The U.S. men’s volleyball team ended pool play at the FIVB World League with a 4-5 record after beating Poland on Sunday, 3-1 (29-31, 25-17, 27-25, 25-20).
Then all they could do was wait on the outcome of the match between Argentina and Bulgaria to learn whether or not they’d have a spot in the final round in Curitiba, Brazil.
The U.S. needed to finish among the top five or six teams to earn a spot in the final, depending upon where host Brazil — which has an automatic bid — finished. Brazil finished in second place.
With Bulgaria’s loss, the U.S. finished sixth, earning the final spot.
Team USA opened the final set of pool play contests with a win against Iran on Thursday. Outside hitter Taylor Sander finished with 12 points on nine kills with two blocks and one ace and was named match MVP in the 25-17, 25-22, 30-28 victory. By holding off five final set points in the third set for the win, the U.S. improved to 3-4.
In Saturday’s match they fell to Russia, 31-29, 17-25, 25-19, 27-29, 15-13. The U.S. led in the fifth set, 10-9, but after their next serve went out of bounds Russia scored on a block and a U.S. hitting error to take a lead they would not relinquish. Sander led the scoring with 28 points on a match-high 24 kills. Ben Patch scored 14 points on 12 kills and two blocks.
Then in Sunday’s final match, Sander again led all scorers with 17 points on 10 kills, four blocks and three aces while middle blocker Jeff Jendryk had 13 points on nine kills and four blocks. Opposite Carson Clark was named the match MVP with 12 points on 12 kills.
The U.S. men opened World League competition without a win, going 0-3 on the first weekend of competition, before reeling off a 4-2 record the rest of the way. They will join France, Brazil, Serbia, Russia and Canada in the final, held July 4-8.