TOKYO, Japan (Sept. 23, 2015) – The U.S. Men's National Team qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games and won the FIVB World Cup on Wednesday.
In their final match of the tournament, the U.S. Men defeated Argentina, 25-20, 25-21, 17-25, 25-20 at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium. The victory gave the U.S. a 10-1 record, tying it with Italy and Poland. The U.S. won the first tie-breaker, which was the points earned for wins, with 30 points.
Italy, which tied Poland in record and points, took the silver medal and the second Olympic berth by winning the second tie-breaker, set ratio.
It is the first time the U.S. Men have won the World Cup since 1985 and the first time ever that they have qualified for the Olympics at the World Cup.
Opposite Matt Anderson was named the tournament Most Valuable Player. Micah Christenson was named Best Setter and Erik Shoji won Best Libero.
“To do something that hasn’t been done in 30 years is an exceptional achievement,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “I don’t think there is a harder tournament to win, physically and mentally, than the World Cup.
“The team was just tremendous in its ability to maintain focus and to play each match, each set, each point as if it would all make a difference in the end. And I think it did.”
Argentina, which finished the tournament in fifth place at 7-4, made sure the United States’ final match wasn’t boring. Many of the U.S. players were clearly exhausted when the match was over. Speraw sat Anderson for a time in the third set and put in Murphy Troy.
“I can’t become MVP without a supporting cast,” Anderson said. “I played well, but the team played extremely well together and fought through some really tough matches and some really tough times. We put ourselves in a great position. So MVP is for the team, not me.”
Anderson scored 15 points, including a match-high five aces and one block to go with nine kills.
But it was outside hitter Aaron Russell, who just finished his college career in May, who led the U.S. in scoring with a match-high 17 kills and one ace.
Argentina led the U.S. in kills, 53-49. The U.S. hitting efficiency was .308 while Argentina’s was .305.
Argentina led in blocks for most of the match, although the U.S. caught up, led by Christenson with three, and the teams finished tied 10-10. Argenta opposite Facundo Conte kept the pressure on the U.S. and led all scorers with 22 points, including 15 kills and a match-high five blocks.
But for yet another match, it was serving kept the U.S. in the match as it finished with 10 aces and 11 service errors. Argentina had three aces.
Middle blocker Max Holt was named the Most Impressive Player of the match, finishing with 12 points on 10 kills and two blocks.
Even Erik Shoji got into the scoring act when his overhand desperation dig from the endline fell on Argentina’s side with the U.S. leading 22-18 in the fourth set, but with Argentina making a charge.
Since the beginning of the season, Speraw has kept the team’s focus on World Cup; and while qualifying for the Olympics was paramount, he wanted the players to want more.
“I always wanted to set the goal higher than to qualify,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw said. “I think a lot of people come to this tournament and just want to get to the Olympic Games. I really wanted to do more.
“I want this team to set its site on gold medals at every tournament. I wanted to go through the process of full commitment to that endeavor. Whether we won or lost, I wanted the full commitment to see what we could learn.
“We came into this going for gold.”
Outside hitters: Taylor Sander and Aaron Russell
Middle blockers: Max Holt and David Smith
Opposite: Matt Anderson
Setter: Micah Christenson
Libero: Erik Shoji
U.S. Roster for the FIVB World Cup
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1. Matt Anderson (OH, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
2. Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9, Ellicott City, Md., Penn State)
3. Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., BYU)
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)
9. Murphy Troy (Opp, 6-8, St. Louis, Mo., Southern California)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
12. Russell Holmes (MB, 6-8, Fountain Valley, Calif., BYU)
16. Jayson Jablonsky (OH, 6-5, Yorba Linda, Calif., UC Irvine)
17. Max Holt (MB, 6-9, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
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)
U.S. Schedule for the 2015 FIVB World Cup (All times PT)
Round 1 in Hiroshima
Sept. 8: USA def Australia, 25-23, 25-12, 25-15
Sept. 9: USA def Japan, 25-23, 21-25, 25-11, 25-14
Sept. 10: USA def Canada, 25-21, 25-20, 25-17
Sept. 11: USA def Italy, 25-18, 25-23, 29-27
Sept. 12: USA def Egypt, 25-20, 25-13, 25-21
Round 2 in Osaka
Sept. 15: USA def Venezuela, 25-16, 25-18, 25-20
Sept. 16: USA def Iran, 20-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-21
Sept. 17: USA def Tunisia, 25-14, 25-19, 29-27
Round 3 in Tokyo
Sept. 21: Poland def USA, 17-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-15
Sept. 22: USA def Russia, 23, 26-24, 25-17
Sept. 23: USA def Argentina, 25-20, 25-21, 17-25, 25-20