The United States men's national volleyball team took a big step toward challenging for the Pool A title in FIVB World League action Friday, giving Bulgaria its first loss, 25-19, 25-22, 25-21, at the Reno Events Center.
The Americans (4-1) moved into a second-place tie with Bulgaria, two points behind undefeated Brazil (5-0). The U.S. could take over sole possession of second place when the same two teams go at it again Saturday, also at the Reno Events Center.
After dropping their first match of World League competition, the Americans have won four straight.
Matt Anderson, who was named Player of the Match, led the United States in scoring with 15 points on 13 kills and two blocks. Carson Clark added 11 points on nine spikes and two aces.
"We knew coming into these matches that Bulgaria was going to put up a good fight," Anderson said. "They served really strong and put a lot of pressure on us."
Stanford grad Kawika Shoji was given the night off while younger brother Erik Shoji, also a Stanford grad, played all three sets at libero.
The teams were tied in kill, 38-38, but the U.S. led in blocks 15-4.
"I don't think either team played up to their full capabilities," U.S. coach John Speraw said. "We were able to execute in some areas of the game that allowed us to win."
The U.S. opened up a 5-0 lead to open the first set behind the serving of Smith and led 8-3 at the first technical timeout. Team USA led, 18-12, when Viktor Yosifov served a pair of aces to bring Bulgaria to within four, forcing an American timeout.
Yosifov's next serve went out of bounds. The United States reached set point at 24-19 and Bratoev served into the net to give Team USA the set win.
Bulgaria opened the second set with an 8-4 lead at the first timeout. The U.S. came out of the break and scored four straight points, including a kill and ace from Clark, and tied the score at 8-8.
The teams battled back and forth. With Team USA leading 19-18, Maxwell Holt scored with a kill and block to give the Americans a three-point edge. The United States reached set point at 24-20.
With Bulgaria leading the third set, 13-10, Team USA scored on two Anderson spikes and Bulgaria's hitting error to tie the score. It was still tied at 19-19 and reached match point at 24-21. Clark scored the final point on a kill off the block.