HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (June 13, 2015) – When Aaron Russell made his FIVB World League debut against Iran on May 30, Iran’s coach Slobodan Kovac said Russell surprised them.
Russell delivered another surprise on Saturday as he led all scorers with 20 points as the U.S. Men’s National Team defeated Poland, 23-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-17, before a sellout crowd of 10,000 at the Sears Centre Arena.
The U.S. Men improve to 6-0 and continue to lead Pool B. Poland, the defending world champion, falls to 4-2. Both Friday and Saturday’s matches will be shown on NBC Sports Network on June 14.
The U.S. Men will head overseas for their next six matches, starting with the team’s first-ever trip to Iran to play matches on June 19 and 21.
The United States is the defending champion of World League, which is the premier international men’s volleyball tournament. Teams play six weekends of pool play in hopes of qualifying for the Final Round and a check for $1 million.
Russell play on Saturday was in contrast to Friday night, which saw him get pulled in the second set.
“Tonight, I really tried to focus on every point rather than worry about what might happen next,” said Russell, who credited setter Micah Christenson for his great ball distribution and middle blocker Max Holt for drawing blockers away from him.
Russell scored on 19 kills and one block. His hitting efficiency was an impressive .783.
Outside hitter Matt Anderson added 14 points on 11 kills and a match-high three aces and opposite Murphy Troy scored 10 points all on kills. Christenson and Holt each contributed five blocks apiece as Holt finished with nine points and Christenson with seven.
The large crowd was dominated by fans of Poland. But as Poland began to lose sets, the crowd was quieted and by the end many were cheering for the United States.
The U.S. led in kills (53-36) and blocks (11-6) and were tied in aces (5-5). Poland scored 33 points on U.S. errors while committing 29. The U.S. gave up points on nine errors in the first set, which contributed to the set loss.
“Last night we wore them down,” Russell said. “I figured as long as we made plays and worked hard on defense, then we would be able to wear them down again.”
The U.S. held Poland’s Bartosz Kurek to 13 points one night after Kurek led all scorers with 24 points.
Poland Captain Michael Kubiak was asked if the Polish team was tired after the first set.
“We were tired of the American players defending our balls,” he responded.
Saturday's starting lineup:
Outside hitter: Matt Anderson and Aaron Russell
Middle blocker: Max Holt and David Smith
Opposite: Murphy Troy
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
Points: Russell 20, Anderson 14, Troy 10, Holt 9, Smith 8, Christenson 7, Jaeschke 1
Kills: Russell 19, Anderson 11, Troy 10, Smith 6, Holt 4, Christenson 2, Jaeschke 1
Blocks: Holt 5, Christenson 5, Russell 1
Aces: Anderson 3, Smith 2
Digs: E Shoji 10, Anderson 7, Russell 7, Christenson 5, Smith 4, Troy 4, Holt 3
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)
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)
8. Reid Priddy (OH, 6-4, Richmond, Va., Loyola Marymount)
9. Murphy Troy (Pop, 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)
15. Carson Clark (Pop, 6-6, Santa Barbara, Calif., UC Irvine)
17. Max Holt (MB, 6-9, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
22. Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
2015 FIVB World League
Galen Center in Los Angeles
May 30: USA d Iran, 25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23
May 31: USA d Iran, 25-16, 25-16, 20-25, 25-20
Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif.
June 5: USA d Russia, 25-18, 24-26, 25-15, 28-26
June 6: USA d Russia, 25-23, 25-21, 25-16
Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
June 12: USA d Poland, 23-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 15-9
June 13: USA d Poland, 23-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-17
June 19: USA at Iran
June 21: USA at Iran
June 26: USA at Russia
June 28: USA at Russia
July 3: USA at Poland
July 4: USA at Poland
July 15-19: World League Final Round (Must Qualify)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil