U.S. Men Win Battle with Belgium at 2020 Qualifier

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | Aug. 09, 2019, 6:23 p.m. (ET)

U.S. Men's National Team

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 9, 2019) – The U.S. Men’s National Team beat Belgium, 25-20, 25-19, 17-25, 25-18 on Friday in the first match of the Tokyo Volleyball Qualification Tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The U.S. Men will play Korea on Saturday at 10 a.m. PT in the second match of the round-robin tournament. The tournament winner qualifies for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The U.S. Men will play host Netherlands on Sunday at 7 a.m. PT. Matches are being shown live on the Olympic Channel and NBCSports.com/live with replays on NBC Sports Network.

Netherlands came back from 0-2 on Friday to beat Korea, 23-25, 25-27, 26-24, 25-20, 15-12.

"I'm thrilled with the win,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “Each of these matches is intense. Every team will play their best volleyball this summer. I feel like any win you can get is a great win. It also places additional pressure on us when we are the favorite. The opponents can come in and play free and loose.”

For most of the match, the U.S. Men played better than Belgium, leading in kills (58-42) and blocks (9-5) while the teams tied in aces (4-4). The U.S. was hurt by 31 errors while Belgium committed 21.

Setter Micah Christenson helped the U.S. to a .586 kill percentage while Belgium’s was .442.

“(Belgium) had some amazing plays in the third set,” Christenson said. “I don’t necessarily think we played our best, but we didn’t play bad. We didn’t give up. We expected a battle. I’m super excited about how we responded in the fourth.”

Outside hitter Aaron Russell led all scorers with 19 points on a match-high 17 kills and two blocks. Opposite Matt Anderson added 17 points on 13 kills, two blocks and two aces. Middle blocker Max Holt scored 10 points on 10 kills.

Outside hitter Garrett Muagututia, who entered the match in the third set to help stabilize the U.S. passing and started the fourth for Thomas Jaeschke, finished with 10 points on six kills, two blocks and two aces.

Middle blocker David Smith scored seven points on six kills and one blocks. Christenson totaled five points on three kills and two blocks and Jaeschke finished with three points on three kills.

“Tomorrow will be Korea,” Speraw said. “We don’t know that much about them. They don’t have that much video from the summer. They are playing with a bunch of guys from previous teams. We’ll go and play as hard as we can again."

The U.S. Men trailed 13-15 in the first set but tied it on kills from Holt and Jaeschke. With the score still tied at 20-20, the U.S. scored five straight points on Christenson’s block, Russell’s kill off the block, Anderson’s ace and two straight blocks from Russell.

The U.S. led 8-7 at the first technical timeout of the second set, but pulled ahead to 16-12 at the second timeout and Belgium never threatened.

Belgium came out swinging in the third set and the U.S. block did not respond. Belgium led 8-5 at the first technical timeout. The U.S. Men pulled to within one at 8-7 and still trailed by one at 10-9 when Belgium scored three straight points on a U.S. error and two straight blocks. The U.S. scored on a Smith kill, but Belgium scored two more to lead 15-10 and the U.S. couldn’t catch up.

The U.S. grabbed an 8-6 lead in the fourth set and used an 8-3 run to run away with the win.

U.S STARTERS VS BELGIUM
Outside hitters: Aaron Russell and Thomas Jaeschke
Middle blockers: Max Holt and David Smith
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji

U.S. STATISTICS VS BELGIUM
Kills: Russell 17, Anderson 13, Holt 10, Muagututia 6, Smith 6, Christenson 3, Jaeschke 3
Blocks: Russell 2, Anderson 2, Muagututia 2, Christenson 2, Smith 1
Aces: Anderson 2, Muagututia 2

WHERE TO WATCH
(All times PT; please check your local listings)

Friday, Aug. 9
Netherlands def Korea, 23-25, 25-27, 26-24, 25-20, 15-12
USA def Belgium, 25-20, 25-19, 17-25, 25-18

USA replay at 5 p.m. on Olympic Channel
USA replay at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

Saturday, Aug. 10
10 a.m. USA vs South Korea 
Live on Olympic Channel and NBCSports.com/live (broadcast may start later depending on previous match)
Replay at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

Sunday Aug. 11
7 a.m. USA vs Netherlands
Olympic Channel and NBCSports.com/live
Replay at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN

U.S. Men’s Roster for Tokyo Qualification Tournament

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)
Mitch Stahl (MB, 6-8, Chambersburg, Pa., UCLA)
7  Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
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)
14  Micah Ma'a (S, 6-3, Kaneohe, Hawaii, UCLA)
17  Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola)
18  Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., UCLA)
20  David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
22  Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Assistant Coaches: Rob Neilson and Brian Thornton
Consultant Coach: Mike Wall
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Doctor: William Stetson
Sports Psychologist: Bernard Whitney
Trainer: Tim Pelot