The USA men not only won Volleyball Nations League bronze Sunday with a 25-21, 28-26, 28-26 over Brazil in Lille, France, but the program and the FIVB announced that the U.S. will be the host for the next three men’s VNL Final Six tournaments.
The dates and location for each VNL Finals from 2019 to 2021 are to be determined. The format this year called for five sets of three matches in three days with the top six advancing. Click here for the complete USA Volleyball news release and here for the FIVB news release.
In the gold-medal match, Russia beat France 25-22, 25-20, 25-23.
On the court, the USA men improved to 13-6 as Aaron Russell led with 13 kills and an ace. Matt Anderson added 11 kills and two aces. Taylor Sander had nine kills and two blocks.
Sander was named as one of the tournament’s top outside hitters and Anderson was named top opposite.
“I think it’s very difficult to play a bronze medal match when you’ve had such a disappointing semifinal,” said USA coach John Speraw, whose team lost in five to France in the semifinals Saturday. “Unfortunately, we’ve been there a couple of times. So I was really proud of our guys for coming back and being emotionally engaged. I’m very pleased with the way we competed.”
Speraw did a lot of tinkering with the roster and lineups throughout the tournament.
“Putting the most experienced guys on the court sure helped out, but the only way to figure out those things is by doing it and taking some chances. You know, I think some of the young guys on the team gained valuable experience all the way through VNL, and will be exceptional players in the future,” Speraw said. “We learned a lot, we know what we need to work on. That team that we’ve had on the floor there is an experienced one and very capable of winning medals, hopefully of a different color next time. I am happy with the direction we’re going in terms of program.
“I think our culture is getting healthier and healthier, but I also think we have a lot of room to improve. It’s challenging in this environment because you have such a short period of time to train, and really work on things, and have conversations. So we’re gonna have to be really efficient with the way we do work in the next couple of months before the World Championship.”
Anderson recognized much of the same things.
“It’s great to end on a win, for sure. It’s disappointing when you get a chance to play for the final, because I know we were good enough to play in the final. It was just a little disheartening last night not to be able to finish the match. We had opportunities and we’ll learn from it,” Anderson said. “Take some experience, learn from the game, reset, and get back into it. I think it’s great that some of our young players got experience. Experience is what excels any player into the next level.”
Click here for the complete USA Volleyball recap and here for the FIVB recap, stats and photos.