The U.S. Men’s National Team battled its way to the Volleyball Nations League Final Round and will have to keep playing hard if it hopes to advance to the semifinals
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 20, 2022) – The U.S. Men’s National Team used a third-set rally to surge past Brazil, 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-17) and into a semifinal berth during the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) Final Round on Wednesday in Bologna, Italy.
“We not only won, but we won with some real poise at different parts of the match,” U.S. Men’s Head Coach John Speraw said. “To be down in the third and find a way to win at the end, that really changed the emotional tone of the match and allowed us to get off to a fast start in the fourth. Even then, Brazil – a talented, proud team – made a final push and we were able to weather that, score some points ourselves and finish it off.”
With the win, the U.S. advances to the VNL semifinal round for the first time since 2019. It will face Poland on Saturday, July 23. .
In 2019, the U.S. took silver at the VNL Finals, which were hosted in Chicago.
“We’re really excited to be back in medal contention again,” Speraw said. “Hoping to make it gold medal contention next. We’ll wait to see who we play next, but we’re proud of the team, proud of the effort not only tonight, but throughout VNL, and we’re excited to get back out on the court Saturday.”
With the score tied one set apiece, the U.S. Men took control of Wednesday’s quarterfinal in the third set. Brazil led late in the frame, but back-to-back kills from Aaron Russell and Kyle Russell tied the score at 21-all. Jeff Jendryk then powered down a ball that drifted too close to the net for a 22-21 U.S. advantage. A few points later, with the score tied at 23-23, Brazil served into the net to give the U.S. set point. T.J. DeFalco then won a joust to clinch the frame.
In the fourth, the U.S. took a large early lead at 12-5. Brazil clawed back to within one at 16-15, but Jendryk stopped the run with a block. Brazil took the next point, coming back within one. DeFalco found the floor twice in a row, and the U.S. ended the match on an 8-1 run topped off with a dramatic ace from Micah Christenson.
The teams traded the first two sets. Brazil, ranked No. 2 in the world, opened the match with a 20-25 first set win, never trailing, and the U.S. countered at 25-22 in the second. Except for a couple tie scores, the U.S. led the entire second set.
“Each time you play Brazil, it’s a battle,” libero Erik Shoji told VolleyballWorld.tv after the match. “They’re some of the best in the world. We wanted to fight and have fun and we did that. We won, and we’re in the semifinals.”
This is the MNT’s second win over Brazil during the 2022 VNL. They beat their rivals, 3-1 (21-25, 27-25, 25-20, 25-20) during pool play June 11 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Brazil landed more attacks than the U.S. Men on Wednesday, but the U.S. led in all other offensive categories. The MNT out-blocked Brazil, 7-3, tallied two more service aces, and scored on seven more errors.
DeFalco led the U.S. with 17 points, all but one coming in the attack. Aaron Russell scored 14 times from the attack, and David Smith also reached double figures with eight kills and three blocks.
Defensively, DeFalco also led with 11 successful receptions. Shoji and A. Russell each made nine successful receptions, and Russel also added 12 digs.
Christenson assisted on 34 kills for an efficiency mark of 34.0%.
U.S. Men’s National Team Roster for Final Round 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)
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)
11 Micah Christenson (S, 6-5, Honolulu, Hawaii, Univ. of Southern California, Aloha)
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)
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)
23 Cody Kessel (OH, 6-5, Colorado Springs, Colo., Princeton Univ., Rocky Mountain)
27 Tyler Mitchem (MB, 6-11, Bolingbrook, Ill., Lewis Univ., Great Lakes)
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
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
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)
Poland def USA, 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-22)
Preliminary Round 3 – Osaka, Japan
USA def Germany, 3-1 (25-21, 25-19, 22-25, 25-18)
USA def France, 3-2 (15-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-14, 15-8)
USA def Canada, 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-19)
USA def Argentina, 3-2 (29-27, 22-25, 20-25, 25-13, 17-15)
Final Round – Bologna, Italy
Wednesday, July 20
USA def. Brazil, 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-17)
Noon Pacific: Italy vs Netherlands
Thursday, July 21
9 a.m. Pacific: France vs. Japan
Noon Pacific: Poland vs. Iran