The United States men’s volleyball team was only 9-6 during the Nations League round-robin schedule, knowing that it was automatically going to be in the final round as the host, at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
But when the playing really mattered, the U.S. defeated France (11-4) and Russia (12-3) to reach the semifinals, then out-fought Brazil (14-1 during the round-robin) to reach the final and meet Russia once again.
Close, but no cigar.
Outside Hitter Dmitry Volkov led Russia with 17 points, and Wing Egor Kliuka contributed 14 points in a tight 3-1 win (25-23, 20-25, 25-21, 25-20).
“I think we were patient because we knew USA was a great passing team,” Russian coach Tuomas Sammelvuo said afterwards. “We wanted to play a long match because they also played five sets late [in the semifinals]. Maybe their serving and passing wouldn’t be as effective. We started the game in trouble with our Opposite, but then he was able to get the most important balls down when we really needed it. It was a team effort, to believe and to trust in each other. We played as a team.”
Outside Hitter Taylor Sander led the U.S. with a match-high 20 points, and Matt Anderson, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, scored 19 points.
The All-Tournament team included:
● Best Outside Hitters: Egor Kliuka (RUS), Dmitri Volkov (RUS), Bartosz Bednorz (POL)
● Best Middle Blockers: Max Holt (USA), Ivan Iakovlev (RUS)
● Best Libero: Erik Shoji (USA)
● Best Setter: Micah Christenson (USA)
● Best Opposite: Matt Anderson (USA); also Most Valuable Player.
FIVB Men’s Nations League
Chicago, Illinois (USA) ~ 10-14 July 2019
(Full results here)
Final Standings: 1. Russia; 2. United States; 3. Poland; 4. Brazil; 5. Iran; 6. France; 7. Argentina; 8. Italy; 9. Canada; 10. Japan; 11. Serbia; 12. Bulgaria; 13. Australia; 14. Germany; 15. Portugal; 16. China.
Finals ~ Pool A: U.S. d. France, 3-1; Russia d. France, 3-0; U.S. d. Russia, 3-0. Pool B: Poland d. Brazil, 3-2; Poland d. Iran, 3-1; Brazil d. Iran, 3-2. Semis: U.S. d. Brazil, 3-2; Russia d. Poland, 3-1. Third: Poland d. Brazil, 3-0. Final: Russia d. U.S., 3-1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-21, 25-20).