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U.S. Men Fight for Win over Italy

Nov. 22, 2013, 4:22 a.m. (ET)

¬≠TOKYO, Japan (Nov. 22, 2013) – The U.S. Men’s National Team fought for every point and defeated Italy, 25-21, 20-25, 22-25, 28-26, 15-13 on Friday at the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

Micah Christenson (1) sets for David Lee
   Micah Christenson sets for David Lee during Friday's match.

The U.S. Men (2-1) will face Iran (1-2) on Saturday at 12:10 p.m. local time (7:10 p.m. PT on Friday in the United States) in the round-robin tournament.

In the fourth set on Friday, the U.S. Men had three set points that were followed by service errors. Clark came back with a kill to give the U.S. the 27-26 lead. A block by David Lee won the set for the U.S., which went on to win the tiebreaker.

The players won the fourth set and the match because they have developed trust and confidence in each other over the course of the past two weeks of training and competition, said U.S. outside hitter and opposite Matt Anderson.

“For a younger team like us where we are new to playing together and being away from each other, you lose trust a little bit in your teammates to make good plays,” said Anderson, who led all scorers with 27 points. “We’re gelling really well together. We enjoy playing with each other. Trust is not a problem for us right now.”

Outside hitter Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.) was named the most valuable player of the match. Priddy came out of the match for Jeff Menzel to start the fourth set, but re-entered the fourth set and provided consistent passing and serving. He finished with nine points on five attacks, two blocks and two aces.

In a very close match statistically, the U.S. Men led in kills (65-64) and blocks (12-11). Italy led in aces (7-5). Each team scored on 28 opponent errors.

“The margins of victory here were very small,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw (Los Angeles) said. “What I’m most happy about with our team is the level of competitive attitude they had out on the court almost the entire match.

“For a couple sets, Italy was playing far better than we were. But I don’t think we ever seemed to get down. I think the guys were continuing to communicate and compete and that allowed them to make some small plays at the end that made the difference.”                      

Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.), who started at opposite but moved to the outside in the fourth set, scored on a match-high 26 kills and one block. Lee (Alpine, Calif.), at middle blocker, scored 13 points on six kills, four blocks and three aces. Middle blocker Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio) totaled 12 points on 10 attacks and two blocks.

Clark (Santa Barbara, Calif.), started the fourth and fifth sets and scored eight points on eight kills. Outside hitter Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) started the first three sets and scored six points on five kills and one ace.

Outside hitter Menzel (Santa Barbara, Calif.) entered the match as a substitute in the third set and started the fourth, scoring four points on four kills.

Setter Micah Christenson (Honolulu) finished the match with three points on one kill and two blocks and was credited with 33 running sets. Libero Erik Shoji (Honolulu) was credited with seven digs and 11 excellent receptions.

Speraw started Priddy and Rooney at outside hitter, Holt and Lee at middle blocker, Anderson at opposite, Christenson at setter and Erik Shoji at libero. Menzel took over for Priddy at outside hitter in the third set and started the fourth. At the start of the fourth set, Clark came in at opposite and Anderson moved to outside hitter with Menzel. Priddy later replaced Menzel in the set.

Kawika Shoji (Honolulu) played in all five sets as a serving substitute.

The first set was tied 16-16 when Lee served an ace and Italy had a hitting error. Holt followed with a block to put the U.S. Men ahead by three. Italy never rallied.

The U.S. Men led the second set 13-12 when Italy scored four straight points on three attacks and a block to take the lead for good.

The third set was tied 13-13 when Italy scored on two straight blocks. The U.S. kept the scored close and was within one point at 20-19 before Italy pulled away.

Speraw brought in Clark to start at opposite in the fourth set, moving Anderson to outside hitter with Menzel. With the score tied 2-2, the U.S. was called for a rotation violation. The United States’ points were taken away and Italy was given a point and the serve, for a 3-0 lead. Anderson responded with a kill and Lee later served for three straight points. A block by Holt gave the U.S. an 8-7 lead at the first TTO. The U.S. led by as many as three before Italy came back to tie the score at 15-15. With the score tied 23-23, Clark gave the U.S. its first set point with a kill off the block, but the next serve went out of bounds. The U.S. reached set point two more times, and each time had a service error before winning the set on a Clark kill and block from Lee.

The fifth set tiebreaker was tied at 11-11 when Lee scored on a block and Italy hit its next attack out of bounds, to give the U.S. the 13-11 lead. Clark gave the U.S. match point at 14-12 with a kill off the block. Italy responded with a kill, but served the next ball out of bounds for the victory.

Fourteen-Player Roster for FIVB World Grand Champions Cup 
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1. Matt Anderson (OH, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State) 
2. Sean Rooney (OH, 6-10, Wheaton, Ill., Pepperdine)
4. David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
6. Paul Lotman (OH, 6-7, Lakewood, Calif., Long Beach State)
7. Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
8. Reid Priddy (OH, 6-4, Richmond, Va., Loyola Marymount)
9. Murphy Troy (Opp, 6-8, St. Louis, Mo., Southern California)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
13. Futi Tavana (MB, 6-7, Kalaheo, Hawaii, BYU)
14. Jeff Menzel (OH, 6-6, Santa Barbara, Calif., UC Santa Barbara)
15. Carson Clark (Opp, 6-6, Santa Barbara, Calif., UC Irvine)
17. Max Holt (MB, 6-9, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
19. Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)

Head Coach: John Speraw (Los Angeles)
Team Manager:  Andrea Becker (Martinez, Calif.)
Technical Coordinator: Anton Willert (Berlin, Germany)
Assistant Coach: Matt Fuerbringer (Costa Mesa, Calif.) 
Assistant Coach: Mike Wall (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
Consultant Coach: Gary Moy (San Francisco, Calif.)
Consultant Coach: Tim Pelot (Florida)
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock (Storm Lake, Iowa)
Doctor: Andrew Gregory (Nashville, Tenn.)

FIVB Men’s World Grand Champions Cup Schedule
(all times Pacific Standard)

Nov. 19
Italy def. Russia, 28-26 25-20 19-25 27-25
Brazil def. Iran, 25-16, 25-17, 25-27, 25-23
USA def. Japan, 25-17, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20

Nov. 20
Iran def. Italy, 26-24, 16-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-12  
Brazil def. USA, 31-29, 25-23, 25-23
Russia def. Japan, 25-16, 25-17, 25-18

Nov. 21-22 
USA def. Italy, 25-21, 20-25, 22-25, 28-26, 15-13
Russia def. Iran, 25-23, 25-23, 25-19
2:10 a.m.: Japan vs. Brazil

Nov. 22-23
7:10 p.m.: Iran vs. USA
11:10 p.m.: Russia vs. Brazil
2:10 a.m.: Italy vs. Japan

Nov. 23-24
7:10 p.m.: Brazil vs. Italy
10:10 p.m.: USA vs. Russia
1:10 a.m.: Japan vs. Iran