U.S. Men compete at VNL

ANAHEIM, Calif. (June 25, 2022) – The U.S. Men’s National Team held off multiple challenges from host Bulgaria to win their Volleyball Nations League (VNL) match on Saturday, 3-1 (25-12, 20-25, 26-24, 25-23) in Sofia.

The U.S. Men (6-1) will face Poland (6-1) on Sunday at 6:30 a.m. PT. The match will be shown live on VolleyballWorld.tv, a subscription service.


U.S. opposite Kyle Ensing led all scorers with 20 points on a match-high 17 kills (.682 hitting efficiency), two blocks and one ace. Outside hitter Aaron Russell added 16 points, including four on aces (a match high) that were critical to the victory along with 10 kills and two blocks.

Josh Tuaniga scored one points on a kill and combined with backup James Shaw to set the U.S. to a .468 hitting efficiency. Libero Erik Shoji led the back-row defense with eight digs and seven successful receptions.

A Bulgarian crowd of 5,200 created an intense atmosphere in Arena Armeec. After the U.S. Men won the first set easily, Bulgaria came storming back in the second, with tough serving and a faster offense, taking a 22-11 lead. The U.S. Men adjusted and got help from the bench, including Shaw, Kyle Russell and Garrett Muagututia, to pull back to within three at 23-20 before Bulgaria scored the final two points. Bulgaria fought back from a 16-12 deficit in the third set and had set point at 24-23 when the U.S. scored three straight on two kills from Aaron Russell and another by Ensing. Bulgaria fought off two match points in the fourth set before DeFalco got the kill for the win.

“It’s always a group effort,” Shoji said. “If one guy is struggling, we’re all struggling. Tonight, we needed to battle. We communicated, made a little bit of an adjustment and tried to fight through that last set.”

U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said the crowd and the 15-second serving clock affected on the match.

“The pace of play, with the 15-second break in between, is making each point happen more quickly,” he said. “It’s really affecting the way the game is played. When things are going well for you, it’s good. When the crowd is into it and the opponent’s making plays, it can feel rushed.

“I thought we did a good job of maintaining our poise, getting through those moments and finding a way to win, especially in the third and fourth sets.”

Among other U.S. scorers, outside hitter T.J. DeFalco had 12 points on 10 kills and two aces. Middle blocker Jeff Jendryk totaled eight points on seven kills (.700) and one block. Middle David Smith added seven points on five kills (.800), one block and one ace.

Kyle Russell and Muagututia each scored three points on three kills.

The contest was a bit of a salute to NCAA men’s volleyball. Not only did all the U.S. players compete in college in the United States, but Bulgaria’s top scorers did too.

Bulgaria’s leading scorer, outside hitter Alex Nikolov, was the 2022 AVCA Player of the Year as a freshman for Long Beach State. He scored 17 points on 14 kills and three aces. Second-leading scorer Rado Parapunov (15 points on 13 kills and two blocks) finished a successful career at Hawaii in 2021 when he was named Player of the Year.

U.S. Men’s National Team Roster for Round 2 of
2022 Volleyball Nations League
No. Player (Position, Height, Hometown, College, USAV Region)
2 Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State, Chesapeake)
3 James Shaw (S, 6-8, Woodside, Calif. Stanford, Northern California)
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)
6 Mitch Stahl (MB, 6-8, Chambersburg, Pa., UCLA, Keystone)
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)
15 Kyle Russell (OPP, 6-9, Loomis, Calif., UC Irvine, Northern California)
16 Josh Tuaniga (S, 6-3, Long Beach, Calif., Long Beach State Univ., Southern California)
17 Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola Univ. Chicago, Great Lakes)
18 Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., UCLA, Southern 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., Aloha)
27 Tyler Mitchem (MB, 6-11, Bolingbrook, Ill., Lewis Univ., Great Lakes)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Assistant Coaches: Matthew Fuerbringer, Mike Wall
Performance Analyst and Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Strength and Conditioning Coach: Tim Pelot
Consultant Coach: Mike Sealy
Sports Psychologist: Andrea Becker
Sports Psychologist: Bernard Whitney
Team Doctor: James Suchy

U.S. Men’s Schedule for the 2022 VNL (All times PDT)
All matches to be shown on VolleyballWorld.tv

Preliminary Round 1 – Brasilia, Brazil
June 7-11
USA def Slovenia, 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-14)
USA def Netherlands, 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-16)
USA def Japan, 3-2 (17-25, 25-15, 25-21, 26-28, 15-9)
USA def Brazil, 3-1 (21-25, 27-25, 25-20, 25-20)

Preliminary Round 2 – Sofia, Bulgaria
June 22-26
USA def Serbia, 3-1 (26-24, 23-25, 25-23, 25-20)
Iran def USA, 3-0 (25-18, 29-27, 27-25)
USA def Bulgaria, 3-1 (25-12, 20-25, 26-24, 25-23)

June 26 at 6:30 a.m.
USA vs Poland

Preliminary Round 3 – Osaka, Japan
July 4 at 11 p.m.
USA vs Germany

July 6 at 8 p.m.
USA vs France

July 8 at 11:40 p.m.
USA vs Canada

July 9 at 8:40 p.m.
USA vs Argentina

Final Round – Bologna, Italy
July 20-24