Atomic Bronze! U.S. Men Sweep Brazil for 3rd in VNL

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | July 08, 2018, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
The U.S. Men celebrate winning the bronze medal
The U.S. Men celebrate their sweep of Brazil in the VNL bronzed medal match.
 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 8, 2018) – The U.S. Men’s National Team swept Brazil, 25-21, 28-26, 28-26 on Sunday to win the bronze medal in the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Six in Lille, France.

The U.S. Men bounced back from a 3-2 loss to France in the semifinals to finish VNL with a 13-6 record. They will take time off before heading to Hawaii on July 22-29 to begin training for the 2018 FIVB World Championship (Sept. 9-30 in Italy and Bulgaria).

Russia beat France for the VNL gold medal, 25-22, 25-20, 25-23.

Taylor Sander was named one of the Best Outside Hitters and Matt Anderson was honored as Best Opposite.

The U.S. Men had finished third in the FIVB World League in 1992, 2007 and 2015. They won World League in 2007 and 2014 and took silver in 2012.

The U.S. Men’s serving and blocking was key on Sunday, as they led 7-4 in blocks, led by David Smith with three and Sander with two, and 5-2 in aces, led by Anderson with two.

Setter Micah Christenson and libero Erik Shoji played key roles, especially during some long rallies between the two teams.

On offense, Anderson at opposite and outside hitters Aaron Russell and Sander set the pace on offense early while middle blockers Max Holt and Smith came on strong later in the match.

“We brought everything we had today,” Smith said. “Obviously Brazil is dealing with some injuries right now, but they still put a very formidable team on that court. We just had to focus on what we had to do.”

Brazil, which had won six of the last seven world-level matches between the two teams, was playing without outside hitters Ricardo Lucarelli and Mauricio Borges and Luiz “Lipe” Fonteles.

Russell led the U.S. Men with 14 points on 13 kills and one ace. Anderson added 13 points on 11 kills and two aces. Sander scored 11 points on nine kills and two blocks.

"It was a heartbreaking loss yesterday," Russell said. "But I think that the guys were able to contain the emotions and come back to play a good match today.

"Personally, in terms of playing time, my coach makes great decisions with whatever he does. At the beginning of The Finals, it was a bit different for me because, even in college or in professional, I had not been a bench player until yesterday. So coming off the bench was a little bit difficult for me. I have a lot more respect for the bench players."

Opposite Wallace DeSouza led Brazil with 15 points, all on kills. Middle blocker Lucas Saatkamp added 12 points on 10 kills and two blocks.

The first set was tied 18-18 when Russell got a kill from the right side and Sander followed with a solo block of outside hitter Douglas Souza. The next U.S. serve went out, but Anderson scored on two straight kills to put the U.S. Men ahead 22-19. A Russell kill and Smith ace sealed the set victory.

The U.S. trailed in the second set 20-17. Brazil hit into the net and Russell got kill to cut Brazil’s lead to 20-19. With Brazil leading 21-19, Anderson got a kill and Russell added an ace to tie the score. The U.S. reached set point at 24-23. Brazil fought it off and two more set points. At 26-26, Anderson scored with a kill and Holt had a block to win the set.

The U.S. led for most of the third set. With the U.S. leading 23-20, Brazil scored on a kill off the block and then got a block and another kill to tie at 23-23. A Smith kill gave the U.S. its first match point. Brazil scored on a service error, then gave the U.S. another match point on a service error. At 26-26, Russell got a kill and Brazil’s next attack went out of bounds to give the U.S. the victory.

U.S. STARTERS VS BRAZIL
Outside hitter: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blocker: Max Holt and David Smith
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji

U.S. STATISTICS VS FRANCE
Kills: Russell 13, Anderson 11, Sander 9, Holt 6, Smith 4, Christenson 1
Blocks: Smith 3, Sander 2, Holt 1, Christenson 1
Aces: Anderson 2, Russell 1, Smith 1, Christenson 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
France def Serbia, 25-19, 25-18, 25-17

July 7
Semifinal: France def USA, 25-17, 25-17, 23-25, 24-26, 15-13
Semifinal: Russia def Brazil, 25-18, 25-17, 25-14

July 8
Bronze medal: USA def Brazil, 25-21, 28-26, 28-26
Gold medal at 11:45 a.m.: France v Russia