The U.S. Men’s National Team begins its quest to qualify for the Paris 2024 this weekend at the FIVB Road To Paris Olympic Qualifier in Tokyo, Japan
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Oct. 3, 2023) – The U.S. Men’s National Team lost its first set in the FIVB Road to Paris Olympic Qualifier on Tuesday, but the team outlasted Türkiye 3-1 (25-17, 26-28, 32-30, 25-20) to stay undefeated.
At the qualifier, which runs through Oct. 8, eight teams are each playing seven matches over nine days. The top two teams will qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games.
On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Men (3-0) will play Tunisia (0-3) at 12 a.m. PT. The U.S. and Slovenia are currently the only two undefeated teams in their group.
Outside hitter Aaron Russell led all scorers with 25 points on 20 kills, two blocks and three aces.
In Tuesday’s four-set match, which lasted nearly two and a half hours, the U.S. Men started strong in the first set, 25-17.
Türkiye had the upper hand for nearly all of set two, leading by as many as three at 17-14. The U.S. tied it at 21-21, and setter Micah Ma’a subbed in to serve to pick up an ace and a 22-21 U.S. lead. The two teams traded points until Türkiye got its first set point at 24-23 and then again at 25-24. At 25-25, another U.S. ace, this time by Max Holt, gave the U.S. its own set point. Türkiye fought back with three straight to win 28-26.
Kyle Ensing replaced Matt Anderson at opposite in the third set, and early on he was a spark for the U.S. offense as they opened up an early 5-1 lead. Türkiye tied it at six, but the U.S. again went on a run, keeping up a solid lead through most of the rest of the set. At 24-19 and with five set points to give, the U.S. Men seemed to have the match in hand. But the wheels fell off and Türkiye scored those five to tie it at 24. In the ensuing points, the U.S. had four set points and Türkiye had one at 29-28.
At that point, Türkiye seemingly won the match 30-28 on a TJ De Falco error. But a video challenge showed a Türkiye player was in the net, making the score 29-29. After a couple of more exchanges, the U.S. took the match 32-30.
“I think one of the biggest challenges was managing the response after that second set,” Russell said. “We responded well early, but still let them come back in the third. We wanted to close them out because we knew how dangerous they are, but they had some strong, consistent serving paired with a big block and an aggressive mentality in defense, which helped them come back.”
Set four followed a similar pattern to set three with the U.S. leading by as many as seven early. At 24-17, it was déjà vu as Türkiye started chipping away, closing the gap to four at 24-20. But Russell responded with a final kill for the victory.
“In the fourth, we really had to focus after the missed touch call for match point and not let them get rolling again,” Russell said. “There were a lot of emotions throughout the match that had to be managed also, and I think that gave us some extra motivation when crossing the finish line. Türkiye is a good team that stresses us in unique ways and always fights to the end.”
The U.S. led Türkiye in kills (63-49), blocks (13-7) and aces (9-3). The U.S. scored 23 points on Türkiye errors but gave up 36.
DeFalco scored 21 points on 15 kills, one ace, a match-high five blocks and team-high 10 digs.
Middle blocker Max Holt had 10 points on seven kills and three aces.
Opposite Matt Anderson had nine points on seven kills and two blocks in the three sets he played. Middle blocker David Smith scored six points (five kills, one block).
Coming off the bench, middle blocker Jeff Jendryk scored five on four kills and a block, and Ensing finished with three kills and an ace.
Setter Micah Christenson had two kills and two blocks. Ma’a finished with one ace.
Libero Erik Shoji had eight digs and 12 successful receptions.
Matches will be shown on VolleyballWorld.tv.
U.S. Men’s Roster for 2023 Road to Paris Olympic Qualifier
No. Player (Position, Height, Hometown, College, USAV Region)
1 Matt Anderson (Opp, 6-10, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State, Western Empire)
2 Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State, Chesapeake)
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)
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)
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)
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: Matthew Fuerbringer and Javier Weber
Performance Analyst and Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Team Leader: Nate Ngo
Strength and Conditioning Coach: Tim Pelot
Mental Performance Coach: Andrea Becker
Second Assistant: Morteza Shiari
Second Assistant: Michael Wall
Team Doctor: Lori Boyajian-O’Neill
U.S. Men’s Schedule and Results for the 2023 VNL
All matches will be broadcast on volleyballworld.tv
All times PT
Sept. 30 USA def Egypt, 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-19)
Oct. 1 USA def Finland, 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-17)
Oct. 3 USA def. Türkiye, 3-1 (25-17, 26-28, 32-30, 25-20)
Oct. 4 at 12 a.m. USA vs Tunisia (world No. 18)
Oct. 6 at 12 a.m. USA vs Slovenia (world No. 8)
Oct. 7 at 12 a.m. USA vs Serbia (world No. 9)
Oct. 8 at 3:25 a.m. USA vs Japan (world No. 5)