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November 28, 2023
October 3, 2023
Things could not have started better for the USA men in the Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier.
Tuesday in Tokyo, the Americans came away with a 25-17, 26-28, 32-30, 25-20 victory over Türkiye.
It left the USA 3-0 after previously sweeping sweeping Egypt and Finland and tied with Slovenia atop Pool B.
Next up for the USA is on Wednesday is 0-3 Tunisia, which was swept by Slovena, Serbia and Japan.
“We’ve had a nice start,” USA coach John Speraw said.
Against Türkiye, the USA, trying to secure a Paris 2024 Olympics berth, held a 13-7 advantage in blocks and had nine aces compared to three for Türkiye.
Aaron Russell went off for 20 kills, two blocks and three aces and TJ DeFalco had 15 kills, five blocks, an ace and a team-high 10 digs.
Max Holt had seven kills and three aces and Matt Andrerson had seven kills and two blocks.
Erik Shoji had eight digs and setter Micah Christenson had two kills, two blocks and six digs.
“We got off to a nice start and played good volleyball. The second set was close the whole way and I thought we had some chances, but we didn’t execute,” Speraw said.
“The third set we were up big and gave that lead away late, which was really disappointing. But we regrouped and won that set, which was really important.”
In that third set, the USA led 24-19 but couldn’t close it out.
“We played very, very well in the fourth set,” Speraw told VolleyballMag.com. “We had some challenges within the match against a very good team and I thought we responded really well to those challenges. Three-oh, we’re in a good place.”
Bosnian-born brothers Adis and Mirza Lagumdzija led Türkiye. Adis had 17 kills, a block and two aces, and Mirza had 13 kills and a block.
In the 25-20, 25-16, 25-19 win over Egypt, DeFalco had 11 kills and hit .536 to go with four aces and two blocks. Anderson had 11 kills and two aces and Russell had 10 kills and a block.
“We played hard. They did too. It was kind of surprising how well they turned it around after the first set,” Rusell told Volleyball World.
“They seemed a little bit asleep and then they just started defending a lot of balls. I was mostly trying to focus on passing and I did not realize I had that many points, but I was just out there trying to fight hard with my boys… We are trying to qualify, so we are taking it one game at a time. We are prepared for the big challenges ahead and we look forward to playing.”
Against Finland, DeFalco had seven kills, two blocks and five aces in the 25-17, 25-14, 25-17 victory. Anderson had nine kills, two blocks and an ace, and Thomas Jaeschke, Taylor Averill and Jeff Jendryk had eight kills each.
“The first match is challenging because you’re getting your bearings and getting used to the gym. We didn’t play great volleyball but good enough to win,” Speraw said.
“Then we turned our attention to Finland and Finland had a really nice start. They challenged Japan, took them to five, and so we had an opportunity to study them more and that was good. And then we went out and did a really nice job of execution. I thought we did a great job of executing against Finland.
“We had a day off, which was good, because we knew Türkiye was going to be a real challenge. They took us to five at World Champs last year. They have some great players and have really improved. Our players were ready.”
After Tunisia, the Americans have Thursday off and then run the gauntlet, finishing with matches against Slovenia, Serbia and host Japan.
In this tournament, there are three pools of eight and the top two finishers in each pool qualify for next summer’s Paris Olympics. The USA women previously qualified in their tournament:
Also in Pool B, Serbia and Japan are 2-1, Türkiye and Egypt are 1-2, and Finland is tied with Tunisia at 0-3.
In Pool A in Rio de Janeiro, three teams are tied at 2-0 heading into Tuesday’s action, Italy, Germany and Brazil and Brazil plays Germany.
In Pool C in Xi’an, China, only Poland is unbeaten at 3-0 with Belgium Argentina and Canada tied at 2-1. Poland beat Canada in five on Tuesday, 17-15 in the fifth.
All matches can be seen on Volleyball World TV. Use “VOLLEYBALLMAG” for a discount.