The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team rounded out the first stage of FIVB Volleyball Nations League pool play Sunday with a win over host China in Ningbo to start the tournament 3-0.
Team USA, ranked No. 2 in the world, made quick work of No. 20 China, defeating them in straight sets 25-20, 26-24 and 25-18. Outside hitter Taylor Sander, who won bronze with Team USA at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, led the way Sunday with 17 points, while opposite spiker Benjamin Patch contributed 15 of his own.
The American men began Nations League pool play with a nail-biting comeback win against Argentina on Friday night. After winning the first two sets 27-25 and 26-24, Argentina was on the brink of victory with a 24-23 match point in the third. Patch kept the U.S. in the match with a kill off the block, which turned out to be the turning point of the competition.
A kill and block courtesy of middle blocker David Smith helped the Americans regain control to edge Argentina 26-24 for the set. The U.S. held off the South Americans 25-21, 15-10 during the next two sets to secure a nail-biting win. For Team USA, it was a small measure of revenge against the country that sent them home from the 2014 world championships after a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in the second round. Patch led all scorers with 23 points on 21 kills and two blocks.
Saturday’s contest against Bulgaria went more smoothly, with the U.S. getting stronger as the match unfolded. Sander led the team with 19 points on 15 kills and added two blocks and two aces as the American men claimed victory in four sets, 25-19, 22-25, 25-19 and 25-20.
The Nations League format sees three teams traveling to a different location on four continents to play a round robin pool each weekend for five straight weekends. Team USA’s schedule has them traveling from China to Goiania, Brazil, to face off with Japan, Korea and Brazil next weekend, before heading to Canada, Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and Italy. The top five teams plus France will meet in Lille in northern France for final round competition July 1-4.