Brazil won the day, but the U.S. put on quite a performance as the top two men’s volleyball teams in the world battled to a fifth set on Saturday night at the USA Volleyball Cup in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
Brazil, the reigning Olympic champion, won 23-25, 25-22, 25-23, 22-25, 18-16 on Saturday night after sweeping the U.S. in three sets on Friday night. The result mirrored what took place the week before in Brazil where the hosts won the first match 3-0 in Sao Paulo, and the second match 3-2 in Manaus. The U.S. also fell to Brazil in the FIVB World League semifinals.
The U.S. picked up a lift this weekend from the return of Olympians Matt Anderson, Max Holt and Aaron Russell, who won bronze at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Other 2016 U.S. Olympians in the lineup included brothers Kawika and Erik Shoji, Thomas Jaeschke, Micah Christenson, and David Smith, but it wasn’t enough.
Team USA rallied for a 25-23 win in an opening set that was tied 16 times on Saturday night. The 6-foot-8 Ben Patch, who only played the final set on Friday, started at opposite, while Matt Anderson moved from opposite to left outside. Both players had tremendous success but could not stave off the hungry Brazilians.
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Anderson hit two aces and claimed the winning kill in the fourth set as the U.S. surged to a 25-22 win. Smith, who didn’t play Friday, had two key kills in the fourth set as well.
Brazil, the reigning Olympic champion, blanked the U.S. 3-0 in Friday evening’s opening match with wins of 25-21, 25-23, 29-27, also at the Sears Centre Arena.
This is the fourth edition of the USAV Cup and the second time the men are hosting Brazil. The inaugural men’s tournament in 2014 featured Iran, followed by Brazil in 2015 and Japan last year. The U.S. dropped a three-game series (2-3, 0-3, 3-2) to the Brazilians in 2014.
Next up is the 2017 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup on September 12-17 in Japan, followed by the 2017 NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship on Sept. 26-Oct. 1 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, featuring teams from North America, Central American and the Caribbean. The continental championships serve as a qualifier for the 2018 FIVB World Championship on Sept. 10-30 in Italy and Bulgaria.
Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.