By Gary R. Blockus | July 09, 2017, 12:08 a.m. (ET)
Members of the U.S. men's volleyball team react during the semifinal match between Brazil and United States at Arena da Baixada Stadium at the FIVB World League 2017 on July 07, 2017 in Curitiba, Brazil.

 

The U.S. men’s indoor volleyball team finished fourth after a 3-1 loss to Canada on Saturday night to wrap up World League play.

The United States, playing without four of its starters from the 2016 Olympic bronze-medal-winning team, dropped to the bronze-medal match late Friday after a hard-fought 3-1 semifinal loss to Brazil by scores of 25-20, 23-25, 25-20 and 25-19.

The U.S. won its previous two bronze-medal matches in World League play, defeating Poland in 2007 and 2015, and earned gold in 2014.

The U.S. jumped out to a dominating 25-18 win in the opening set of the bronze-medal match against Canada, but fell 20-25, 22-24 and 21-25 in the final three sets. The team had leads of 3-0 and 5-2 in the final set that featured seven ties before Canada went ahead to stay at 16-15.

The fourth-place finish marked an impressive comeback by the younger U.S. squad, which opened World League play in early June winless in its first three matches of pool play. The team improved the following weekend, defeating Italy and Russia in straight sets before falling to France.

Team USA finished pool play 4-5 after overcoming Iran and Poland, but losing to Russia, in the final set of games.

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The U.S. men earned the sixth and final spot in the finals, where they again fell to France on Tuesday before beating Serbia the next day.

Saturday’s match marked the second-ever meeting of the U.S. and Canada in World League play, which began this year on June 2 with 36 teams. Canada defeated the U.S. 3-2 on June 3 in the first World League meeting between the teams. This time, the U.S. committed 36 errors.

Taylor Sander and David Smith, both 2016 Olympians, led the match with 14 points for the Americans while Smith added four blocks. Sander entered the game tied for the league-lead in scoring with France’s Stephen Boyer.

U.S. rookie Benjamin Patch, 23, scored 12 points in the match despite sitting out the final set. The 6-foot-8 Patch led the U.S. with 17 points the last time the teams met.

In addition to Sander and Smith, the U.S. team included fellow 2016 Olympians Thomas Jaeschke, Erik Shoji, Micah Christenson and team captain Kawika Shoji.

Up next the U.S. men will compete in the Pan Am Cup July 24-30 in Ottawa, Canada, along with Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Chile.

Also ahead is the USAV Cup against Brazil Aug. 18-19 at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

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.