The U.S. men's national volleyball team recorded 10 aces on its way to beating Australia, 25-23, 25-12, 25-15, in its opening match of the FIVB World Cup on Tuesday at Hiroshima Green Arena in Japan.
Teams at the World Cup play 11 matches in 16 days in a round-robin format. The top two teams qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. will play host Japan on Wednesday.
While the U.S. has struggled with serving at times this season, it was a strength on Tuesday. Along with the 10 aces, the U.S. had only 14 service errors.
Aaron Russell finished with three aces while David Lee, Taylor Sander and Matt Anderson each had two.
We've certainly spent a lot of time on serving," U.S. coach John Speraw said. "Aaron Russell served very well. Maybe one of the best serving performances he's had this summer. We changed his serve around. He's a very versatile player so he can do a lot of different things for us."
U.S. players have been putting more emphasis on the jump float serve rather than the jump serve and their efforts have started to pay off.
"The service game is really important for us. I think it can be a real strength," Speraw said. "But if we have errors, it can be a real weakness too. I don't want to be over-reliant on it, but I'm happy it was there tonight."
Australia played a strong first set with solid digging, passing and blocking and held the lead at 23-22.
The score was tied when Australia served into the net. Max Holt followed with a kill of an Australia overpass and Russell won the set with an ace.
"That changed the momentum of the match," Speraw said.
The U.S. led 18-7 in the second set before winning 25-12. The U.S. led 14-7 in the third set before winning 25-15.
In the third set, Speraw brought in Jayson Jablonsky at outside hitter for Russell, Murphy Troy at opposite for Anderson and Russell Holmes at middle blocker for Holt. Dustin Watten also saw time at libero for starter Erik Shoji, who recorded 11 digs.
Playing opposite, Anderson led all scorers with 17 points on 14 kills, one block and two aces. Outside hitter Russell added 14 points on 10 kills, one block and three aces.
Setter Micah Christenson was named the Most Impressive Player of the match as he set the team to a .521 hitting efficiency and also scored on one kill, two blocks and one ace. He receive a stuffed version of the event mascot Vabo Chan as his award.