U.S. Men Sweep Italy to Stay Undefeated

By B.J. Evans | Sept. 12, 2015, 1:09 a.m. (ET)

HIROSHIMA, Japan (Sept. 12, 2015) – The U.S. Men's National Team quieted Italy's tough offense to defeat the European side, 25-18, 25-23, 29-27 at the FIVB World Cup on Saturday at Hiroshima Green Arena.

The U.S. Men (4-0) are one of two undefeated teams left in the tournament along with Poland (4-0), which defeated Iran 3-2 on Saturday. Italy (3-1) suffered its first loss. 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.FIVB World Cup

Italy’s opposite Ivan Zaytsev, one of the leading scorers of the tournament, continued to be tough, leading all scorers with 19 points on 17 kills and two blocks. Outside hitter Filippo Lanza added 11 points. But Italy’s next three top scorers were held to four points each, including outside hitter Osmany Juantorena who had been averaging more than 13 points a match going into Saturday.

DATA VOLLEY STATISTICS | OFFICIAL STATISTICS | FIVB WORLD CUP PAGE

Middle blocker Max Holt said the U.S. was focused on Zaytsev, who left the match for time during the third set with an apparent injury.

“At the end of that third set, every ball was going to him,” said Holt, who finished the match with three blocks along with four kills.

“He’s a world-class player. He carries that team. You can tell that without him, they are a little confused on what to do.”

Setter Micah Christenson set the team to a .413 hitting efficiency (Italy’s was .310). He also scored on three blocks, one kill and one ace. Libero Erik Shoji was credited with eight digs and four excellent receptions.

Middle blocker David Lee, who was named the Most Impressive Player of the match, scored 11 points on six kills, three blocks and two aces. Opposite Matt Anderson led the U.S. offense with 17 points on 13 kills and a match-high four aces.

Outside hitter Aaron Russell also had 11 points on 10 kills and one ace and outside hitter Taylor Sander added 10 points on nine kills and one block.

“Our offense and blocking has improved throughout this tournament,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “With many of this group going through (World Cup) for the first time, I am very pleased with where we are.”

The U.S. was leading 11-9 in the first set when Holt scored on a kill. Anderson took the serve and hit two aces in a row to put the U.S. up by five. Italy had pulled to within three at 20-17 when Russell scored with a kill and Sander followed with a solo block. An ace by Anderson gave the U.S. a 23-17 lead and the U.S. went on to win.

Italy came back to lead 10-5 in the second set but the U.S. did not back down. With Italy ahead 13-10, Lee scored on an attack and then served an ace. A kill from Russell tied it up at 13-13. With the score still tied at 22-22, Holt got a block followed by Anderson’s third ace to give the U.S. set point. Zaytsev connected off the block, but Russell ended the set with a final kill.

The third set stayed close with each team scrapping for each point. Leading 18-17, Italy was called for being out of rotation after making a double substitution. The move also meant Italy had seven substitutes, one more than the maximum allowed per set. The U.S. protested, but the officials moved on with the match. The U.S. reached match point at 24-23, but Simone Giannelli fought it off with a kill of an overpass. The U.S. reached match point two more times. At 26-26, Italy took set point on an ace from Giannelli, but Anderson fought it off with a kill. At 27-27, Christenson blocked Zaytsev for match point and Russell won the match with a timely ace.

Saturday’s statistics
Kills: Anderson 13, Russell 10, Sander 9, Lee 6, Holt 4, Christenson 2
Blocks: Christenson 3, Lee 3, Holt 3, Sander 1
Aces: Anderson 4, Lee 2, Christenson 1, Russell 1
Digs: Erik Shoji 8, Sander 4, Christenson 3, Anderson 3, Russell 1, Lee 1

Saturday's starters
Outside hitter: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blockers: Max Holt and David Lee
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji

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) 

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

U.S. Schedule for the 2015 FIVB World Cup (All times PT)

Round 1 in Hiroshima
Sept. 8: USA def Australia, 25-23, 25-12, 25-15
Sept. 9: USA def Japan, 25-23, 21-25, 25-11, 25-14
Sept. 10: USA def Canada, 25-21, 25-20, 25-17
Sept. 11: USA def Italy, 25-18, 25-23, 29-27 | 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