With a secure 3-1 win over tournament debutant Portugal, the U.S. men’s volleyball team ended the second weekend of FIVB Nations League play on a good note Sunday in Ufa, Russia.
With 20 points, Ben Patch led the U.S. in scoring, giving the Americans their second victory after an opening weekend win over Australia. T.J. DeFalco contributed a dozen points in the 3-1 win over the Portuguese (25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 25-17). Mitch Stahl and Micah Ma’a each posted seven points while Micah Christenson had three blocks, helping salve tough losses to Italy and Russia earlier in the weekend.
Even a 24-point performance by Patch was not enough to keep powerful Italian opposite Gabriele Nelli and his team from taking down the Americans in a 3-1 (23-25, 25-13, 20-25, 23-25) defeat Friday, where Patch’s 24 points were answered by 27 by the 6’11” Nelli.
The U.S. faced an even tougher opponent in host Russia on Saturday, whose top scorer Victor Poletaev led his team to its fourth win in five starts. Though the Americans opened the day looking like they might challenge the Russians in the first set, Russia wasted no time, topping the U.S. 3-0 (22-25, 19-25, 15-25), with Poletaev scoring a match-high 19 points and Igor Philippov providing an excellent blocking service. Patch, with 13 points, was the only American to break the 10-point barrier in scoring.
“It was a good lesson for the team -- we have a lot of young players,” Maxwell Holt commented after the loss to Russia. “We just hope to keep getting better for these matches, finding ways to win and learn.”
Despite the rough start to the tournament at 2-4, the U.S. is guaranteed a place in the six team final in Chicago on July 10-14 as the host nation. The squad next heads to Cannes, France, to take on Argentina (2-4), Germany (2-3) and France (5-1).
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.