U.S. Men Open VNL Finals with Win over France

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | July 10, 2019, 11 p.m. (ET)

CHICAGO, Ill. (July 10, 2019) – The U.S. Men’s National Team started seven Olympians for the first time this season and while the result was not perfect, it was good enough for a 25-16, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21 win over France in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals on Wednesday at Credit Union 1 Arena.

VNL Finals pool play will continue Thursday as France plays Russia. They U.S. Men will be back in action on Friday when they will play Russia at 8 p.m. CT. The top two pool finishers advance to Saturday’s semifinals. Matches are being shown on FloVolleyball.tv, a subscription service.

U.S. Head Coach John Speraw saw Wednesday’s outing as an important first step, but saw room for improvement.

OFFICIAL STATISTICS | BUY FINALS TICKETS | FIVB VNL PAGE

“It wasn’t a very pretty match on either side,” Speraw said. “We just put this team together on Monday for the first time this summer. There’s definitely part of that where it wasn’t sharp. You could see that with some of the connections, like Micah Christenson and Matt Anderson.”

France used improved serving and U.S. mistakes to take the third set. But the United States came back in the fourth.

Outside hitter Aaron Russell, playing in his first match with the U.S. Men since the 2018 World Championship, finished with 16 points, second best on the team. But he felt he got off to a shaky start.

“It’s tough taking the whole pool play off and then jumping right into the final six,” he said. “The guys helped me out and supported me throughout. I was able to settle in. There are still a few kinks here and there, but it’s good to be back with the guys and it’s a lot of fun.

“I think passing was shaky at times. In that third set, we didn’t score a lot of points with our blocking defense. But we got it going in the fourth.”

Middle blocker Max Holt led the U.S. Men in scoring with 17 points on seven kills, eight blocks and two aces.)

The U.S. Men led France in kills (43-39), blocks (16-5) and aces (9-4).

Middle blocker Max Holt led the U.S. with 17 points on eight blocks, seven kills and two aces. The U.S. kill percentage behind setter Micah Christenson was 48.9 percent. France’s was 44.3.

U.S. STARTERS VS FRANCE
Outside hitters: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blockers: Max Holt and David Smith
Setter: Micah Christenson
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Libero: Erik Shoji
Substitute: Ben Patch (Opp)

U.S. STATISTICS VS FRANCE
Kills: Russell 13, Sander 12, Holt 7, Smith 5, Anderson 5, Christenson 1
Blocks: Holt 8, Smith 4, Russell 2, Patch 1, Christenson 1
Aces: Holt 2, Anderson 2, Christenson 2, Russell 1 Sander 1, Smith 1

U.S. Men’s Roster for VNL Finals in Chicago

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)
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)
30  George Huhmann (MB, 6-11, St. Louis, Mo., Princeton)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Assistant Coaches: Rob Neilson and Brian Thornton
Consultant Coach: Mike Wall
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock

Schedule for VNL Finals in Chicago
July 10
Poland def Brazil, 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 21-25, 15-9
USA def France, 25-16, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21

July 11
5 p.m.: Iran vs Poland
8 p.m.: Russia vs France

July 12
5 p.m. Brazil vs Iran
8 p.m. USA vs Russia

July 13
5 p.m. Semifinal 1
8 p.m. Semifinal 2

July 14
3 p.m. Bronze medal
6 p.m. Gold medal