The U.S. men’s volleyball team started the week with a losing record in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League tournament but turned that right around after an undefeated weekend in Cannes, France.
The U.S. went 3-0 and got scoring contributions from a variety of players, including Ben Patch and T.J. DeFalco, who entered the weekend leading the team in scoring with 57 points each, as well as two-time Olympian David Smith. They are now 5-4 in the tournament.
The week got off to a good start with a starting lineup that included more members of the 2016 Olympic team than any other match so far this tournament. With starters including setter Micah Christenson, outside hitter Taylor Sander, middle blocker Max Holt and libero Erik Shoji, the U.S. defeated Argentina 3-1 (25-22, 25-19, 21-25, 25-21).
Patch turned in another high-scoring performance, leading the team with 17 points on a match-high 15 kills and two blocks. Sander wasn’t far behind with 14 points.
On Saturday the squad pulled its tournament record even with a 3-1 (25-22, 21-25, 25-19, 25-20) win over Germany. Germany took the second set to tie it but the U.S. was able to control the final two sets for the victory, led by DeFalco with a team-high 18 points on 15 kills and three blocks. Opposite Kyle Ensing added 12 points on 11 kills and one block and middle blocker Taylor Averill had 11 points on nine kills and two blocks in his first start of the year.
The U.S. then faced France to close things out with another 3-1 win (23-25, 25-22, 28-26, 27-25) on Sunday. France took the first set, leading in blocks and aces despite the U.S. advantage in attacks. They rallied in the second, however, with Garrett Muagututia leading with nine points and Smith contributing seven and four blocks through the first two sets. Sander finished with the team lead in scoring with 16 points, followed by Muagututia with 14 points and Smith with 13.
The U.S. returns home for the next three matches, hosting Japan, Canada and China beginning June 21 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. All of the round-robin games they’ll play between now and the Final Six can be considered warm-ups for the medal quest, since the U.S. is hosting and has an automatic spot amongst those last six. The Final Six opens July 10 in Chicago.