BRONZE BOMBSHELL: U.S. Men Beat Serbia at Worlds

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | Sept. 30, 2018, 2:51 p.m. (ET)

The U.S. Men's National Team poses after its bronze medal victory

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 30, 2018) – The U.S. Men’s National Team won its first FIVB World Championship medal in 24 years on Sunday when it beat Serbia, 23-25, 25-17, 32-30, 25-19 for the bronze in Turin, Italy.

It is only the third time the U.S. Men have medaled at the World Championship. They took gold in 1986 and bronze in 1994.

The U.S. Men finish the World Championship with a 10-2 record. Their only losses came in the third round to Brazil (when both teams had already qualified for the semifinals) and a five-set heartbreaker to Poland in Saturday’s semifinal.

“It’s really hard to play bronze-medal matches,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “We unfortunately know that.

“It’s really tough when you have such an emotional match like we had last night versus Poland that went late into the night. I know I didn’t get to sleep until 4 in the morning. I am proud of the way we were able to come out and compete.”

The U.S. Men took bronze earlier this year at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League and also at the 2016 Olympic Games.

"You can't understand how difficult it is to lose a heartbreaking semifinal and come back the next day and play a match for third place," Setter Micah Christenson said. "That wasn't your goal, but it's still something that should be absolutely wanted. You don't have many opportunities to win a medal at the World Championship."

On Saturday, the U.S. Men led Serbia in kills (65-45) with a kill percentage of 52.0 behind Christenson. Serbia’s kill percentage was 42.5. The U.S. also led in blocks (9-7) and aces (11-4). Serbia scored on 35 U.S. errors while committing 20.

Speraw said winning the third set 32-30 was important to the U.S. victory.

“I really felt like that’s when we started to play our best volleyball,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t the first two sets. It took us a while to get going. That was critical.”

The third set was close throughout and Serbia took set point at 24-23. Opposite Matt Anderson fought it off with a kill. The U.S. fought off two more set points and took its first set point at 27-26 on an ace from middle blocker Max Holt. Serbia fought off three more set points. At 30-30, Anderson scored on two straight kills off the block.

Anderson led all scorers with 29 points on a match-high 23 kills (57.5%), four aces and two blocks. Anderson scored three of the United States’ final five points of the match on kills. He also had three straight aces in the third set.

Outside hitter Aaron Russell added 16 points on 14 kills, one block and one ace. Holt had a match-high five aces to go with eight kills and one block. Middle blocker David Smith had a team high three blocks along with eight kills.

Outside hitter Taylor Sander, who left the second set for several plays with an apparent injury, finished with nine points. Christenson had five points and outside hitter Jake Langlois, who played for Sander, finished with a kill.

Middle blocker Dan McDonnell started the first set for Smith, but Smith started the rest of the match.

“It’s been a good year,” Speraw said. “Our program and Brazil’s were the only two that made it into both semifinals, VNL and here. I think we’re in a position now where we are competing for tournaments. When that happens, sometimes you can win them and sometimes you have disappointing losses. That’s the risk you take by challenging the best in the world.”

U.S. STARTERS VS SERBIA
Outside hitters: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blockers: Max Holt and Dan McDonnell
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
Substitutes: David Smith (MB) and Jake Langlois (OH)

U.S. STATISTICS VS SERBIA
Kills: Anderson 23, Russell 14, Smith 8, Holt 8, Sander 8, Christenson 3, Langlois 1
Blocks: Smith 3, Anderson 2, Holt 1, Russell 1, Sander 1, Christenson 1
Aces: Holt 5, Anderson 4, Russell 1, Christenson 1

Third-Round Results
Sept. 26
Brazil def Russia, 20-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-12
Serbia def Italy. 25-15, 25-20, 25-18

Sept. 27
USA def Russia, 25-22, 25-23, 25-23
Poland def Serbia, 28-26. 28-26. 25-22

Sept. 28
Brazil def USA, 25-20, 25-18, 25-19
Italy def Poland, 14-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-17, 15-11

Sept. 29
Semifinal: Brazil def Serbia, 25-22, 25-21, 25-22
Semifinal: Poland def USA, 25-22, 20-25, 23-25, 25-20, 15-11

Sept. 30
Bronze: USA def Serbia, 23-25, 25-17, 32-30, 25-19
12:15 p.m. Gold: Brazil vs Poland

U.S. Men’s Roster
1. Matt Anderson (Opp, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2. Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State)
3C. 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)
10. Dan McDonnell (MB, 6-6, Phoenix, Ariz., UC Irvine)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
12. Max Holt (MB, 6-10, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
13. Ben Patch (Opp, 6-8, Provo, Utah, BYU)
18. Jake Langlois (OH, 6-10, San Jose, Calif., BYU)
19. Taylor Averill (MB, 6-7, San Jose, Calif., Hawaii)
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
Assistant Coaches: Rob Neilson and Brian Thornton
Team Manager: Nate Ngo
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Team Psychologist: Andrea Becker
Team Doctors: Andrew Gregory and David Dyck
Scout Coach: Jon Parry
Consultant Coach: Mike Wall
Strength Coach: Tim Pelot 

U.S. Men’s World Championship Results
Round 2: Sofia, Bulgaria
Sept. 21: USA def Canada, 25-17, 25-14, 21-25, 25-17
Sept. 22: USA def Bulgaria, 25-20, 25-20, 25-18
Sept. 23: USA v Iran, 25-23, 26-24, 26-24

Round 1: Bari, Italy
Sept. 12: USA def Serbia, 15-25, 25-14, 21-25, 25-20, 15-20
Sept. 13: USA def Australia, 25-21, 25-20, 22-25, 23-25, 15-10
Sept. 15: USA def Russia, 25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 25-20
Sept. 16: USA def Cameroon, 25-18, 25-20, 25-14
Sept. 18: USA def Tunisia, 25-12, 25-18, 25-13