COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 9, 2017) – A young U.S. Men’s National Team took a big step forward on Friday with a 25-22, 25-23, 25-23 victory over a young Italian team in an FIVB World League pool play match in Pau, France.

Both the United States and Italy are now 1-3 in pool play. The match will be shown on Friday at 6 p.m. on NBCSN. On Saturday, the U.S. Men will face Russia (1-3) at 8:30 a.m. PT.

With both teams missing some of their stars, the match became a duel between two top setters, the United States’ Micah Christenson, 24, and Italy’s Simone Gianelli, 20, both medalists at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Christenson set the U.S. Men to a .447 hitting efficiency while scoring five points on two kills, two blocks and an ace. Italy finished with a .272 hitting efficiency and Gianelli scored two points.

“It feels great to get our first victory,” Christenson told the FIVB. “We really grew up today. We grew a lot and we got better as a team. To be able to finish sets, that’s something we struggled with the first weekend and that’s something we were able to do today. Everybody came in and played really well and consistently. We didn’t have a lot of ups and downs.”

With the score tied 23-23 in the third set, serving substitute Garrett Muagututia scored on an ace for match point. Christenson followed with a solo block of Italy’s Giulio Sabbi for the victory.

U.S. opposite Ben Patch, led all scorers with 17 points, including a match-high 13 kills (.571 efficiency) and a match-high four blocks. Outside hitter Taylor Sander added 10 points on nine kills and an ace.

“They’re amazing athletes,” Christenson said of Patch and Sander. “They jump so high and they hit so hard. They make it easy for me to give them a ball because they can go up and make so many points. We’re getting better every game and I think that showed tonight with the connections with the attackers.”

The U.S. Men led Italy in kills (43-40) and blocks (11-5) while the teams tied in aces (4-4).

The U.S. led the first set 21-18, but Italy scored twice to pull to within one point at 21-20. The U.S. still led at 22-21 when Patch scored on two straight kills from the back row to give the U.S. set point. Italy scored on a U.S. service error, but then served out of bounds to give the U.S. the set victory.

The second set was tied 23-23 when Patch scored on a right-side attack and middle blocker David Smith won the set with an ace.

U.S. Starters vs Italy
Outside hitters: Taylor Sander and Jake Langlois
Middle blockers: David Smith and Dan McDonnell
Sitter: Micah Christenson
Opposite: Ben Patch
Libero: Erik Shoji

U.S. Stats vs Italy
Kills: Patch 13, Sander 9, McDonnell 7, Langlois 5, Smith 4, DeFalco 3, Christenson 2
Blocks: Patch 4, Christenson 2, Smith 2, DeFalco 1, Langlois 1, McDonnell 1
Aces: Smith 1, Christenson 1, Muagututia 1, Sander 1

2017 FIVB World League
June 9-11 in Pau, France

U.S. Men’s Roster

3. Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., BYU)
4. Jeff Jendryk (MB, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola of Chicago)
7C. Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
9. Jake Langlois (OH, 6-10, San Jose, Calif., BYU)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
13. Dan McDonnell (MB, 6-6, Glendale, Ariz., UC Irvine)
14. Ben Patch (Opp, 6-8, Provo, Utah, BYU)
15. Carson Clark (Opp, 6-6, Santa Barbara, Calif., UC Irvine)
17. TJ DeFalco (OH, 6-5, Huntington Beach, Calif., Long Beach State)
18. Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., UCLA)
19. Taylor Averill (MB, 6-7, San Jose, Calif., Hawaii)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
21. Dustin Watten (L, 6-0, Long Beach, Calif., Long Beach State)
22. Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Team Leader: Mike Wall
Assistant Coaches: Matt Fuerbringer and Robert Neilson
Sports Psychologist: Andrea Becker
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Strength Coach: Tim Pelot
Consultant Coach: Anton Brams

TV Schedule and Results

Date and OpponentResultLocationTV (all times EDT)
June 2SerbiaL (25-18, 23-25, 25-20, 25-21)Novi Sad, SerbiaJune 2: 9:30-11:30 p.m. NBCSN
June 3CanadaL (23-25, 25-19,18-25, 25-23, 15-11)Novi Sad, SerbiaJune 3: 3-5 p.m. NBCSN
June 4BelgiumL (25-23, 25-16, 22-25, 28-26)Novi Sad, SerbiaJune 4: 6-8 p.m. UniHD
June 9ItalyW (25-22, 25-23, 25-23)Pau, FranceJune 9: 6-8 p.m. NBCSN
June 10RussiaPau, FranceJune 10: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. UniHD
June 11FrancePau, FranceJune 11: 3-4:30 p.m. NBCSN
June 15IranKatowice, PolandJune 15: 12-2 p.m.. NBCSN
June 17RussiaLodz, PolandJune 17: 6:30-8:30 p.m. NBCSN
June 18PolandLodz, PolandJune 18: 6-8 p.m. NBCSN
July 4Final RoundCuritiba, BrazilTBD: UniHD
July 5Final RoundCuritiba, BrazilTBD: UniHD
July 6Final RoundCuritiba, BrazilTBD: UniHD
July 7Final RoundCuritiba, BrazilTBD: UniHD