The USA will play Olympic gold-medalist France for Sunday’s Volleyball Nations League championship in Bologna, Italy.

TJ DeFalco had six aces Saturday, five in the third set, as the USA blasted Poland 25-22, 25-23, 25-13 in the semifinals before France thumped Italy 25-22, 25-20, 25-15.

The USA played for gold in 2019 and lost to Russia in the final in four.

DeFalco also had six kills, a block and four digs.

“I have not quite processed it yet,” DeFalco said. “I’m still in the match, still hyped up and ready to go and play a game of volleyball. But I am really excited to have the team to support behind me and ready to play for the medal. The process of serving? If it is a good toss, I’m going to go up and hit it! That’s all you need to know.”

TJ DeFalco goes over the Polish triple block/Volleyball World photo

David Smith had six kills with one error in eight swings, three blocks, an ace and three digs. Aaron Russell had nine kills and five digs. Jeff Jendryk had six kills with no errors in eight attacks, a block and  an ace. Kyle Ensing had eight kills with one error in 15 attacks and three digs.

Micah Christenson had three kills in as many tries, a block and two digs. Erik Shoji had nine digs. 

“The guys played great early, especially on the defensive end,” USA coach John Speraw said “Dug a lot of balls, converted enough to get us the first-set win. In the second set we served the ball really well early and then demonstrated a significant amount of poise when we were down and made some critical digs late in that set for the win, which then gave us a large advantage emotionally going into the third set. And then our serving took over.”

Jeff Jendryk, left, and Micah Christenson put up the block against Poland’s Kamil Semeniuk/Volleyball World photo

The USA had nine aces to four by Poland, and held a 6-2 blocks advantage.

Poland’s Bartosz Kurek had 10 kills and Kamil Semeniuk had seven.

Against Italy, France got 12 kills, three aces and a block from Jean Party, Trevor Clement had 13 kills and three aces, and Earvin Ngapeth had 10 kills and four aces. France had 11 aces while Italy had two. Alessandro Michieletto led Italy with nine kills.

“I just watched France play and they were impressive,” Speraw said. “They played really well tonight. We know they’re a great team. We’ve had some great matches with them of late and obviously they’re the gold medalists from Tokyo, so they’re playing with a tremendous amount of confidence and skill.

“It will be an exciting volleyball match and excited to have an opportunity to compete for gold.”

In the Olympics the USA opened with a win over France, but then while the American failed to get out of pool play, France went on to win it all. (Note: This has been updated and thanks to those who pointed out the correction) The French coach was formerly Laurent Tillie, whose son, Kevin, played for Speraw when he coached UC Irvine to the 2012 NCAA title. Kevin is not on the VNL final roster. The French coach is now Andrea Giani.

The 3 p.m. Eastern first serve can be seen on Volleyball World TV, vb.tv.

The USA celebrates beating Poland/Volleyball World photo

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