Members of the U.S. men's volleyball team celebrate at the FIVB World Championship on Sept. 23, 2018 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The undefeated U.S. men’s volleyball team is heading to the semifinals for only the third time ever at the FIVB Men’s World Championship after a sweep over Russia on Thursday in Torino, Italy.
Team USA won the match in three sets, 25-22, 25-23, 25-23. This is the second time Team USA has defeated Russia in this tournament after winning in four sets on Sept. 15. Russia is the 2018 Volleyball Nations League champion.
Olympic bronze medalist Aaron Russell led the U.S. in scoring with 15 kills and Rio 2016 teammate Taylor Sander was just behind him with 13 kills. They helped Team USA pick up 47 kills in Thursday’s match.
Team USA took the first set from Russia with a 16-6 advantage in kills and 2-1 lead in aces. Although Russia continued to hold the advantage in blocks through the second set, the U.S. once again paced in other categories to set up the opportunity for the sweep.
Team USA is in a three-team pool along with Russia and Brazil, with the top two teams moving on to the semifinals. Russia lost to Brazil on Wednesday, so Thursday’s loss to the U.S. means that Russia is now eliminated. The U.S. and Brazil will move on; they also play on Friday to determine who wins the pool and the pairings for Saturday’s semifinal. The teams in the other final-six pool are Italy, Poland and Serbia.
The U.S. is now 9-0 at the tournament for the first time ever and has won the last three matches in straight sets for the first time since 1986, when Team USA won its only world championship gold medal. The only other time the U.S. medaled was in 1994, when the team finished third. This is just the fifth time the team made it to the final six in 15 tries.