The USA men surgically dismantled Italy on Saturday in the semifinals of Volleyball Nations League in Gdansk, Poland.

By winning 25-19, 25-18, 25-19 the Americans (12-2) advanced to Sunday final against host Poland (12-2). Poland beat Japan in four earlier Saturday. 

“There will be about 10,000 people cheering for Poland in the final,” the USA’s Thomas Jaeschke said, “so it should be a good match.”

The veteran, opposite Matt Anderson, did it again, leading with 17 kills, including the match-ender and eight digs. He only had one error in 25 attacks and hit 64%.

Jaeschke had 12 kills with only one error in 26 attacks, two blocks and two aces and tied libero Erik Shoji for the team lead with 10 digs.

“We played well within our system and didn’t worry too much when they made good plays, that was the biggest thing.,” Jaeschke said. “They’re a great team and we’re just happy we were able to get away with a win.”

TJ DeFalco had eight kills in 17 errorless attacks, three blocks and six digs. David Smith had three kills, two blocks and an ace and Max Holt had three kills and a block. 

Setter Micah Christenson had a kill, two blocks and three digs. His team hit 52%.

Alessandro Michieletto had nin kills for Italy, which ended VNL (10-4). 

The USA led in kills (44-33), blocks (10-6) and Italy had a 4-3 advantage in aces.

“I thought we blocked the ball early really well and our serve continued to put pressure on them throughout the match,” USA coach John Speraw said. “That gave us high-quality block and defensive opportunities and we executed on those opportunities really well.

“We passed the ball exceptionally well, especially considering how tough a serving team Italy is.

“Matt Anderson was phenomenal, Micah dished it around well again, including making some critical decisions at important times, and I thought Thomas had a really nice match. A great all-around performance and excited about another opportunity to go to the VNL final.”

The USA, which beat France in the quarterfinals, lost to France in last year’s VNL gold-medal match.

Earlier in this VNL, the Americans swept Poland on June 24 in the Netherlands. In that 25-22, 25-18, 25-19 victory, DeFalco led the USA with 14 kills, a block and two aces and had five digs. Aaron Russell had eight kills, two blocks, eight digs and an an ace. Anderson had seven kills and two aces to go with a match-high nine digs.

“It doesn’t get much better than playing Poland in Poland for a championship,” Speraw said. “That’s a deep and incredibly talented team. We did have a chance to play them, and have had a number of chances to play them of late, unlike Italy. So there’s some familiarity there and what we know about them is they are a very difficult team to beat.

“They have a lot of options coming off the bench if they need it and they’re playing in front of one of, if not the great, home crowds in the world. It’s going to be loud and a really challenging environment for us against a really good team. 

“But this is the VNL finals and you’re gonna play a great team and try to be great ourselves.”

Poland beats Japan

Wilfredo Leon had 21 kills with only one error in 29 swings and two blocks as Poland battled back from a first-set loss, got a tough win in the second and completed a 19-25, 28-26, 25-17, 25-21 semifinals victory over Japan.

Lukasz Kaczmarek had 15 kills with one error in 27 attacks and four blocks and Aleksander Sliwka had 12 kills, a block and an ace. Mateusz Bieniek had four kills, a block and three aces. The crowd numbered more than 10,000.

“We are lucky to have so many fans cheering for us,” Leon said. “They give us a lot energy and adrenaline. 

“And I need to say, big respect to Japan. They have made big progress over the years. Today it was a tough game for us and congratulations to Japan for that.”

Poland led in kills (61-54) and blocks (9-4) and Japan had eight aces to Poland’s four.

Yuki Ishikawa led Japan (11-3) with 17 kills, a block and four aces. Ran Takahashi had 12 kills, a block and three digs, and Kento Miyaura had 13 kills.

Italy beat Japan in four in their VNL meeting July 8 in the Philipinnes. Romano Yuri led Italy with 16 kills, three blocks and three aces and Daniele Lavia had 15 kills, two blocks and an ace. Japan’s Ishikawa had 17 kills, three blocks and an ace for Japan. Yuji Nishida added 16 kills, a block and three aces.


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