VOLLEYBALL: U.S. men head to Tokyo after sweep of Olympic qualifying pool in Rotterdam

U.S. hitter Aaron Russell hitting over the block vs. Korea (Photo: FIVB)

The United States men’s volleyball team is going to be a contender for an Olympic medal in Tokyo, so it took care of its qualifying duties with a flourish, sweeping three matches at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam (NED) to confirm its place in Tokyo.

Winners of the bronze medal in Rio, the bronze medal at the 2018 World Championship and runner-up in the 2019 Nations League, John Speraw’s U.S. team went to Rotterdam as the favorites and disposed of all three of its opponents quickly:

09 August: U.S. d. Belgium, 3-1 (25-20, 25-19, 17-25, 25-18)
10 August: U.S. d. South Korea, 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-16)
11 August: U.S. d. Netherlands, 3-1 (25-18, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21)

Hitter Aaron Russell led the U.S. with 19 points against Belgium and 11 vs. Korea. Matt Anderson led the scoring vs. the Dutch with 18, and Russell had 17.

Now it can concentrate on Tokyo. The U.S. was one of six teams that qualified for 2020 on Sunday, with Brazil, Italy, Poland, Russia and Argentina joining the party. Russia was the only winner to sweep all three matches, with Poland winning nine of 10 sets and Brazil, the U.S. and Italy winning nine of 11. Brazil struggled mightily in its final match vs. Bulgaria (which was 2-0 coming in) and had to come from down 0-2 – winning set three by 32-30! – to finally win in five sets, 15-11.

Along with host Japan, seven of the 12 teams are now determined; there will be regional qualifying tournaments in early 2020 to fill in the remainder of the field. Summary:

FIVB Olympic Qualification Pools
Six locations ~ 9-11 August 2019
(Full results here)

Pool A ~ at Varna (BUL):
● 1. Brazil (3-0); 2. Bulgaria (2-1); 3. Egypt (1-2); 4. Puerto Rico (0-3)

Pool B ~ at Rotterdam (NED):
● 1. United States (3-0); 2. Netherlands (2-1); 3. Belgium (1-2): 4. South Korea (0-3)

Pool C ~ at Bari (ITA)
● 1. Italy (3-0); 2. Serbia (2-1); 3. Australia (1-2); 4. Cameroon (0-3)

Pool D ~ at Gdansk/Sopot (POL):
● 1. Poland (3-0); 2. France (2-1); 3. Slovenia (1-2); 4. Tunisia (0-3).

Pool E ~ at St. Petersburg (RUS):
● 1. Russia (3-0); 2. Iran (2-1); 3. Cuba (1-2); 4. Mexico (0-3).

Pool F ~ at Ningbo (CHN):
● 1. Argentina (3-0); 2. Canada (1-2); 3. China (1-2); 4. Finland (0-3).

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