DALLAS, USA July 3, 2016 – Already qualified for the Final Round, the U.S. nevertheless put on a great show for the estimated crowd of 8,000, beating Russia, 35-33, 25-17, 25-21 on Sunday in the FIVB World League at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Arena.
The U.S. finishes pool play at 8-1 and in second place to Brazil. The U.S. will travel to Krakow for the Final Round on July 13-17. The winning team takes $1 million.
Russia, which knew going into the match that it would not advance to the Final Round in Krakow, finishes World League at 5-4 and in sixth place. The defending Olympic champion will prepare for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The first set proved to be an exciting opening act with Russia taking four set points and the U.S. reaching five. With the score tied 33-33, U.S. middle blocker David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) scored with a spike and outside hitter Taylor Sander (Huntington Beach, Calif.) followed with one of his own to give Team USA the win.
“That first set was amazing, and we were just battling.” Sander said. “It was fun to go to battle tonight and continue to get better on some things.”
The long set seemed to take the wind out of Russia’s sails and the U.S. dominated the next two sets.
“From our perspective, I thought we did a great job of passing the ball,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “Russia’s a great, tough serving team and I think Erik Shoji had a phenomenal volleyball match and allowed Micah to run whatever he wanted to run. So I think that was the difference in the volleyball match.”
Erik Shoji (Honolulu, Hawaii) was credited with eight digs and 14 excellent receptions.
U.S. middle blocker Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio) led all scorers with 14 points a match-high five aces and a match-high three blocks along with six spikes. Outside hitter Aaron Russell (Ellicott City, Md.) finished with 13 points on 12 attacks and one ace.
Russian opposite Victor Poletaev led his team with 13 points on 11 spikes and two blocks.
The U.S. offense was on-point, leading in spikes 47-31. The U.S. also led 7-2 in aces while Russia finished with nine blocks as compared to the United States’ six.
The players were thrilled with the crowd of 8,000.
“I’m really surprised so many people came out to watch,” Lee said. “This is probably one of the best crowds we’ve had in the U.S. and it was a good win.”