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Anderson, USA men close to clinching Olympic bid with win over Slovenia

The USA men after beating Slovenia/Volleyball World photo

The veteran did it again and now the USA men are probably a victory away from clinching a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Matt Anderson, the 36-year-old opposite, had 14 kills, two aces and a team-high eight digs Thursday in the Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier as the Americans defeated Slovenia 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 25-18.

It left them 5-0 with two matches to play in the tournament in Tokyo. The top two teams in the pool clinch Olympic bids.

The USA can eliminate Serbia (3-2) on Saturday and could clinch if Slovenia (4-1) beats Japan (4-1). The USA plays Japan on Sunday to end the tournament and Slovenia plays Serbia.

“For tomorrow we can just focus on the first point of the next match. I don’t know exactly what the scenarios are. We just have to keep winning,” USA coach John Speraw told “And that’s what we’re going to try to do on the first point tomorrow.”

Jeff Jendryk hits through the Slovenia block/Volleyball World photo

The USA is in Pool B where, as we posted this, action was finished for the day in Japan.

In Pool A in Rio, the race is wide open. Heading into Thursday, Germany was 4-0 and Cuba, Italy and Brazil were all 3-1. Brazil was to play Cuba, Italy had Iran and Germany was set for Czechia.

In Pool C in China, Poland is in the driver’s seat 5-0 after beating Argentina on Thursday. Canada sits 4-1 after having Thursday off and Belgium and Argentina were tied at 3-2. Poland plays the Netherlands and China, while Canada faces China and Bulgaria. 

Against Slovenia, TJ DeFalco had 12 kills, six digs and a block, reserve Jeff Jendryk had nine kills and a block, and David Smith — the oldest player on the team at 38 — had seven kills and three blocks.

Aaron Russell had five kills and a block and setter Micah Christenson had a kill and three blocks.

“It was the two undefeated teams on top of the pool, so we knew it was going to be a battle,” Christenson told Volleyball World. “Tonight they were missing their captain Tine (Urnaut), who is a friend of mine and I wish him a speedy recovery from whatever took him out of this game. 

“But I think we played really well, aside from six to eight points. They did some really good things and we didn’t panic. We just adjusted. We are starting to play some of our best volleyball this summer.”

The Slovenia blockers can only watch as TJ DeFalco’s shot goes past them/Volleyball World photo

Nik Mujanovic had 11 kills and a block for Slovenia and Klemen Cebulj had 11 kills and six digs. Alen Pajenk had six kills, three blocks and two aces.

“Slovenia is good. I think they showed that in the VNL, in the European Champs and in this tournament, so we came in really focused, we had a good game plan and I think overall we did pretty good,” USA libero Erik Shoji told VW. “We are going to learn from this one, celebrate a little bit and then watch the Serbia and Japan game. 

“Two tough games are coming up for us. We are expecting the best from both and we are excited to play.”

All matches can be seen on Volleyball World TV, where you can also find the schedule. Use “VOLLEYBALLMAG” for a discount.