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American Express Continues to Roll

By BJ Evans | Sept. 11, 2014, 5:07 p.m. (ET)

LODZ, Poland (Sept. 11, 2014) – The U.S. Men’s National Team used strong serving and some extra energy from middle blocker David Smith to fight back from a first-set loss to defeat Serbia, 23-25, 31-29, 25-17, 25-21 on Thursday at the FIVB World Championship at Atlas Arena in Lodz.

Max Holt and Paul Lotman cheer
  From left,, Micah Christenson, Max Holt and Paul Lotman 
  celebrate a great play against Serbia.

The 3-1 victory gives the U.S. Men three more points in Pool E and moves them ahead of Serbia into fourth place. The top three teams from the pool will advance to the third round. The U.S. Men will leave Lodz on Friday morning and travel to Bygdoszcz where they will play Australia on Saturday (2:40 p.m. ET) and Argentina on Sunday (10:40 a.m. ET). Meanwhile, in Lodz, the top three teams: France, Poland and Iran, will all be playing each other and Serbia.

Thursday's match was less than 24 hours after the U.S. Men took a 3-1 victory over host Poland in an emotional match that didn't end until late at night. The Poland match drew more than 10,000 fans while Thursday's match had an estimated crowd of 3,400.

Serbia also came into the match with a reason to want revenge after the U.S. Men defeated the European team in the final pool play match of the 2014 FIVB World League to advance to the Final Round.

So it wasn’t surprising that the United States came out a little flat, losing the first set 25-23 and trailing in kills (17-13) and blocks (3-0) while leading in aces (2-1).

However, when the U.S. couldn’t establish a lead early in the second set, U.S. Head Coach John Speraw brought in Smith (Saugus, Calif.) for middle blocker David Lee (Alpine, Calif.). Smith finished the set with three kills, a block and two aces, including the set winner, a cut shot that caught Serbia by surprise.

“John always tells me when I go in that I should try to bring the emotional fire and the energy,” Smith said. “That’s one thing I do well. That’s just who I am as a player and it’s what we needed.

“Tonight was really a different match from last night. We had 10,000 Polish fans screaming last night and the music was pumping. Today it just seemed dead. It’s still a great place to play, but it was a lot quieter.”

Smith also brought some scoring, finishing with a match-high three aces along with a team-high four blocks and seven kills.

By the end of the match, the U.S. led in aces (10-2) and had 20 service errors on 103 attempts (19 percent). Serbia had 22 faults on 93 attempts (24 percent).

“I think those guys definitely feed off what they do at the service line,” Smith said. “Once they start scoring some runs of points and get some aces, they bring that confidence to their attacking as well. We never really let them go off like that.”

The teams tied in blocks (9-9) while Serbia led in kills (56-55).

Opposite Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) led the U.S. in scoring with 20 points on 19 attacks and one ace. Outside hitter Taylor Sander (Huntington Beach, Calif.) totaled 19 points on 15 kills, two blocks and two aces. Outside hitter Paul Lotman (Lakewood, Calif.) added nine points on eight kills and one ace.

Middle blocker Max Holt (Cincinnati) scored seven points on four kills, one block and two aces.

Lotman and libero Erik Shoji (Honolulu, Hawaii) were each credited with nine digs. Sander was credited with 16 excellent receptions, While Lotman had eight and Shoji had seven. Setter Micah Christenson scored four points and was credited with 37 excellent sets.

The U.S. Men led the first set 22-20 when Serbia scored on four straight kills to take set point. After a kill from Anderson, Serbia took the set on an attack by Milos Nikic. In the second set, the U.S. held set point at 24-20, but Serbia scored on three kills and a block to tie the score. The U.S. reached set point five more times and each time Serbia came back. But with the score tied 29-29, the U.S. scored on an Anderson kill and Smith ace to tie the sets at 1-1.

The U.S. held a slim 9-8 lead in the third set when Lotman scored with a kill and Anderson took the serve. The U.S. scored three more times, including a Christenson kill and Anderson ace, to lead 13-8 and Serbia never recovered.

The U.S. took a 15-11 lead in the fourth set, but Serbia came back to tie it at 17-17. At 19-19, Serbia served out of bounds and Anderson followed with a kill. A Holt ace put the U.S. ahead 22-19 and the U.S. went on to win.

U.S. Roster for the FIVB World Championship
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College) 
1. Matt Anderson (OH/Opp, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., 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)
10. Tony Ciarelli (OH, 6-6, Huntington Beach, Calif., USC)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California) 
15. Carson Clark (Opp, 6-6, Santa Barbara, Calif., UC Irvine)
17. Max Holt (MB, 6-9, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
18. Garrett Muagututia (OH, 6-5, Oceanside, Calif., UCLA)
19. Alfee Reft (L, 5-10, Oxnard, Calif., Hawaii)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
21. Nick Vogel (MB, 6-9, San Diego, Calif., UCLA)
22. Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)

Head Coach: John Speraw
Team Manager: Andrea Becker 
Assistant Coaches: Matt Fuerbringer and Mike Wall
Technical Coordinator: Anton Willert
Consultant Coaches: Tyler Hildebrand, Kathy DeBoer, Tim Pelot 
Athletic Trainer: Aaron Brock 
Doctors: David Dyck and Christopher Lee

2014 FIVB Men’s World Championship
Schedule and Results

First Round
Pool D (Top four advance)
France (4-1; 12 points)
Iran (4-1; 11 points)
USA (3-2; 9 points)
Italy (2-3; 5 points)
Belgium (1-4; 5 points)
Puerto Rico (1-4; 3 points)

2014 FIVB World Championship Schedule – Pool D
Kraków, Poland (all times ET)
View the entire World Championship schedule

Aug. 31
Iran def Italy, 25-16, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22
USA def Belgium, 25-21, 17-25, 25-16, 21-25
France def Puerto Rico, 25-23, 25-22, 26-24

Sept. 2
Iran def USA, 25-23, 25-19, 19-25, 18-25, 17-15
Belgium def Puerto Rico, 25-19, 25-17, 25-20
Italy def France, 20-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-13, 15-12                     

Sept. 4
USA def Puerto Rico, 25-15, 25-8, 25-20
France def Iran, 25-18, 14-25, 25-19, 29-27
Italy def Belgium, 26-28, 25-15, 25-16, 28-26

Sept. 6
France def USA, 19-25, 25-17, 25-15, 25-21
Iran def Belgium, 25-23, 25-15, 21-25, 25-20
Puerto Rico def Italy, 19-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-22

Sept. 7
France def Belgium, 25-14, 21-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-12
Iran def Puerto Rico, 25-17, 25-22, 25-14
USA def Italy, 25-18, 25-20, 23-25, 25-17

Second Round (Top three advance)
Pool E
France (13 pts; 4-1)
Poland (12 pts; 4-1)
Iran (11 pts; 4-1)
USA (10 pts; 3-2)
Serbia (9 pts; 3-2)
Argentina (3 pts; 1-4)
Italy (2 pts; 1-5)
Australia (0 pts; 0-5)

Łódź
Sept. 10
USA def Poland, 29-27, 25-22, 25-27, 25-23 
Sept. 11
USA def Serbia, 23-25, 31-29, 25-17, 25-21

Bydgoszcz (All times ET)
Sept. 13
2:15 p.m. USA v Australia
Sept. 14
10:30 a.m. USA v Argentina

Third Round: Sept. 16-19 in Łódź or Katowice
Final Round: Sept. 20-21 in Łódź or Katowice

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