U.S. Men’s National Team improved as it went along, but fell to Iran, 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-23) on Wednesday at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Rimini, Italy.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 10, 2021) – The U.S. Men’s National Team came out strong and swept Germany, 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 29-27) on Thursday at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Rimini, Italy.
The U.S. Men (4-4) will play Serbia at 9 a.m. PT on Friday (June 11).
Head Coach John Speraw started Brenden Sander and Garrett Muagututia at outside hitter, Kyle Ensing at opposite, David Smith and Mitch Stahl at middle blocker, Kawika Shoji at setter and Erik Shoji at libero.
Ben Patch, Josh Tuaniga and T.J. Defalco all played as substitutes.
The U.S. Men dominated the first set thanks to strong team blocking and serving. Outside hitters Sander, Muagututia and middle blocker Smith all recorded an ace.
“I think we were just focused from the start,” setter Kawika Shoji said. “We played very patient volleyball, we didn’t make a lot of mistakes and we stayed aggressive as well so big shout out to the rest of my team.”
Germany started strong in the second set and kept the set close until the U.S. Men scored three points in a row to go ahead 16-13, which included an ace off the tape from Ensing. A big play at the end of the second set from Smith where he dove to save a ball at the net gave the U.S. Men the spark to close the set.
The third set came down to the wire and every time the U.S. Men pulled away, Germany stormed back to keep it close. Blocking again played a big part for the U.S. Men led by Shoji with three and Muagututia, and Sander each with one. Sander’s solo block gave the U.S. Men a 28-27 lead and Shoji finished the match at the serving line with a walk off ace.
“For me it’s a big joy and a big honor to be back on the court,” Shoji said. “Our first setter Micah Christenson is not here right now, I want to send him a shout out and a lot of love to him and his family. For me it’s been a long time playing with our team and also had a little injury playing in Italy this season so it’s a lot of fun being back on the court.”
Christenson traveled home to California to be with his wife Brooke as they welcomed their second child, a boy, on June 7.
The U.S. Men led the match in kills (36-24), blocks (11-3) and aces (6-4). Sander and Muagututia tied best scorers for the match with 12. Ensing followed them with nine. Libero Erik Shoji looked to be on a mission from the start and played a huge role in the win with 6 digs and not a single reception error.
“I just hope we can come out again with a lot of good focus and energy tomorrow,” Kawika Shoji said. “There’s no guaranteed result, every match is very difficult here and I think that’s what makes VNL so exciting.”
U.S. Men’s National Team 14-Person Roster for FIVB Volleyball Nations League
No. Player (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
3 Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., Brigham Young Univ.)
4 Jeff Jendryk (MB, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola Univ. Chicago)
5 Kyle Ensing (OP, 6-7, Valencia, Calif., Long Beach State Univ.)
6 Mitch Stahl (MB, 6-8, Chambersburg, Pa., Univ. of California Los Angeles)
7 Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford Univ.)
8 T.J. Defalco (OH, 6-5, Huntington Beach, Calif., Long Beach State Univ.)
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.)
18 Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., Univ. of California Los Angeles)
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: Brazil def USA, 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-19)
May 30: USA def Argentina, 3-1 (23-25, 25-19, 25-15, 25-19)
June 3: Russia def USA, 3-1 (25-22, 25-29, 17-25, 25-19)
June 4: Poland def USA, 3-0 (25-17, 28-26, 25-17)
June 5: USA def Australia, 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-17)
June 9 at 9 a.m.: Iran def USA, 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-23)
June 10 at 7 a.m.: USA def Germany, 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 29-27)
June 11 at 9 a.m.: USA vs Serbia
June 15 at 7:30 a.m: 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