Sports

Team USA volleyball improves to 5-0 at FIVB World Cup

 

The United States men's national volleyball team eased coaches concerns of a possible letdown Sunday by cruising to a 25-20, 25-13, 25-21 victory over Egypt in an FIVB World Cup match at Hiroshima Green Arena on Sunday.

Coaches were concerned there may have been a hangover effect from the Americans big 25-18, 25-23, 29-27 win over Italy on Saturday. It never materialized.

The U.S. improved to 5-0 in World Cup play with the conclusion of the first stage. Poland (5-0) is the only other undefeated team.

The Americans travel to Osaka on Monday for the next round, where they will face Venezuela (1-4) on Wednesday, Iran (2-2) on Thursday and Tunisia (0-5) on Friday. 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.

"When I looked at the schedule for World Cup, I was most concerned with this match," U.S. oach John Speraw said. "Mostly because I knew our team would be very focused on Italy. Egypt is a very good volleyball team. We have 100 percent respect for Egypt and the way they play the game. They are talented. They are big. They have very good servers."

But Egypt, which had lost a five-set match to Australia on Saturday, not to mention suffering two other five-set losses and one four-set loss during the Hiroshima series, was not quite itself on Sunday.

The U.S. led in kills (34-24), blocks (10-2) and aces (11-2). Behind setter Micah Christenson, its hitting efficiency was .400 while Egypt's was .087.

Outside hitter Taylor Sander, who led all scorers with 14 points on 13 kills and one block, said the coaches didn't need to worry.

"We know Egypt is a good team," Sander said. "For all the guys and me, I don't think we were going to let up at all in this match. We came out and we dominated the first two sets. They played well in that third set. We had to grab some energy from our tanks. We finished out strong and that's important for us."

Outside hitter Aaron Russell was named the Most Impressive Player, scoring 11 points on seven kills and a match-high four aces. Opposite Matt Anderson also scored 11 points on seven kills, two blocks and two aces.

Middle blocker David Lee was tough at the net with a match-high three blocks and two kills to go with two aces. Christenson and middle blocker Max Holt each had two blocks apiece. Christenson also had two aces while Holt had one.

While Speraw and the team were obviously happy about their World Cup start, they know there are six key matches left to go.

"Four years ago at this tournament, we had already lost three times. We are very happy to win these matches," Speraw said. "I think we've shown we've made some improvements from World League, which has been nice. The most important thing we need to continue is just focusing on the next match. We can't think about anything else now but beating Venezuela."

— B.J. Evans/USA volleyball

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