The USA men staged a strong comeback Sunday, but ultimately lost to France 25-16, 25-19, 15-25, 21-25, 15-10 in the Volleyball Nations League championship match in Bologna, Italy.
Poland, which the USA beat in the semifinals, swept Italy 25-16, 25-23, 25-20 in the bronze-medal match.
France now has won back-to-back major men’s international titles. The French lost the first match of the Olympics last summer but then came back to win the Tokyo gold medal, and now they own VNL gold.
“We enjoy so much being together on the court. I think you can see that,” said French setter Antoine Brizard, who had three aces and two kills. “We are super close outside the court and that’s the key. When we start playing with this energy and this chemistry, it’s hard to stop us.”
It certainly was for two sets before the USA stormed back to force a fifth. But after the Americans took a 1-0 lead, France bolted ahead 7-2 and never looked back. The USA pulled to 11-9 but that was as close as it got.
Aaron Russell concluded a great tournament for him with 20 kills, hitting .561, and eight digs. The other outside, TJ DeFalco, had 13 kills and two digs.
Garrett Muagututia also got in the outside hitter mix with 11 kills on 15 attacks with no errors and six digs. Click here for his top plays.
Middle Jeff Jendryk had six kills with no errors in nine swings, three blocks and three digs. The other middle, David Smith, had four kills, two blocks, one dig, and was named to the all-tournament team.
Micah Christenson, named the tournament’s top setter, had a kill, two blocks, 26 assists and four digs. Libero Erik Shoji had nine digs.
The USA, which went 12-3 in the tournament, held a 60-59 kills advantage, out-blocked the French 7-6, and but France had six aces and the USA one.
Earvin Ngapeth, named the tourney MVP, had 21 kills, a block and five digs for France. Click here for his top plays. Jean Patry had 17 kills and Trevor Clevenot 10 kills anda block.
Click here to watch the match highlight on Volleyball World’s YouTube.
USA Volleyball reported that the team will return to Anaheim for a month of training before the 2022 FIVB Men’s World Championship August 26-September 11 in Poland.