Welcome back, TJ DeFalco.

The USA men improved to 5-0 in the Volleyball Nations League on Wednesday as they beat Serbia 26-24, 23-25, 25-23, 25-20 behind 23 kills by DeFalco.

DeFalco, who didn’t play in the first round when the USA opened 4-0, also had two blocks in the match in Sofia, Bulgaria, as the USA opened the second leg of VNL play.

“I’m excited to be back,” DeFalco said. “I’m really proud of the boys for going out the first week in Brazil and really showing everyone what USA volleyball is about.”

The other outside, Aaron Russell, had 10 kills, a block, an ace and two digs.

Opposite Kyle Ensing had 13 kills and two digs. The USA got five kills apiece from the middles, David Smith, who had four blocks and two aces, and Jeff Jendryk.

Libero Erik Shoji had four digs and Josh Tuaniga had 37 assists and two digs. The USA hit .473.

“It’s good to have TJ DeFalco back on the roster with Garrett Muagututia and Erik Shoji and Mitch Stahl,” USA coach John Speraw said. “Obviously TJ really impacted the volleyball match. He was really, really good, particularly on the BIC. 

“There’s no question that we can get better. We took a lot from that match, but I think the reason we did is because Serbia is quite good. The first two sets there was hardly any separation in scores. We really had to be really sharp in order to win that volleyball match and make some important plays late in sets, which we did.”

Serbia, which dropped to 2-3, got 17 kills from Aleksandar Atanasijevic and 14 from Pavle Peric.

“I thought it was not only a win but a valuable learning experience for the guys,” Speraw said. 

The USA is back in action Thursday when it plays Iran (2-3). Also Thursday in Bulgaria, Poland swept Canada and and Serbia plays Brazil. In matches in Quezon City, Philippines, China swept Germany, Slovenia beat Argentina in four and Germany was to play the Netherlands.

As of Thursday morning in the U.S, the USA, France and Poland were tied atop the standings at 5-0. Japan and Italy had four wins each.

“The Iranian match is one that is always played with a lot of great energy,” Speraw said. “They always come in really excited to play us.”

The USA’s David Smith hits into the block of Serbia’s Marko Podrascanin/Volleyball World photo


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