U.S. Men's Team Reaches World League Semifinals
B.J. Hoeptner Evans
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SOFIA, Bulgaria (July 6, 2012) – The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team advanced to the semifinals of the 2012 FIVB World League with a 25-21, 25-16, 25-17 victory over host Bulgaria on Friday.
The U.S. Men earned three points with the victory and won Pool A with four points and a 1-1 record. They will play Cuba (1-1), the second-place team from Pool B, on Saturday while Bulgaria (1-1) will face Poland (2-0). The winners will play Sunday for the gold medal while the losers will compete for bronze.
The U.S. victory was its fifth in 17 matches against Bulgaria. It last played Bulgaria in 2008, going 1-3 during World League pool play.
On Friday, the U.S. led Bulgaria in kills, 40-34, blocks, 10-5 and aces, 5-1. The U.S. Men also took advantage of 20 Bulgarian errors while committing 14.
“Our outside hitters passed the ball really well, which helped us run our offense,” U.S. opposite and team captain Clay Stanley (Honolulu) said. “Our middles had an excellent match getting numerous kills off the net. Donny (Suxho) set them really well. I look forward to the semifinals.”
U.S. outside hitters Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) and Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) shared the scoring lead with 15 points each. Anderson scored on a match-high 11 attacks (50.0 kill percent, .455 hitting efficiency), three blocks and one ace. Rooney totaled 10 attacks (62.5 kill percent, .563 hitting efficiency), three blocks and two aces.
Stanley added eight points on six attacks, one block and one kill.
Middle blockers David Smith (Saugus, Calif.) and David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) each scored seven points. Smith scored with seven attacks while Lee added four attacks and three blocks.
Setter Donald Suxho (Korce, Albania) contributed two points on two attacks and serving substitute David McKienzie (Littleton, Colo.) scored on an ace.
Suxho was credited with 16 assists and no faults. He set the United States to a 52.0 kill percent and a .455 hitting efficiency. Bulgaria had a 38.6 kill percent and a .182 hitting efficiency.
The U.S. was credited with 16 excellent receptions, including eight from Rooney and six by libero Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.).
Todor Aleksiev paced Bulgaria with 12 points on 10 attacks and two blocks.
“What I’m most proud of is how our team responded and the attention to detail and energy they brought tonight,” U.S. Head Coach Alan Knipe (Huntington Beach, Calif.) said. “We are going to need to show that in these next two matches.”
Knipe started Anderson and Rooney at outside hitter, Lee and Smith at middle blocker, Suxho at setter and Lambourne at libero.
McKienzie and Paul Lotman (Lakewood, Colo.) played as substitutes.
It is the first time all four teams have reached the World League semifinals together. The United States and Cuba have each won one World League title. The U.S. won World League in 2008 before going on to win the Olympic gold medal. The U.S. also won bronze in 2007. Poland won its only bronze medal at the 2011 edition and Bulgaria’s previous best result is fourth in 1994, 2004 and 2006.
The U.S. Men faced Cuba in May in the semifinals of the NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament. The U.S. defeated Cuba, 28-26, 25-18, 25-20. The U.S. is 3-2 against Cuba since 2008.
The U.S. Men took an 8-6 lead at the first technical timeout (TTO), scoring on two kills from Stanley, one each from Smith and Lee along with three team blocks. The U.S. led 16-15 at the second TTO and extended it to 17-15 on a Rooney block. With the U.S. leading 18-17, Bulgaria served into the net and then hit the ball out to give the U.S. a 20-17 lead. The U.S. reached set point at 24-20. Bulgaria scored on an attack by Georgi Bratoev before Rooney ended it with a kill.
Bulgaria led 4-2 in the second set when the U.S. scored on an Anderson block giving Smith the serve. Smith’s jump serve caused problems for Bulgaria and the U.S. put away two straight overpasses along with a third kill to lead 6-4. The U.S. led 8-6 at the first TTO then used a 4-1 run to increase the lead to 12-7. In the run, Lee, Anderson and Smith had kills and Rooney had an ace. The U.S. Men still led by five at the second TTO, 16-11. The U.S. kept up the pressure and reached set point at 24-16 on an ace by Anderson. A final attack from Rooney ended it for the U.S.
The U.S. Men took an 8-6 lead at the first TTO of the third set. With the score tied 6-6, the U.S. scored on a Bulgaria error and a block from Rooney and Lee. The U.S. extended its lead to three at 13-10 before Bulgaria pulled to within on at 13-12 and 14-13. The U.S. came back with two points, including a Smith attack, to lead 16-13 at the second TTO. The U.S. was leading 20-17 when Bulgaria’s attack hit the net. McKienzie came in to serve for the finals five points, which included two block and a final kill by Anderson to win the match.
U.S. Men’s Roster for 2012 World League Final Round
1. Matt Anderson (OH, 6-10, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
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. Paul Lotman (OH, 6-7, Lakewood, Calif., Long Beach State)
7. Donald Suxho (S, 6-5, Korce, Albania, USC)
8. Reid Priddy (OH, 6-4, Richmond, Va., Loyola Marymount)
11. Brian Thornton (S, 6-3, San Clemente, Calif., UC Irvine)
12. Russell Holmes (MB, 6-8, Fountain Valley, Calif., BYU)
13. Clay Stanley (OPP, 6-9, Honolulu, Hawai'i, Hawaii)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
21. David McKienzie (Opp, 6-4, Littleton, Colo., Long Beach State)
Head Coach: Alan Knipe (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
Team Manager: Rob Browning (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Assistant Coach: John Speraw (Irvine, Calif.)
Assistant Coach: Gary Sato (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Assistant Coach: Ron Larsen (Lafayette, Calif.)
Technical Coordinator: Chris Jackson (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Medical Support: Aaron Brock (Storm Lake, Iowa)
World League Final Round Schedule and Results
July 4: Bulgaria def. Germany, 26-28, 25-19, 29-27, 25-19
July 5: Germany def. USA, 20-25, 25-21, 21-25, 25-20, 16-14
July 6: USA def. Bulgaria, 25-21, 25-16, 25-17
July 4: Cuba def. Brazil, 25-19, 26-24, 25-22
July 5: Poland def. Brazil, 23-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 15-10
July 6: Poland def. Cuba, 25-23, 25-20, 25-23
July 7: USA vs. Cuba (7:30 a.m. PT)
July 7: Poland vs. Bulgaria (10:45 a.m. PT)
July 8: Bronze medal (7:30 a.m. PT)
July 8: Gold medal (10:45 a.m. PT)