College Standouts Still Learning vs. Brazil at VNL

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | May 31, 2019, 4 p.m. (ET)

The U.S. Men huddle to celebrate a point

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 31, 2019) – On May 4, T.J. DeFalco, Kyle Ensing and Josh Tuaniga were starting with the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team in the NCAA championship match in Long Beach.

On May 31, they were starting with the U.S. Men’s National Team against world No. 1 Brazil in the opening preliminary-round match of the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Katowice, Poland.

Things proved tougher at the international level and Brazil swept the U.S. Men, 25-22, 25-22, 25-23.

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Things don’t get any easier on Saturday when the U.S. will play defending World Champion Poland at 8 a.m. PT. All U.S. VNL matches are being streamed live on FloVolleyball.tv, a subscription service.

“There are some specific areas of the game we weren't good at tonight,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “Regardless of whether we were young and inexperienced, I want them to play and compete better. We served the ball well, we put a lot of pressure on them; but our transition was really poor.”

Although DeFalco and Ensing have played with the U.S. Men’s National Team before, Tuaniga made his debut as did opposite Kyle Russell and setter Micah Ma’a. Middle blocker Mitch Stahl made his VNL debut with the team.

DeFalco led the U.S. Men in scoring with 11 kills and two aces. Olympian Taylor Sander added 11 points on 11 kills and opposite Ensing had 10 points on eight kills and two blocks. Stahl had nine points on five kills, three blocks and one ace.

“We have a new team. We were a little bit nervous,” said Sander, the team captain. “We had some chances, but we were not so good in transition. I'm sure we will get better. It was the first match for a couple of guys. All of us will learn from that experience.”

The U.S. Men led in kills (42) and aces (4-0) while the teams tied in blocks (5-5). 28 scoring errors proved costly for the U.S. while Brazil committed 17.

Brazil’s Ricardo Lucarelli led all scorers with 14 points on 14 kills.

U.S. STARTERS VS BRAZIL
Outside hitters: T.J. DeFalco and Taylor Sander
Middle blockers: Jeff Jendryk and Mitch Stahl
Setter: Josh Tuaniga
Opposite: Kyle Ensing
Libero: Erik Shoji
Substitutes: Micah Ma’a (S), Kyle Russell (Opp),

U.S. STATISTICS V BRAZIL
Kills: DeFalco 11, Sander 11, Ensing 8, Stahl 5, Jendryk 5, Tuaniga 1, Russell 1
Blocks: Stahl 3, Ensing 2
Aces: DeFalco 2, Stahl 1, Tuaniga 1

U.S. Men’s Preliminary Roster

3C  Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., BYU)
4  Jeff Jendryk (MB, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola of Chicago)
5  Kyle Ensing (Opp, 6-7, Valencia, Calif., Long Beach State)
6  Mitch Stahl (MB, 6-8, Chambersburg, Pa., UCLA)
7  Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
8  T.J. DeFalco (OH, 6-5, Huntington Beach, Calif., Long Beach State)
9  Jake Langlois (OH, 6-10, San Jose, Calif., BYU)
14  Micah Ma'a (S, 6-3, Kaneohe, Hawaii, UCLA)
16  Josh Tuaniga (S, 6-3, Long Beach, Calif., Long Beach State)
18  Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., UCLA)
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)
25  Kyle Russell (Opp, 6-9, Loomis, Calif., UC Irvine)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Assistant Coaches: Rob Neilson and Brian Thornton
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock
Consultant Coach: Erik Sullivan
Doctor: Christopher Lee

2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League
U.S. Men’s Schedule (all times PT)

Katowice, Poland
Brazil def USA, 25-22, 25-22, 25-23
June 1 at 8 a.m.: USA v Poland
June 2 at 5 a.m.: USA v Australia

Ufa, Russia
June 7 at 4 a.m.: USA v Italy
June 8 at 7 a.m.: USA v Russia
June 9 at 4 a.m.: USA v Portugal

Cannes, France
June 14 at 8 a.m.: USA v Argentina
June 15 at 8 a.m.: USA v Germany
June 16 at 8 a.m.: USA v France

Hoffman Estates, Illinois, USA
June 21 at 6 p.m.: USA v Japan
June 22 at 5:30 p.m.: USA v Canada
June 23 at 2:30 p.m.: USA v China

Plovdiv, Bulgaria
June 28 at 10:40 a.m.: USA v Bulgaria
June 29 at 7 a.m.: USA v Serbia
June 30 at 7 a.m.: USA v Iran