Bulgaria Beats Young U.S. Men in Five Sets

July 18, 2008, 2:58 p.m. (ET)

B.J. Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800
E-Mail: bj.evans@usav.org

ANAHEIM, Calif. (July 18, 2008) – Missing four of its starters, the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team put up a battle before losing to Bulgaria, 2-3 (22-25, 26-24, 16-25, 25-23, 10-15) in an FIVB World League match on Friday in Varna, Bulgaria.

A crowd of 6,250 viewed the match between the United States, ranked No. 3 in the world and Bulgaria, ranked fourth.

The U.S. Men’s record falls to 9-2 in Pool C, which they have already won. Bulgaria, which sits in second place, improves to 7-4. The two teams will play again on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. PDT. In the other Pool C match played Friday, Finland defeated Spain, 3-2.

Following Saturday’s match, the United States will travel straight from Bulgaria to Rio de Janeiro for the final round on July 23-27. The U.S. Men will play Bulgaria again at the 2008 Olympic Games on Aug. 14 at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing. Both teams are in Pool A.

Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) led the U.S. Men with 19 points on 19 kills. Scott Touzinsky (St. Louis, Mo.) added 17 points on 14 kills and three aces. Gabe Gardner (San Clemente, Calif.) was the United States’ next leading scorer with seven points on four kills and three blocks.

Bulgaria’s Todor Aleksiev led all scorers with 28 points on a match-high 26 kills and two blocks.

Bulgaria out-blocked Team USA 16-10 and scored on five aces as opposed to three for the U.S. Men. Bulgaria converted 67 of its 145 hitting attempts for 46 percent. The United States had 52 kills on 127 attempts for 41 percent.

“We tried hard but it is tough with so many young players to face a team like Bulgaria in their own hall,” said U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand). “Of course, we wanted to win. But we take away experience from this match.”

McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) left four of his usual starters in the United States – setter Lloy Ball (Woodburn, Ind.), middle blocker Ryan Millar (Palmdale, Calif.), outside hitter Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.) and opposite Clay Stanley (Honolulu, Hawai’i), to let them recover from the past five weeks of World League competition and prepare for the Olympic Games.

On Friday, he started Rooney and Touzinsky at outside hitter, Tom Hoff (Park Ridge, Utah) and Delano Thomas (Sacramento, Calif.) at middle blocker, Gardner at opposite, Kevin Hansen (Newport Beach, Calif.) at setter and Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.) at libero.

Every player on the roster saw time on the court. Phil Eatherton (Glencoe, Mo.) started the final three sets at middle blocker in place of Hoff. David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) started the final two sets at middle blocker in place of Thomas. Brook Billings (Santa Barbara, Calif.) replaced Gardner in the third set and started the fourth and fifth sets.

Outside hitter Riley Salmon (League City, Texas) and setter Brandon Taliaferro (San Clemente, Calif.) both played as substitutes.

Thomas scored six points on five kills and one block. Lee scored five points on four kills and one block. Billings had four points on two kills and two blocks. Eatherton and Hoff each scored three points and Hansen had one.

Hansen was credited with 34 running sets, 62 still sets and five faults in 101 attempts for an average of 6.8 running sets per set. Lambourne was credited with nine digs in 15 attempts and 17 “excellent” receptions in 28 attempts.

The U.S. Men struggled to maintain leads throughout the match. In the fifth-set tiebreaker, they jumped out to a 4-1 lead, and then allowed Bulgaria to score five straight points for the 6-4 advantage. Team USA never led again.

In the first set, with the score tied 5-5, Touzinsky got the serve and had two straight aces, followed by a block from Thomas to give the U.S. Men an 8-5 lead at the first technical timeout (TTO). A Bulgarian hitting error increased the U.S. lead to 9-5. But Bulgaria did not give up and eventually tied the score at 11-11. Later, with the United States leading 19-18, Bulgaria’s Matey Kaziyski scored twice on a kill and then an ace. Aleksiev followed that with a kill to put Bulgaria ahead, 21-19. Team USA never recovered.

Team USA led 8-7 at the first TTO of the second set and led 16-14 at the second. With the United States leading 17-15, Bulgaria scored three straight points to take the lead. With Bulgaria leading 23-21, Team USA mounted a charge of its own, scoring on a Bulgarian serving error and a block by Gardner to tie the score. Bulgaria Head Coach Vladislav Todorov called timeout, but Hoff followed with a kill to give the United States set point at 24-23. Bulgaria called another timeout and tied the score on Andrey Zhekov’s kill. But a Touzinsky kill tied the score for the United States and Gardner’s block on Kaziyski gave Team USA the set victory at 26-24.

The United States took a 7-6 lead in the third set, but it was short-lived as Bulgaria went on a 7-0 run to lead 13-7 and Team USA never threatened.

Team USA turned the tables in the fourth set, taking an 8-6 lead at the first TTO and increasing it to 16-9 at the second. But Bulgaria went on a 6-1 run to cut the U.S. advantage to 17-15. The United States scored three straight points on kills from Lee and Rooney and a Bulgarian attack error, but Bulgaria eventually tied the score at 22-22 and then took a 23-22 lead on a U.S. attack error. Team USA regained the lead on two straight Bulgarian attack errors, and then took the 25-23 set win on Touzinsky’s kill.

View the U.S. Men's World League Media Guide at www.usavolleyball.org/media/national/08WL_MNTMediaGuide.pdf.

The U.S. World League site is www.usavolleyball.org/national/08WL.asp.

The FIVB World League site is www.fivb.org/EN/Volleyball/Competitions/WorldLeague/2008.

2008 FIVB World League
U.S. Men's Roster

2 Sean Rooney (OH, 6-9, Wheaton, Ill., Pepperdine)
4 David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
5 Rich Lambourne (L, 6-3, Tustin, Calif., BYU)
6 Phil Eatherton (MB, 6-9, Glencoe, Mo., Ball State)
7 10 Riley Salmon (OH, 6-6, League City, Texas, Pierce College)
11 Brook Billings (Opp, 6-5, Santa Barbara, Calif., USC)
12 C Tom Hoff (MB, 6-8, Park Ridge, Ill., Long Beach State)
14 Kevin Hansen (S, 6-5, Newport Beach, Calif., Stanford)
15 Gabe Gardner (Opp, 6-9, San Clemente, Calif., Stanford)
16 Brandon Taliaferro (S, 6-5, San Clemente, Calif., UCLA)
17 Delano Thomas (MB, 6-7, Sacramento, Calif., Hawai’i)
18 Scott Touzinsky (OH, 6-6, St. Louis, Mo., Long Beach State)

Head Coach: Hugh McCutcheon
Team Manager: Marv Dunphy
Assistant Coach: Ron Larsen
Assistant Coach: John Speraw
Team Doctor: William Briner, Jr.
Technical Coordinator: Jamie Morrison
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock

FIVB 2008 World League Standings as of July 18 (click on link to view team profile):

Pool A
Brazil 9-2
France 6-4
Serbia 5-5
Venezuela 1-10

Pool B
Russia 10-1
Italy 6-4
Cuba 5-5
Korea 0-11

Pool C
USA 9-2
Bulgaria 7-4
Spain 3-8
Finland 3-8

Pool D
Poland 7-3
China 5-5
Egypt 4-6
Japan 4-6

U.S. World League Schedule and Results

Date: June 13-14
Opponent: Finland
Location: Helsinki, Finland (LänsiAuto Arena)
June 13: USA def. Finland, 3-1 (25-18, 25-19, 23-25, 25-20)
June 14: USA def. Finland, 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-16)

Date: June 20-21
Opponent: Bulgaria
Location: Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
June 20: USA def. Bulgaria, 3-0 (25-23, 25-16, 25-16)
June 21: Bulgaria def. USA, 3-2 (12-25, 25-16, 25-20, 12-25, 15-13)

Date: June 27-28
Opponent: Finland
Location: Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis.
June 27: USA def. Finland, 3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-17, 25-20)
June 28: USA def. Finland, 3-1 (25-17, 22-25, 25-18, 25-18)

Date: July 4 and 6
Opponent: Spain
Location: Madrid, Spain
July 4: USA def. Spain, 3-2 (25-23, 25-22, 29-31, 20-25, 18-16)
July 6: USA def. Spain, 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-23)

Date: July 11-12
Opponent: Spain
Location: U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, Ill.
July 11: USA def. Spain, 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 27-25)
July 12: USA def. Spain, 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-13, 25-18)

Date: July 18-19
Opponent: Bulgaria
Location: Varna, Bulgaria
July 18: Bulgaria def. USA, 3-2 (25-22, 24-26, 25-16, 23-25, 15-10)

Date: July 23-27
Event: World League Final
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil