RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (July 18, 2015) – In the end, what might have been for the U.S. Men’s National Team will hurt worse than what came to be.
There is no shame in playing for third place in the FIVB World League. But the U.S. Men came within three points of beating Serbia and making it to the gold medal match for a second straight year. Moreover, the U.S. fought back from a 0-2 deficit and Serbia’s match point at 25-24 in third set.
But what came to be is a 25-23, 25-21, 25-27, 20-25, 15-12 loss to Serbia on Saturday in the semifinals of the FIVB World League at Maracanazinho.
The U.S. Men will play Poland for the bronze medal on Sunday at 5:10 a.m. PT. Serbia will play France for the gold. The matches will be shown live on the FIVB YouTube channel.
“In the first two sets, we were a little apprehensive,” said U.S. Captain David Lee, who started the final three sets at middle blocker for David Smith. “We weren’t quite focused. Not until it came down to us being almost (losing) did we turn on the switch to say, ‘hey, it’s time to play.’ That upsets me.
“Our team has had this problem for the last two years. If we can fix that, I think we can be the best team in the world.”
Bright spots for the U.S. Men included the play of outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke, who started for a second straight match in place of Aaron Russell. Russell, who played briefly on Saturday, injured his ankle during Thursday’s pool play match against Brazil. Jaeschke was the United States’ second-leading scorer behind opposite Matt Anderson, finishing with 20 points (17 kills, two blocks, one ace) behind Anderson’s 21 (18 kills, one block, one ace). Jaeschke’s hitting efficiency was .424 and he also led the team in digs with 12.
Libero Dustin Watten also gave a solid effort in his FIVB World League debut subbing for Erik Shoji, who injured his knee while going after a ball in the second set. Middle blocker Max Holt finished with a match-high five blocks and setter Micah Christenson added four more. Holt and Taylor Sander each served two aces for the U.S.
The U.S. led in all three major statistical categories: kills (64-60), blocks (15-9) and aces (9-7). But 14 errors in the first two sets and 34 overall, as compared to 20 for Serbia, did not help the U.S. cause.
“I am mostly disappointed with our start,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “I didn’t feel that we brought the level of focus or competitive energy that we played the entire match the day before with. Once we went down 0-2, we found it. We made a really valiant effort to try to come back and win this match. I thought we had a really good opportunity to do so.”
The U.S. Men kept the first set close until the score was tied 23-23. A kill by Uros Kovacevic and U.S. hitting error gave Serbia the final two points. Riding momentum and the loud cheers of Brazilian fans still angry about their team’s ouster on Friday, Serbia took the second set pretty easily.
The U.S. Men reached set point in the third at 24-23, but served into the net. A Serbia kill through the block gave the Europeans match point, but Anderson fought it off with a kill and Holt got an ace to give the U.S. set point again. A Serbian hitting error gave the U.S. new life.
The U.S. quieted the crowd by winning the fourth set definitively and taking a 9-6 lead in the fifth. But with the U.S. leading 12-10, a U.S. serve into the net was launched a 5-0 Serbian scoring run to end the match.
Outside hitters: Taylor Sander and Thomas Jaeschke
Middle blockers: Max Holt and David Smith
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
Kills: Anderson 18, Jaeschke 17, Sander 14, Lee 6, Holt 5, Smith 3, Lotman 1
Blocks: Holt 5, Christenson 4, Sander 2, Jaeschke 2, Anderson 2
Aces: Christenson 2, Holt 2, Anderson 1, Smith 1, Lee 1, Sander 1, Jaeschke 1
Digs: Jaeschke 12, Anderson 9, Watten 6, Christenson 6, Sander 5, Shoji 4, Holt 1, Lotman 1, Russell 1, Lee 1
U.S. Roster for FIVB World League Final Round
July 15-19, 2015
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1. Matt Anderson (OH/OPP, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2. Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State)
3. Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., BYU)
4. David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
6. Paul Lotman (OH, 6-7, Lakewood, Calif., Long Beach State)
7. Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
9. Murphy Troy (Opp, 6-8, St. Louis, Mo., Southern California)
10. Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
12. Russell Holmes (MB, 6-8, Fountain Valley, Calif., BYU)
17. Max Holt (MB, 6-9, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
21. Dustin Watten (L, 6-0, Long Beach, Calif., Long Beach State)
22. Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
|May 30||USA def Iran||25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23||Los Angeles, Calif. | USC Galen Center|
|May 31||USA def Iran||25-16, 25-16, 20-25, 25-20||Los Angeles, Calif. | USC Galen Center|
|June 5||USA def Russia||25-18, 24-26, 25-15, 28-26||Long Beach, Calif. | the Walter Pyramid|
|June 6||USA def Russia||25-23, 25-21, 25-16||Long Beach, Calif. | the Walter Pyramid|
|June 12||USA def Poland||23-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 15-9||Hoffman Estates, Ill. | Sears Centre Arena|
|June 13||USA def Poland||23-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-17||Hoffman Estates, Ill. | Sears Centre Arena|
|June 19||Iran def USA||25-19, 29-27, 25-20
||Tehran, Iran | Azadi Stadium|
|June 21||Iran def USA||25-20, 25-21, 25-19
|June 26||USA def Russia||25-21, 25-20, 25-19
|June 28||USA def Russia||25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 25-18
|July 3||Poland def USA||19-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-20, 15-12
|July 4||USA def Poland||25-20, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23
|July 16||Brazil def USA||28-26, 22-25, 25-22, 27-25
||Rio de Janeiro
|July 17||USA def France||25-21, 25-22, 24-26, 25-20
||Rio de Janeiro
|July 18||Serbia def USA||25-23, 25-21, 25-27, 20-25, 15-12
||Rio de Janeiro
|July 19||USA v Poland||Rio de Janeiro