The U.S. men are heading into the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Six semifinals despite a loss to Russia to close out Final Six pool play.
Their opponent for Saturday’s game is yet to be determined.
Both the U.S. and Russia had already cemented their spots in the semifinals when they faced one another on Friday evening in Lille, France. On the line, however, was the top seed in the pool.
Russia, which was one of four teams to defeat the U.S. in the preliminary round, took the first set 25-22. The two teams were tied in kills with 13 apiece, but Russia held the advantage in blocks (3-0) and aces (2-1).
Despite leading in kills in the second set, the U.S. was undone by seven scoring errors in a 25-21 loss to fall behind 2-0. Russia completed the sweep with a 25-21 win in the third set.
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Aaron Russell, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, led the U.S. in scoring with 14 points.
The U.S. opened Final Six pool play Thursday with a snappy three-set sweep over Poland. That, coupled with Poland’s loss to Russia, ended the No. 6 team’s run and secured the Americans a spot in the semifinals.
Against Poland, Team USA got a spark from outside hitter Taylor Sander. The 2016 Olympian returned to the team after a break for the birth of his first child and had 14 points on 11 kills and three aces. Two-time Olympian Matt Anderson led all scorers with 15 points on a match-high 13 kills and two aces.
Sander hurt his knee during the third set against Poland and didn’t play against Russia.
The U.S. finished the preliminary round in third place with a record of 11-4 and losses to Brazil, France, Russia and Germany.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.