ANAHEIM, Calif. (June 26, 2022) – Playing the No. 1 team in the world less than 24 hours after beating Bulgaria took its toll on the U.S. Men, who gave themselves chances to win but fell to Poland 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-22) on Sunday in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The U.S. Men (6-2) have a week to rest before the final VNL preliminary round in Osaka, Japan, where they will try to claim a spot in the final round. They will face Germany (3-5), France (7-1), Canada (2-6) and Argentina (2-6).
U.S. Head Coach John Speraw used the same starting lineup on Sunday that he used Saturday: Aaron Russell and T.J. DeFalco at outside hitter, David Smith and Jeff Jendryk at middle blocker, Kyle Ensing at opposite, Josh Tuaniga at setter and Erik Shoji at libero.
Four of the starters, Smith, Shoji, DeFalco and Tuaniga, played professionally in Poland over the winter.
The group started strong but ran out of gas in the fourth set. Speraw made substitutions, but the match ended with a 5-1 scoring run by Poland.
“I think this format is challenging for rosters, especially with how your matches line up with opponents’ matches,” Speraw said. “Going long with Bulgaria last night in an intense match and then trying to play this one. I was proud of how much they gave; I just didn’t think they had enough.”
Poland led in kills (57-49) and blocks (7-5). The U.S. led in aces (8-4). Three of those aces came in the first set on a serving run by Aaron Russell that took the U.S. from a 4-9 deficit to an 10-9 lead, which was enough to propel them to the set win.
Poland had 32 scoring errors, but most of those came early in the match. The U.S. Men had 29.
Russell led the U.S. in scoring with 16 points on 13 kills and the three aces. DeFalco scored 14 points on 11 kills, one block and two aces. Smith finished with nine points on five kills, three blocks and one ace.
Ensing, who started his fourth match in a row and seventh out of eighth overall, finished with eight points on eight kills. Middle Mitch Stahl, who subbed for Jendryk, also scored eight points on five kills, one block and two aces.
Shoji was credited with seven digs and four successful receptions. DeFalco led the team in receptions with nine. Tuaniga scored one points on a kill and combined with backup James Shaw to set the team to a .327 hitting efficiency.
Jendryk and backup opposite Kyle Russell each scored three points on three kills.
Poland, which recently ascended to No. 1 team in the world over Brazil, was led by veteran Bartosz Kurek who had 23 points. Kurek raised the level of the match in the second set when a controversial challenge call went for the United States. The U.S. had been leading 17-13, but Kurek led Poland’s comeback in the set and the match.
U.S. Men’s National Team Roster for Round 2 of
2022 Volleyball Nations League
No. Player (Position, Height, Hometown, College, USAV Region)
2 Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State, Chesapeake)
3 James Shaw (S, 6-8, Woodside, Calif. Stanford, Northern California)
4 Jeff Jendryk (MB, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola Univ. Chicago, Great Lakes)
5 Kyle Ensing (OPP, 6-7, Valencia, Calif., Long Beach State Univ., Southern California)
6 Mitch Stahl (MB, 6-8, Chambersburg, Pa., UCLA, Keystone)
8 T.J. DeFalco (OH, 6-5, Huntington Beach, Calif., Long Beach State Univ., Southern California)
10 Kyle Dagostino (L, 5-9, Tampa, Florida, Stanford Univ., Florida)
15 Kyle Russell (OPP, 6-9, Loomis, Calif., UC Irvine, Northern California)
16 Josh Tuaniga (S, 6-3, Long Beach, Calif., Long Beach State Univ., Southern 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)
20 David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., Univ. of California Irvine, Southern California)
22 Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford Univ., Aloha)
27 Tyler Mitchem (MB, 6-11, Bolingbrook, Ill., Lewis Univ., Great Lakes)
Head Coach: John Speraw
Assistant Coaches: Matthew Fuerbringer, Mike Wall
Performance Analyst and Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Strength and Conditioning Coach: Tim Pelot
Consultant Coach: Mike Sealy
Sports Psychologist: Andrea Becker
Sports Psychologist: Bernard Whitney
Team Doctor: James Suchy
U.S. Men’s Schedule for the 2022 VNL (All times PDT)
All matches to be shown on VolleyballWorld.tv
Preliminary Round 1 – Brasilia, Brazil
USA def Slovenia, 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-14)
USA def Netherlands, 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-16)
USA def Japan, 3-2 (17-25, 25-15, 25-21, 26-28, 15-9)
USA def Brazil, 3-1 (21-25, 27-25, 25-20, 25-20)
Preliminary Round 2 – Sofia, Bulgaria
USA def Serbia, 3-1 (26-24, 23-25, 25-23, 25-20)
Iran def USA, 3-0 (25-18, 29-27, 27-25)
USA def Bulgaria, 3-1 (25-12, 20-25, 26-24, 25-23)
Poland def USA, 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-22)
Preliminary Round 3 – Osaka, Japan
July 4 at 11 p.m.
USA vs Germany
July 6 at 8 p.m.
USA vs France
July 8 at 11:40 p.m.
USA vs Canada
July 9 at 8:40 p.m.
USA vs Argentina
Final Round – Bologna, Italy