HIROSHIMA, Japan (Sept. 9, 2015) – It is rarely easy to beat the home team, but the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team got it done on Wednesday, defeating Japan, 25-23, 21-25, 25-11, 25-14 in an FIVB World Cup match 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. (2-0) will play Canada (1-1) on Thursday (11:10 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9 PT).
For a second straight night, serving played a key role for the U.S., which led in aces 11-1. When the Japanese media asked U.S. Team Captain David Lee, who finished with three aces, about his serving success on Wednesday, he answered with a grin.
“It’s not just today that my serving has been on fire,” Lee said with a smile. “I think it’s been pretty consistent the last two days. My goal is to be aggressive. I was having a lot of success and I was keeping my errors down so I just continued to be aggressive until I made a mistake, which didn’t happen.”
Lee’s three aces tied for the team lead along with Micah Christenson, who set the team to a .436 hitting efficiency. Lee also had four of the United States’ 13 blocks on the night. The United States’ opposite Matt Anderson led all scorers with 20 points on 18 kills and two aces.
Outside hitters Taylor Sander (14 points) and Aaron Russell (12 points) and middle blocker Max Holt (eight points) also came through in the clutch for the U.S. libero Erik Shoji led all players in digs with 12.
Japan’s Masahiro Yanagida, who led his team with 14 points on 13 kills and one ace and didn’t start the fourth set, was named the match’s Most Impressive Player. An estimated 3,900 fans cheered on the home team along with at least five people dressed as mascots and the young male members of the Japanese musical group “Sexy Zone” who performed prior to the match.
U.S. Head Coach John Speraw was most impressed by his team’s improved play in the third and fourth sets. He credited Japan’s great play, particularly in serving and blocking, with his team’s error-prone play in the first two sets.
“Between their serve and defense, Japan put a lot of pressure on us the first two sets,” Speraw said. “We got our serve going in the third set, which really changed the momentum of the game. I thought we got better as the match progressed of taking care of some of the fundamentals.”
Russell, who scored the majority of his points in the third and fourth sets, credited the team’s confidence in its preparation.
“We stayed true to our passing lineup and our scouting report,” Russell said. “We knew they were come out and play hard and served tough. All we did was fight off some tough serves and they weren’t able to bring it the rest of the night.”
Things don’t get any easier on Thursday when the U.S. Men will face Canada, which beat the U.S. at the World Cup qualifying tournament in May in Detroit.
Outside hitter: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blockers: Max Holt and David Lee
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
Kills: Anderson 18, Sander 11, Russell 10, Holt 5, Lee 4, Holmes 2, Troy 1
Blocks: Lee 4, Holt 3, Russell 2, Holmes 2, Troy 1, Sander 1
Aces: Lee 3, Christenson 3, Sander 2, Anderson 2, Holmes 1
Digs: Shoji 12, Anderson 4, Christenson 4, Russell 3, Sander 2, 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