USA men open VNL with wins over Canada, Argentina, loss to Brazil

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VNL USA men 5/302021-Jeff Jendryk-USA Men's National Team
Jeff Jendryk goes up against Brazil's Flavio Gualberto/FIVB photo

The USA Volleyball men’s national team capped its first week of play in the Volleyball Nations League in Rimini, Italy, with a 23-25, 25-21, 25-15, 25-19 victory Sunday over Argentina.

It came on the heels of an opening victory over Canada and a loss to Brazil.

The men, like the VNL women also bubbled in Rimini, play three matches in three days and then take three days off. Next up the USA plays Russia on Thursday, Poland on Friday, and Australia on Saturday. VNL is the last major international tournament before the Tokyo Olympics.

Against Canada on Friday, TJ DeFalco led with 13 kills, a block, and an ace in the 25-17, 26-24, 25-20 victory. Fellow Long Beach State alum Kyle Ensing had 11 kills and eight digs. Averill Taylor added eight kills and a block, Garrett Muagututia had five kills and six digs, and Max Holt and Micah Christenson had three each.

“I am super proud of the way we came into the game,” said Christenson, the USA setter. “It was a pleasant surprise to win this game 3-0 against Canada. I’m very excited about how we performed, and we hope to get better for another week or rather a month.”

Click here for USA-Canada highlights.

Brazil swept the Americans 25-22, 25-23, 25-19 on Saturday. Lucarelli Souza Ricardos led Brazil’s balanced attack with 10 kills.

Ben Patch had 15 kills and three blocks for the USA, DeFalco had seven kills, and Jeff Jendryk and Mitch Stahl had five kills and two blocks each. Stahl also had an ace. The team had just four digs against Brazil.

Click here for USA-Brazil highlights.

DeFalco had 15 kills, six digs, and five blocks Sunday in the USA’s 23-25, 25-21, 25-15, 25-19 win over Argentina.

“When Argentina is in rhythm, it’s hard to play some defense behind that,” DeFalco said. “As soon as we got our service pressure and blocking defense going, it turned out a little bit better for us.

“It’s the first time in a year and eight months that we’ve played together. I’m happy with the first three games. There’s obviously some things we can learn from.”

Ensing added 13 kills with no errors in 18 attacks and he had three blocks and four digs. David Smith had eight kills, Holt and Patch — who had three blocks — had six kills each, and Muagututia had five kills and nine digs. Erik Shoji had six digs. Christenson had three aces.

Argentina, which had only nine players on its roster due to COVID-19 issues, went  0-3 to start VNL.

Click here for USA-Argentina highlights.

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The USA men after playing Argentina/FIVB photo

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