The U.S. men’s volleyball team saw its perfect record fall on Sunday in Goiania, Brazil, at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League tournament, but nonetheless came out of the second weekend of play ranked third with a 5-1 record.
Team USA dropped a close match in five sets to host Brazil, which is now second in the standings, 21-25, 20-25, 25-19, 25-20, 20-18.
The U.S. went up 2-0 on Brazil to start the match. The first set wasn’t without controversy, as Brazil got a yellow card for disputing a call. Then in the second set, two-time Olympian Matt Anderson’s 11 kills and one ace led the Americans to a second win in a row.
Brazil came back in the third, aided in part by 10 errors committed by the Americans, then took the fourth set as well to force a fifth and deciding set. The U.S. held a 16-15 lead but Brazil scored the next two points. Once again, the U.S. tied it but despite three match points, still fell to the Brazilians. Anderson led all scorers with 23 points on 22 kills and one ace.
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Team USA started the weekend’s matches against Japan on Friday. A poor start in which the Americans made a total of 25 errors saw them drop the first two sets. Coach John Speraw made a number of substitutions and changes, including bringing in Ben Patch, Kawika Shoji, Thomas Jaeschke and Taylor Averill, and the changes proved to be the right move as the U.S. bounced back to win 23-25, 13-25, 25-18, 25-20, 15-10. Patch led the team with 14 kills and one block and outside hitter Aaron Russell had 11 kills, two blocks and one ace in his first game with the U.S. team following the conclusion of his season in Italy.
Then on Saturday, the U.S. improved to 5-0 in the tournament with a 25-23, 25-21, 25-11 win over South Korea that moved the Americans into second place behind Poland. Once again, the U.S. started slowly but made up a three-point deficit in the first set and continued to battle until 2014 Youth Olympian T.J. DeFalco ended things with a kill off the block.
After making 11 errors in the first set, the U.S. would commit just 12 over the following two sets combined as it finally round its rhythm. The starting lineup consisted of Anderson at opposite, Micah Christenson at setter, Jake Langlois and DeFalco at outside hitter, David Smith and Averill at middle blocker and Erik Shoji at libero.
The tournament now moves to Ottawa, Ontario, beginning June 8 when the U.S. faces 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.