The U.S. Men kick off VNL in a strong group with all their opponents ranked among the world’s top 10: Canada (No. 10), Brazil (No. 1) and Argentina (No. 5).
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 28, 2021) – The U.S. Men’s National Team opened the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League on Friday with a sweep of Canada (25-17, 26-24, 25-20) in Rimini, Italy.
The U.S. Men will play their second match of the three-game series against Brazil at noon PDT on Saturday in a rematch of the 2019 VNL semifinals.
The U.S. Men’s last match together was Oct. 15, 2019; a 3-1 win over Egypt at the FIVB World Cup.
On Friday, they led Canada in kills (43-30) and aces (4-3) while Canada led in blocks (6-5).
Long Beach State alums T.J. DeFalco and Kyle Ensing, who both played in the 2018 VNL, but did not in 2019, combined for 26 of the United States’ points.
At outside hitter, DeFalco led all scorers with 15 points on a match-high 13 kills, one block and one ace. At opposite, Ensing added 11 points on 11 kills.
Middle blocker Taylor Averill finished with nine points. Outside hitter Garrett Muagututia and middle blocker Max Holt each scored five. Setter Micah Christenson also scored five points and set the team to a .316 hitting efficiency.
Libero Erik Shoji was credited with 16 digs and three successful receptions. Muagututia led in successful receptions with 10 and DeFalco had five.
“I am super proud of the way we came into the game,” Christenson said. “It was a pleasant surprise to win this game 3-0 against Canada. I’m very excited about how we performed, and we hope to get better for another week or rather a month.”
The U.S. Men had to come back from 16-20 in the second set. But did not struggle in sets one and three.
“It’s so nice to put on the National Team jersey,” Christenson said. “To play with your teammates from your home country is something very special. To do it in an environment like this one, run so smoothly, it’s like a blessing to be back.”
U.S. Head Coach John Speraw started Christenson at setter, Hold and Averill at middle blocker, DeFalco and Muagututia at outside hitter, Ensing at opposite and Shoji at libero. There were no substitutions.
The first set stayed relatively close until the U.S. led 13-11. Averill scored with a kill, followed by a kill and ace from Ensing and a Canada error to put the U.S. ahead 17-11 and Canada never recovered.
Canada jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the second set and built it to 20-16. With Canada still leading 22-19, the U.S. scored on a kill and ace from Holt and a kill by Muagututia to tie at 22. Canada reached set point first at 24-23, but Averill connected with a kill and Christenson followed with a dump to give the U.S. the set win.
The third set was tied at 11-11 when the U.S. scored on Canada’s error followed by an Ensing block and Christenson ace to give it a lead it never relinquished.
The VNL will be broadcast in the United States on the FIVB’s streaming service Volleyball World TV.
U.S. Men’s National Team 14-Man Roster for May 28
No. Player (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
5 Kyle Ensing (OP, 6-7, Valencia, Calif., Long Beach State Univ.)
7 Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford Univ.)
8 T.J. DeFalco (OH, 6-5, Huntington Beach, Calif., Long Beach State Univ.)
9 Jake Hanes (OP, 6-10, Orland Park, Ill., Ohio State Univ.)
11 Micah Christenson (S, 6-5, Honolulu, Hawaii, Univ. of Southern California)
12 Max Holt (MB, 6-10, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State Univ.)
13 Ben Patch (OP, 6-8, Layton, Utah, Brigham Young Univ.)
15 Brenden Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., Brigham Young Univ.)
16 Josh Tuaniga (S, 6-3, Long Beach, Calif., Long Beach State Univ.)
17 Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola Univ. Chicago)
18 Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., Univ. of California Los Angeles)
19 Taylor Averill (MB, 6-7, San Jose, Calif., Univ. of Hawaii)
20 David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., Univ. of California Irvine)
21 Dustin Watten (L, 6-0, Long Beach, Calif., Long Beach State Univ.)
22 Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford Univ.)
U.S. Men’s Schedule for FIVB Volleyball Nations League (all times Pacific)
May 28: USA def Canada, 3-0 (25-17, 26-24, 25-20)
May 29 at noon: USA vs Brazil
May 30 at 7 a.m.: USA vs Argentina
June 3 at noon: Russia vs USA
June 4 at 9 a.m.: Poland vs USA
June 5 at 9 a.m.: USA vs Australia
June 9 at 7 a.m.: Iran vs USA
June 10 at 7 a.m.: Germany vs USA
June 8 at 7 a.m.: USA vs Serbia
June 15 at noon: Italy vs USA
June 16 at 10:30 a.m.: USA vs France
June 17 at 9 a.m.: Netherlands vs USA
June 21 at 9 a.m.: Slovenia vs USA
June 22 at 4 a.m.: Bulgaria vs USA
June 23 at 4 a.m.: USA vs Japan
June 26: Semifinals 1 and 2
June 27: Bronze and Gold medal matches