LOS ANGELES (May 6, 2016) – A young group of U.S. Men’s National Team players held their own against a more experienced Japanese squad, but fell in the end, 25-23, 25-20, 19-25, 25-20 in a USAV Cup match on Friday at the Galen Center.
The two teams will play again at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif.
Japan is using the USAV Cup matches to prepare for its last chance to qualify for the 2016 OIympic Games at the Asian Olympic Qualifier on May 14-22 in Japan.
The young U.S. players competing Friday are fighting for slots on this summer’s international rosters including the FIVB World League and the Pan American Cup.
“They’re fighting for roster spots,” said U.S. Assistant Coach Matt Fuerbringer. “They’re fighting for future roster spots and they’re fighting for the USA when they’ve got the uniform on. I think they had a lot to fight for.
“We have an amazing group of athletes in our gym and I think these guys will learn a lot. The better they get, the more they will push our starters.”
U.S. Head Coach John Speraw was not at the match after his UCLA men’s volleyball team competed in the NCAA National Collegiate Championship semifinals on Thursday night in State College, Pennsylvania, where the Bruins fell to Ohio State.
Japan held the edge in kills (53-51) and had a .465 hitting efficiency as compared to the United States’ .379 behind the combined efforts of setters Kawika Shoji (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Jonah Seif (Thousand Oaks, California). Japan also led in blocks, 8-4, while the U.S. led in aces, 4-3, paced by opposite Will Price (Laytonsville, Maryland), who had three. Japan also struggled with 21 service errors while the U.S. Men had 16.
Outside hitter Garrett Muagututia (Oceanside, Calif.), who helped the U.S. win the FIVB World League in 2014, led the U.S. with 17 points on 15 kills, one block and one ace.
“I had to step up my game a little big today and do a little bit more,” Muagututia said. “Not necessarily to help (the team) with its playing, but to help them feel good in this atmosphere. It was all new to them.”
Libero Dustin Watten (Long Beach, California), who helped the U.S. Men win the 2015 FIVB World Cup, also stepped up as a leader on Friday.
“There were a lot of nerves out there,” he said. “Once things settled down, I thought we did some good things.”
Friday’s U.S. Starters
Outside hitter: Joshua Taylor and Garrett Muagututia
Middle blockers: Dan McDonnell and Taylor Averill
Opposite: Carson Clark
Setter: Kawika Shoji
Libero: Dustin Watten
Kills: Muagututia 15, Will Price 7, Kris Johnson 7, McDonnell 7, Greg Petty 6, Josh Taylor 5, Jonah Seif 1, Averill 1
Blocks: Petty 1, Johnson 1, Muagututia 1, McDonnell 1
Aces: Price 3, Muagututia 1