U.S. Surprises Leave Iran at a Loss

By B.J. Evans | May 30, 2015, 11 p.m. (ET)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (May 30, 2015) – The U.S. Men’s National Team surprised its guests on Saturday and not in a good way as the United States beat Iran, 25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23 in the first FIVB World League match of 2015 for both teams at the Galen Center.

 U.S. Men's National Team
   Matt Anderson, Micah Christenson and Aaron Russell celebrate.

The United States and Iran will play again at 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Galen Center. 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.

The U.S. Men caught Iran off guard with their starting lineup on Saturday, which included outside hitter Aaron Russell making his World League debut, Matt Anderson at the opposite position for the first time this season and David Smith starting at middle blocker.

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“Congratulations to USA team because they surprised us,” Iran Head Coach Slobodan Kovac said. “I don’t know why they didn’t play (opposite Murphy) Troy and they played (Aaron) Russell and he played very well. In the first two sets we don’t know him because he didn’t play before. This is a new player and he did his job very good.”

Troy started at opposite for the U.S. at the Champions Cup last week in Detroit. However Anderson took over at opposite for Saturday and Russell finished with 17 points, all on kills. Outside hitter Taylor Sander led all scorers with 19 points on 16 kills, two blocks and one ace.

Opposite Shahram Mahmoudi led Iran with 17 points on 15 attacks and two aces. Middle blocker Mohammad Mousavi added 12 points on 10 kills and two blocks.

U.S. setter Micah Christenson, playing on the court he ruled for four years while competing for the University of Southern California, showed how comfortable he was by amassing five aces with his laser-accurate jump serve.

“It was a battle between two different styles of service,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “When they were float serving and hitting their spots very well it caused us all kinds of problems. When we were hitting our jump serve well it caused them problems.”

The U.S. led in kills (60-49), blocks (7-3) and aces (8-5).

After the U.S. had won the first two sets, Iran came out firing in the third set and took a 13-6 lead. That’s when Sander scored with a block, giving the serve to Christenson, who fired off two straight aces and then a third serve that resulted in an overpass that Russell killed. Kovac called timeout, but Christenson responded with a third ace and then another ace two serves later. By the time the rally ended with a net serve, the U.S. led 15-13. Although it would go on to lose the set, it served notice that it was not going to give up.

In the fourth set, with the U.S. leading 22-19, Iran used two kills and a block to tie the score at 22-22. Russell scored on a kill and Sander added a block to give the U.S. match point. Iran scored on an attack before Smith ended it with a strike down the middle.

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)
15. Carson Clark (Opp, 6-6, Santa Barbara, Calif., UC Irvine)
17. Max Holt (MB, 6-9, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
19. Alfee Reft (L, 5-10, Oxnard, Calif., Hawaii)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
22. Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Team Manager: Andrea Becker 
Assistant Coaches: Matt Fuerbringer and Mike Wall
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock