The USA men grinded through the first set in Lille, France, and then pulled away Thursday for a 28-26, 25-17, 25-18 Volleyball Nations League Final Six victory.
The FIVB account’s headline read, “Sander sparks the US as Polish hopes go up in smoke.”
That’s because Taylor Sander had 11 kills and three aces against the defending world champions before getting hurt near the end of the third set. Matt Anderson added 13 kills and two aces and Ben Patch had 11 kills and a block. David Smith added five kills, two blocks and an ace.
Damian Schulz led Poland with 10 kills.
“I felt we blocked and passed the ball really well, which gave our offense a lot of options,” USA coach John Speraw said. “I don’t think we were sharp early in a couple of transition opportunities, but once we got a little bit better I thought our offense was excellent.”
The Americans are 12-4 in the VNL and play Russia at 10 a.m. Eastern on Friday. The semifinals are Saturday and the medal matches Sunday.
“I think it was a great game,” Sander said. “We played a little bit nervous at first but then we played really well. This was an important win for us. Sure I got a bit injured but I’ll be back, I’ll be fine. I don’t know if I’m allowed to discuss the type of injury but I’ll be fine. Plus we have a lot of good guys on our team, so we’ll try to go out and play better in order to compete against Russia tomorrow.”
The match can be seen on FloVolleyball.tv. Poland was coming off a Wednesday loss to Russia, so it is out of it.
“They (Poland) are a good team that make you play long rallies, with a lot of tip and roll and smart decisions in difficult situations, so we had to play a lot of volleyball and I was pleased with what we did,” Speraw said.
“The fact that Taylor got injured that late in the match breaks my heart. I mean, obviously we’ve had a lot injury issues in this VNL. In some respects, we’re grateful to be here because of who we lost along the way and still managed to make it to the finals. Taylor did not play much because he was home for the birth of his first child, but he’s been excellent for us, and hopefully he’s gonna be well enough to come back and play with us this weekend.”