By Karen Price | Aug. 09, 2019, 4:25 p.m. (ET)

The U.S. men's volleyball team celebrating during a FIVB Nations League victory.

 

The U.S. men’s volleyball team is looking to lock down a spot at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 at this weekend’s qualification tournament in the Netherlands, and it took care of the first piece of business toward that end on Friday.

The No. 2-ranked U.S. men led off the FIVB Men’s Volleyball Intercontinental Olympic Qualification Tournament with a 25-20, 25-19, 17-25, 25-18 win over 12th-ranked Belgium. They picked up a full three points for the victory and are in first place in their group.

Next up for the U.S. is No. 24 South Korea on Saturday, followed by the finale against the No. 15 Netherlands, against whom the men went 3-1 in 2009 when they were in the same FIVB World League pool. The Netherlands defeated South Korea in five sets on Friday and is in second place in the pool with two points. The winner of the round-robin tournament will earn the Olympic qualifying spot.

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The U.S. fell behind 14-12 in the first set against Belgium but used a late surge to get the 25-20 win before building up a comfortable lead in the second set.

Belgium came into the third set with no momentum but stepped up its blocking and used it to cruise to a 25-17 win and keep the match going. However, the U.S. came back for the fourth set ready to close things out and turned in a solid effort to make it happen.

The roster includes nine players who won the bronze medal with the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics and at the 2018 world championships: opposite Matt Anderson, outside hitters Aaron Russell, Taylor Sander and Thomas Jaeschke, setters Micah Christenson and Kawika Shoji, middle blockers Max Holt and David Smith and libero Erik Shoji.

Russell led the team in scoring on Friday with 19 points followed by Anderson with 16.

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.