HIRSOHIMA, Japan (Sept. 8, 2015) – The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team dished out 10 aces as it defeated Australia, 25-23, 25-12, 25-15 in its opening match of the FIVB World Cup on Tuesday at Hiroshima Green Arena.
Teams at the World Cup play 11 matches in 16 days in a round-robin format. The top two teams qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. will play host Japan on Wednesday (3:20 a.m. PT).
While the U.S. has struggled with serving at times this season, it was a strength on Tuesday. Along with the 10 aces, the U.S. had only 14 service errors. Aaron Russell finished with three aces while David Lee, Taylor Sander and Matt Anderson each had two.
U.S. players have been putting more emphasis on the jump float serve rather than the jump serve and their efforts have started to pay off.
“We’ve certainly spent a lot of time on serving,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “Aaron Russell served very well. Maybe one of the best serving performances he’s had this summer. We changed his serve around. He’s a very versatile player so he can do a lot of different things for us.
“The service game is really important for us. I think it can be a real strength. But if we have errors, it can be a real weakness too. I don’t want to be over-reliant on it, but I’m happy it was there tonight.”
Australia Head Coach Roberto Santilli said his team was surprised.
“We were actually waiting to have more problems with the jump serve, but we had problems with the float serve,” Santilli said. “We were not expecting it.”
Australia played a strong first set with solid digging, passing and blocking and held the lead at 23-22. But the score was tied when Australia served into the net. Max Holt followed with a kill of an Australia overpass and Russell won the set with an ace.
“That changed the momentum of the match,” Speraw said. The U.S. led 18-7 in the second set before winning 25-12. The U.S. led 14-7 in the third set before winning 25-15. In the third set, Speraw brought in Jayson Jablonsky at outside hitter for Russell, Murphy Troy at opposite for Anderson and Russell Holmes at middle blocker for Holt. Dustin Watten also saw time at libero for starter Erik Shoji.
Playing opposite, Anderson led all scorers with 17 points on 14 kills, one block and two aces. Outside hitter Russell added 14 points on 10 kills, one block and three aces.
Setter Micah Christenson was named the Most Impressive Player of the match as he set the team to a .521 hitting efficiency and also scored on one kill, two blocks and one ace. He receive a stuffed version of the event mascot Vabo Chan as his award.
“It’s an honor to receive the award, especially with how well everyone else on our team played,” Christenson said. “It’s a memento of Japan, but it doesn’t mean anything more than that.”
Outside Hitters: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle Blockers: Max Holt and David Lee
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
Kills: Anderson 14, Russell 10, Holt 7, Sander 5, Lee 5, Christenson 2, Holmes 1, Troy 1, Jablonsky 1
Blocks: Christenson 2, Holt 1, Anderson 1, Russell 1
Aces: Russell 3, Lee 2, Sander 2, Anderson 2, Christenson 1
Digs: E Shoji 11, Sander 6, Russell 3, Anderson 2, Lee 1, Holmes 1, Christenson 1, Holt 1
U.S. Roster for the FIVB World Cup
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1. Matt Anderson (OH, 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)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
12. Russell Holmes (MB, 6-8, Fountain Valley, Calif., BYU)
16. Jayson Jablonsky (OH, 6-5, Yorba Linda, Calif., UC Irvine)
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)
U.S. Schedule for the 2015 FIVB World Cup (All times PT)
Round 1 in Hiroshima
Sept. 7: USA def Australia, 25-23, 25-12, 25-15 | TV Universal Sports, 2:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 9 at 3:20 a.m. USA def Japan, 25-23, 21-25, 25-11, 25-14 | TV Universal Sports, 3:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 9 at 11:10 p.m. Canada v USA | TV Universal Sports, 2 p.m. ET
Sept. 11 at 8:10 p.m. USA v Italy | TV Universal Sports, 1 p.m. ET
Sept. 12 at 8:10 p.m. Egypt v USA | TV Universal Sports, 7 a.m. ET
Round 2 in Osaka
Sept. 15 at 8:10 p.m. USA v Venezuela
Sept. 16 at 8:10 p.m. USA v Iran
Sept. 17 at 8:10 p.m. USA v Tunisia
Round 3 in Tokyo
Sept. 21 at 1:10 a.m. USA v Poland | TV Universal Sports, 6 p.m. ET
Sept. 22 at 1:10 a.m. USA v Russia | TV Universal Sports, 6 p.m. ET
Sept. 23 at 2:40 a.m. USA v Argentina | TV Universal Sports, 6 p.m. ET