The U.S. men’s national volleyball team couldn’t quite control Russia and fell, 31-29, 17-25, 25-19, 27-29, 15-13 in an FIVB World League match in Lodz, Poland on Saturday.
The loss drops the United States to 3-5 in pool play. Russia improves to 4-4. The U.S. will play host Poland (4-4) in its final pool play match on Sunday.
The U.S. led in kills (66-55) and aces (6-4). Russia led in blocks (17-14) and scored 39 points on U.S. errors while committing 29. The U.S. struggled to receive Russia’s serves at times and also their hard hitting.
“We almost took that match not playing our best volleyball,” U.S. Head Coach John Speraw told the FIVB. “In the third set we really struggled to side-out even if we were passing much better. So we have to go back and learn from that and see if we can play better against Poland.”
U.S. outside hitter Taylor Sander led all scorers with 28 points on a match-high 24 kills, three blocks and one ace. Opposite Ben Patch added 14 points on 12 kills and two blocks.
Middle blocker David Smith led the U.S. in blocks with four. T.J. DeFalco led in aces with two.
The U.S. Men held a 10-9 lead in the fifth set, but their next serve went out of bounds and Russia scored twice on a block and U.S. hitting error for at two-point lead. The U.S. Men never came back.
Setter Kawika Shoji, a Stanford grad took over for starter Micah Christenson during the third set and went on to start the fourth and fifth sets. The two combined to set the U.S. Men to a .281 hitting efficiency. Russia hit .226.
Libero Erik Shoji, also a Stanford grad, made several key defensive plays (though no scoring digs this time) and finished with eight digs and 10 excellent receptions.
The U.S. showed their grit when they came back from a 24-17 deficit in the first set to tie the score at 24-24. The U.S. held off five set points before Russia won the set.
That momentum carried into the second set where the U.S. took a 4-0 lead and later led 12-5 before cruising to the 25-17 victory.
Russia led the third set 8-6 and increased it to 14-8. Speraw switched Christenson for Kawika Shoji and brought in Carson Clark for Patch at opposite but the U.S. couldn’t close the gap.
The fourth set stayed close throughout and was tied 17-17 when the U.S. scored on kills from Sander and Clark to lead 19-17. The U.S. held set point at 24-21, but Russia played hard at the net and came back to take match point at 25-24.
The U.S. fought off match point again at 26-25. When Russia led 27-26, Smith scored with a kill then took the serve. Russia was charged with a violation to give the U.S. set point and DeFalco scored on a block for the set win.