 12 points. Opposite Matt Anderson, a two-time Olympian, chipped in 14.
“I’m proud of the way we fought and the way we played. We’re going to keep getting better,” said U.S. setter Micah Christenson, who set the team to a .383 hitting efficiency. “I think the other night was an anomaly. We’re a pretty good serving team and we rely on our serve and block defense. I thought we did a good job of that.”
The U.S. finished with seven blocks, including four from Holt. Russell and Sander each had two aces.
The U.S. Men had chances to win each set they loss. In the first, Italy reached set point at 24-22, but the U.S. scored on Italy’s serve into the net and a Russell kill. On Italy’s fifth set point at 27-26, it appeared that Russell had tied the score again with a back-row kill. But he was called for a foot-fault and a challenge revealed that his toe had narrowly grazed the line.
The score was tied 14-14 in the second set when the U.S. went up by two on a Lee kill and Sander ace. Italy kept within one until the U.S. led 17-16 and Holt scored with a block. The U.S. scored three more points to lead 21-16 and Italy never recovered.
The score was tied 18-18 in the third when Italy took the lead on a U.S. hitting error and its own block and went on to win the set.
The score was tied 21-21 in the fourth, but Italy scored with a kill and a U.S. hitting error and went on to take the match victory.
U.S. Starters vs Italy
Outside hitters: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blockers: Max Holt and David Lee
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
U.S. Statistics vs. Italy
Kills: Aaron Russell 19, Matt Anderson 13, Taylor Sander 10, Max Holt 8, David Lee 7, Micah Christenson 1
Blocks: Holt 4, Lee 2, Russell 1
Aces: Russell 2, Sander 2, Anderson 1
Digs: Erik Shoji 3, Sander 3, Anderson 1, Holt 1, Lee 1