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November 28, 2023
October 7, 2023
The USA men will join the USA women in Paris.
Not that there was much doubt that both teams would be in the 2024 Olympics, but the men clinched their spot Saturday by sweeping Serbia in the Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier in Tokyo.
The 25-18. 25-18, 25-17 victory left the Americans 6-0 with now one meaningless match to play, Sunday against host Japan.
“I’m real proud of the team,” USA coach John Speraw told us from Tokyo. “They had an incredible tournament, they played an incredible match tonight. Our offense was as good as I’ve seen it all summer.”
There were five players with six kills each. Matt Anderson and Jeff Jendryk had nine kills each, Aaron Russell had eight, Max Holt seven (and four aces) and TJ DeFalco six.
“We were passing the ball really well and (setter Micah Christenson) was just perfect,” Speraw said. “Even when Serbia was making some great swings we would just go side out.”
The USA roster has been consistent all year as Speraw put all focus on getting to Paris.
In Volleyball Nations League, the Americans got to the final before losing in four to host Poland.
Last month, they won NORECA gold for the first time since 2017.
“It’s been a great summer for us and we continue to improve in a lot of different facets of the game,” Speraw said. “We’re becoming a much more complete team and more difficult team to beat.
“I’m really pleased with the work the men have put in and how hard they’ve been focused on getting better. It’s a veteran team and sometimes with veteran teams there’s a little less willingness to do new things and I think that’s not been the case with this group. I think we’ve really strived to continue to improve and I think the results show.”
In this tournament, the USA swept Egypt and Finland, beat Türkiye in four, swept Tunisia and then beat Slovenia in four.
Two teams from each pool make the 12-team Olympic tournament. Defending Olympic-champion France gets an automatic bid as host and the remaining five spots will be filled next year.
In Pool B of this tournament, Japan (5-1) later Saturday beat Slovenia (4-2) 25-21, 25-22, 25-18 to also clinch an Olympic berth. Slovenia and Serbia play Sunday.
In Pool A, with matches later Saturday in Rio, Germany is 5-0 and Italy and Brazil are 4-1. Germany plays Qatar, Italy plays Cuba and Brazil plays Iran. Brazil plays Italy on Sunday and Germany plays Ukraine.
In Pool C in China, Poland — which beat the Netherlands — also clinched with Belgium and Canada tied at 4-2. Sunday, Belgium plays Bulgaria and Canada faces Mexico.
“We’re obviously thrilled,” said Speraw, whose team beat France to open the Tokyo Olympics, but then lost in the quarterfinals. France went on to win the gold medal.
“We have one more match left and are going to play hard but then we’re going to celebrate achieving a great goal and a great summer with a nice VNL run and a gold medal in NORCECA and now qualifying for the Olympic Games. It’s been an outstanding summer of 2023 and we look forward to the summer of 2024.”
The USA women, who won the gold medal in Tokyo in 2021, clinched their Paris bid in Poland last month.