U.S. Men Fall to Russia in VNL Final Six

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | July 06, 2018, 3:38 p.m. (ET)
U.S. Men's volleyball player Aaron Russell attacks against Russia
Aaron Russell takes to the skies to attack against Russia.
 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 6, 2018) – The U.S. Men’s National Team rested its starters but got some strong play from the second team in a loss to Russia, 25-22, 25-21, 25-21 on Friday in the Final Six of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Lille, France.

Both teams went into the match having already qualified for the semifinals. Both will have to wait until after Friday’s match between France and Serbia to see which team they will play next.

U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said his team’s difficult schedule caused him to rest his starters.

“We have a schedule in the finals where we have to play four matches in a row; so if you're fortunate enough to move on to the semis before you play your second match, then you have to make sure that you're managing rest and recovery for your players,” Speraw said. “It wasn't a hard decision to put the guys that didn't play for the first match on the court tonight.”

The U.S. Men started Aaron Russell and T.J. DeFalco at outside hitter, Jeff Jendryk and Dan McDonnell at middle blocker, Kawika Shoji at setter, Kyle Ensing at opposite and Dustin Watten at libero.

Russia, which had Thursday off from competition, started its very tall first team: Dmitry Volkov (6-foot-7) and Egor Kliuka (6-10) at outside hitter, Dmitriy Muserskiy (7-2) and Artem Volvich (6-10) at middle blocker, Dmitry Kovalev (6-6) at setter, Maxim Mikhaylov (6-7) at opposite and Alexander Sokolov at libero.

After seeing the U.S. starting lineup, Russia put in Ilia Vlasov for Muserskiy and Aleksei Kabashov for Sokolov during the first set. But left the rest of the lineup intact for the most part.

"Everyone's bigger, everyone's stronger, everyone's smarter [than in NCAA],” DeFalco said. “Also, with all the lights and crowd, it's not easy. But past a few points, all of that's gone. College is very schematic and strategic whereas here it's just go up and hit as hard as you can."

Russia led the U.S. in kills, 46-39, although the U.S. led heading into the third set, 31-28. Russia dominated the blocking (6-1) while teams tied in aces (4-4).

Russell led the U.S. Men with 14 points on 14 kills. Ensing added 11 points on 10 kills and one ace. Jendryk scored 10 points on eight kills, one block and one ace.

Mikhaylov led all scorers with 16 points on 14 kills, one block and one ace.

The U.S. had opportunities to win in the first two sets, but Russia’s experience and size proved to be the difference.

The first set scored was tied 18-18 when Kovalev went on a serving run, including an ace, to put Russia ahead 22-18.

The U.S. trailed 20-16 in the second set before pulling to within two at 21-19, but Russia again pulled away.

The U.S. trailed in the third set 22-15, but got back to within three at 23-20. It was too little too late as Russia scored on a U.S. serving error and a kill to win the match.

U.S. STARTERS VS RUSSIA
Outside hitters: Aaron Russell and T.J. DeFalco
Middle blockers: Jeff Jendryk and Dan McDonnell
Setter: Kawika Shoji
Opposite: Kyle Ensing
Libero: Dustin Watten

U.S. STATISTICS VS RUSSIA
Kills: Russell 14, Ensing 10, Jendryk 8, DeFalco 6, Dan McDonnell 2
Blocks: Jendryk 1
Aces: Ensing 1, Jendryk 1, DeFalco 1, K Shoji 1

U.S. Men’s 14-Man Travel Roster for Lille, France

1. Matt Anderson (Opp/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. Jeff Jendryk (MB, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola of Chicago)
7. Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
8. T.J. DeFalco (OH, 6-5, Huntington Beach, Calif., Long Beach State)
10. Dan McDonnell (MB, 6-6, Phoenix, Ariz., UC Irvine)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Hawaii, Southern California)
12. Max Holt (MB, 6-10, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
13. Ben Patch (Opp, 6-8, Provo, Utah, BYU)
20C. 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)
26. Kyle Ensing (Opp, 6-7, Valencia, Calif., Long Beach State)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Team Manager: Nate Ngo
Assistant Coaches: Rob Neilson and Brian Thornton
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Psychologist: Andrea Becker
Team Doctor: Eugene Yim
Consultant Coach: Mike Wall

Final Six Schedule/Results (All times PT)
July 4
Russia def Poland, 25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 25-17
France def Brazil, 22-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22, 15-13

July 5
USA def Poland, 28-26, 25-17, 25-18
Brazil def Serbia, 25-16, 28-26, 25-19

July 6
Russia def USA, 25-22, 25-21, 25-21
12:45 p.m. France vs Serbia