Poland Defeats U.S. Men in World League Opener

July 14, 2006, 12 a.m. (ET)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (July 14, 2006) - Poland used powerful hitting and took advantage of U.S. errors to win a hard-fought match 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-23) against the U.S. Men's National Team in the opening match of 2006 FIVB World League play on Friday at the E Center in Salt Lake City.

The two teams will meet again at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the E Center in Salt Lake City for their second match of the weekend.

Dawid Murek led Poland with 15 points on kills and one ace. Team captain Sebastian Swiderski added 14 points on kills. On the U.S. side, Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.) led the attack with 19 points on kills. Hometown favorite Ryan Millar (Palmdale, Calif.), a graduate of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, added nine points on kills.

The Polish team was jubilant after the victory, but knew it could not become complacent on Saturday.

"I think there is great balance between these two teams," said Polish Coach Raul Lozano. "I think today we did especially well in the attack.

"Tomorrow will be a different game. These two teams already know each other now."

The U.S. men knew they could have played better.

"We ended up shooting ourselves in the foot, not to take anything away from Poland," said U.S. libero Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.), who also played for BYU. "We dug holes for ourselves, especially in the second and third sets, where we needed major rallies just to make things interesting."

In a close first set, Team USA rode the strong serving and hitting of Clay Stanley (Honolulu, Hawaii) to victory. Stanley finished the match with four aces. On game point, Priddy hopped the low barriers surrounding the court and kept the ball in play. Poland's hit went long and the U.S. men won the set.

Poland came back to take the second set, getting out to a 20-14 lead before Stanley served for four straight points, including two aces, to bring the United States back to 20-19. However, kills from Poland's Pawel Zagumny, Daniel Plinski and Lukasz Kadziewicz helped Poland to a 25-23 win.

Poland's men came out in Game 3 with fire in their eyes and used powerful hitting to take a 20-13 lead. At 20-14, The United States' Gabe Gardner (San Clemente, Calif.), substituting for Jim Polster (Laguna, Niguel, Calif.), served for four straight points to bring Team USA back to 21-17. The U.S. men closed their deficit to one point, 23-22, before Poland pulled away for the victory.

The final set was a battle and the score was tied 22-22 when the United States hit the ball out of bounds to fall behind and went on to lose the game and the match.

"I think we need to work more on sets. Although we were leading for a time, we need more consistent play," Lozano said.

"I thought what we were trying to do relative to Poland was good," U.S. Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) said. "Our focus needs to be on our side of the net."

Saturday's game will be shown live in the United States on CSTV and will also be the game of the week on FIVB television.