US Men Battle Back to Beat Iran

By B.J. Evans | Sept. 17, 2015, 1:21 a.m. (ET)

OSAKA, Japan (Sept. 17, 2015) – The U.S. Men's National Team has some recent history with Iran.

It goes back to the 2013 FIVB Grand Champions Cup when the U.S. held match point against Iran, but Iran fought back to win the fourth and then the fifth sets. It continued in 2014 when the U.S. hosted Iran for four friendly matches and went 3-1, but then fell to Iran 3-2 at the FIVB World Championship.

This year, the two teams faced each other in FIVB World League pool play four times and went 2-2, with each team winning its two home matches.

DATA VOLLEY STATISTICS | OFFICIAL STATISTICS | FIVB WORLD CUP PAGE

On Thursday, Iran looked to defeat the U.S. at another major FIVB tournament. But history was on the United States’ side as it adjusted and held off Iran, 20-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-21 in a World Cup match at Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium.FIVB World Cup

The U.S. improved its World Cup record to 7-0 with one match left to play in Osaka on Friday (9:10 p.m. PT) against Tunisia (0-7). 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.

In the first set, Iran’s blocking and digging quieted the U.S. back-row attack. Meanwhile, the U.S. defense had trouble with Iran’s fast offense and the U.S. serve struggled.

“They’re a good serving team. We knew that from watching them on film,” said U.S. libero Erik Shoji, who had a match-high nine digs. “They have really good jump serves and then their float serves are probably the best we’ve faced this tournament.

“The first set they came out strong and we made adjustments toward the end of the set; just little tweaks, taking a step here or there toward their tendencies.”

U.S. setter Micah Christenson also had to adjust.

“They came at us with some interesting tactics and they executed really well. In the first set, they served well and they schemed well,” Christenson said. “I’m really happy to say that we adjusted and figured out the organic flow of the game. We were really happy we cracked that code.”

Although Iran still finished the match with 15 blocks, the U.S. offense, led by opposite Matt Anderson with a match-high 17 kills and two aces, came through and out-attacked Iran 58-38. The U.S. had a .413 hitting efficiency while Iran’s was .346.

“With this team, there are so many tools, there are so many world class players, it’s never a bad option to set anybody,” Christenson said. “It’s just about feeding them in the best positions that they can be.”

Anderson was named the Most Impressive Player for the second match in a row.

The U.S. serving got stronger after the first set and the U.S. finished with seven aces, led by Christenson with four.

Christenson had two serving runs in the second set that helped the U.S. Men take control of the match from Iran.

With Iran leading 8-6, Christenson set David Lee for a kill, then took the serve and delivered an ace to tie the score. Two straight Iranian errors gave the U.S. the 10-8 lead. Later, with the U.S. ahead 16-15, Lee again scored with a kill and Christenson took the serve as the U.S. scored three more points to put the set out of reach.

The second set was tied 20-20 when Aaron Russell scored with a block and Taylor Sander followed with a tip to put the U.S. ahead. Iran was threatening at 23-22, but Lee and Max Holt each connected on attacks to give the U.S. the set.

The U.S. was trailing 7-6 in the fourth set when Christenson scored with a dump, then served to aces in a row. Iran’s hitting error and a kill from Russell put the U.S. up 11-7. Iran fought back and pulled to within one point at 11-10. After a long rally in which two of his attack attempts were blocked, Anderson scored on the third try. Russell followed with a kill and Sander served an ace to put the U.S. ahead 14-10.

Thursday'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

Thursday's statistics
Kills: Anderson 17, Russell 14, Sander 12, Lee 8, Holt 6, Christenson 1
Blocks: Christenson 1, Lee 1, Russell 1
Aces: Christenson 4, Anderson 1, Sander 1
E Shoji 9, Sander 8, Russell 6, Anderson 3, Christenson 3, Lee 2, K Shoji 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) 

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
Sept. 12: USA def Egypt, 25-20, 25-13, 25-21

Round 2 in Osaka
Sept. 15: USA def Venezuela, 25-16, 25-18, 25-20
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