The U.S. (2-4) is in ninth place in the VNL standings heading into its next venue in Cannes, France where it will face Argentina, Germany and France. All matches are being shown live on FloVolleyball.tv, a subscription service.
A day after a lackluster loss to Russia, U.S. opposite Ben Patch said the win was key.
“It was important for us to come together emotionally, physically and mentally as a team to win this third match,” he said. “That’s important going on for the rest of the tournament.”
Patch, who led all scorers with 20 points, said the team is working hard to win even though it has automatically qualified for the Finals.
“We’re not dumb, we know we have already qualified,” Patch said. “But that’s not our mentality… We’re really trying to make sure that we are focused. Regardless of whether we’re qualified or not, we’re trying to win the VNL tournament. That’s going to take winning right now and not just at the end.”
U.S. Head Coach John Speraw kept his starting lineup similar to the one he used against Russia except for starting David Smith at middle in place of Jeff Jendryk.
Speraw subbed Micah Ma’a in at outside hitter for Garrett Muagututia to start the third set and finish out the match.
“We’ve asked quite a bit from our pin hitters this weekend,” Speraw said. “After a couple minor injuries, we ended up having only three available outsides and one of them, Ma’a, I was committed to playing at setter this week.
“T.J. (DeFalco) and Garrett had to battle and, eventually, I had to change plans and send Micah out there to hit.”
The U.S. led Portugal in kills (48-44) and blocks (8-6). The teams tied in aces (2-2).
The U.S. kill percentage of 49 behind setter Micah Christenson was a big improvement over the Russia match (33.3). Portugal’s kill percentage was 39.3.
Patch scored on a match-high 17 kills, two blocks and one ace. Outside hitter T.J. DeFalco added 12 points on 12 kills.
Christenson finished with a match-high three blocks.
Speraw called the first two weekends of VNL “productive.”
“It was good to have Ben back and Kyle Dagostino looked good in his first two starts.
“Mitch Stahl had another really nice weekend. He had dramatically improved.
“Having Max Holt and Micah Christenson back was great. Our record isn’t where we want it, but it’s been a very productive two weeks. Looking forward to Cannes and continuing to improve and grow as a team.”
U.S. STARTERS VS PORTUGAL
Outside hitters: T.J. DeFalco and Garrett Muagututia
Middle blockers: David Smith and Mitch Stahl
Opposite: Ben Patch
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Kyle Dagostino
Substitute: Micah Ma’a (OH)
U.S. STATISTICS VS PORTUGAL
Kills: Patch 17, DeFalco 12, Ma’a 6, Smith 6, Stahl 5, Muagututia 2
Blocks: Christenson 3, Patch 2, Stahl 2, Ma’a 1
Aces: Patch 1, Christenson 1
2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League
U.S. Men’s Schedule (all times PT)
Brazil def USA, 25-22, 25-22, 25-23
Poland def USA, 17-25, 34-32, 26-28, 25-23, 15-9
USA def Australia, 19-25, 27-25, 25-16, 25-16
Italy def USA, 25-23, 13-25, 25-20, 25-23
Russia def Italy, 25-22, 25-19, 25-15
USA def Portugal, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 25-17