The U.S. men’s team was long on athleticism but short on experience in a 25-23, 25-20, 19-25, 25-20 loss to Japan Friday night at USC’s Galen Center.
Led by USA assistant coach Matt Fuerbringer, because head coach John Speraw was with his UCLA team at the NCAA Championship at Penn State, Team USA put forth a mix of veterans (Kawika Shoji, Garrett Muagututia, Carson Clark, and Dustin Watten) and college stars.
The team demonstrated superior physical prowess, but the skills of the Japanese squad won the day. The Japanese hitter coverage was especially impressive, as the USA frequently needed to block three balls to earn the point.
Japan won the battle at the net, with a hitting percentage of .465 to the USA’s .379, while tallying 53 kills to the USA’s 51. Japan also outblocked team USA 8-4.
The USA outserved Japan, serving four aces to Japan’s three, as well as fewer errors (16 to 21).
Garrett Muagututia led the USA with 17 points on 15 kills, one block, and one ace: I had to step up my game a little big today and do a little bit more, Muagututia said. Not necessarily to help (the team) with its playing, but to help them feel good in this atmosphere. It was all new to them.
The USA athletes are competing for roster spots for this summer’s competitions, including FIVB World League and the Pan American Cup.
Theyre fighting for roster spots, Fuerbringer said. Theyre fighting for future roster spots and theyre fighting for the USA when theyve got the uniform on. I think they had a lot to fight for.
The USA will face Japan again next Wednesday at 7:30 pm, at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach.
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