The USA men lost a very tough 3-0 match tonight to Brazil. This one was particularly hard with the scores 29-31, 23-25 and 23-23; hard to get much closer.
|Mike Wall, left, offers a low five to Erik Shoji before the match.|
Like many matches in today’s top volleyball world, this one turned a very few plays in each set. The USA started with the same group as yesterday, except Sean Rooney played for Jeff Menzel at one outside hitter spot. There was a lot to like about the way Team USA played and we had chances in all three sets to pull out a win or extend a lead. Just be a touch more consistent, a little better in some small areas and the outcome changes.
I particularly liked the play from the youngest starters, Micah Christenson and Erik Shoji. Both demonstrate maturity and a volleyball IQ beyond their years.
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The USA has some wonderful tools and strengths and matched up well with one of the best teams in the world (of course the USA is also one of the best teams in the world). As much as anything we need a bit more consistency serving. As with the match yesterday with Japan, we miss too many and lose chances to score points in streaks with our serving errors (16 tonight).
The closeness of the match can be demonstrated as both teams had 43 kills. Team USA got a few more aces to offset a couple of the six more serve errors, and made one more hitting error. Brazil scored a few more block points and gave up a few on nets and ball-handling errors; it was very close.
* Had to take a little break as we bused to the train station in Kyoto, took the bullet train to Tokyo and bused to the hotel here, arriving about 12:30 a.m.
Tomorrow, the team will get to sleep in, and have a real practice on their off day. The other results yesterday had Iran beating Italy in five, and Russia dominating Japan, 3-0. This tourney will likely be close as teams have not had much prep time, most coming together from their pro league teams, and most also trying some younger, new players.
As I’ve said, I like the direction that Coach Speraw and his staff have our team headed. They get along well, are well prepared, compete for every point and have a nice mix of veterans and experience. Creating a culture of competing hard every day, trying to improve every day, reducing errors and challenging both yourself and your opponents will ultimately produce great results. That’s the direction I see our men headed.
The rest of the schedule has us taking on Italy on Friday, then Iran and Russia on the weekend. This is a great collection of teams and matches for our players. Our staff gets to reconnect with the team after they have mostly been with their individual clubs for a month or more, do a little training and get some great info on key opponents for down the road.
I have to return to the states on Friday and won’t see the last three matches in person. We get great match reports from B.J. Evans who is traveling with the men.
Next year is the World Championship taking place in Poland for men and Italy for women. I’m excited for our teams and their chances.