Russia successfully defended its FIVB Volleyball Nations League title by defeating USA in four sets (25:23, 20:25, 25:21, 25:20) and for the second year in a row winning the gold-medal match against the host country. Recall that last year they beat host France in Lille to claim the first-ever VNL title.
Earlier today Poland won the bronze medal match with a straight sets victory over Brazil.
Russia wing spiker Dmitry Volkov led the gold medallists with 17 points, including two winning blocks and two aces. Wing spiker Egor Kliuka also contributed with 14 points, including an excellent 11-of-14 in attack, two aces and a block.
“It feels fantastic because we are very proud,” said Volkov, who was named to the VNL Dream Team. “We are missing a lot of our top players, so we didn’t expect to win. We are very happy. With a new coach, we have a new team and played very strong throughout the VNL.”
Led by a very good setter and captain Igor Kobzar, Russia had four players in double-digit with middle-blocker Ivan Iakovlev scoring seven kills on 10 attacks, a team-high four blocks and an ace, while opposite Victor Poletaev added 11 points.
Kliuka and Iakovlev were also selected the VNL Dream Team for Russia.
Russia benefited from 29 USA errors in the match, 11 of which came in the first set.
“I think we were patient because we knew USA was a great passing team,” Russia coach Tuomas Sammelvuo said after winning the gold. “We wanted to play a long match because they also played five sets late. Maybe their serving and passing wouldn’t be as effective. We started the game in trouble with our opposite, but then he was able to get the most important balls down when we really needed it. It was a team effort, to believe and to trust in each other. We played as a team.”
2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League – Dream Team
Best Outside Hitters: Egor Kliuka and Dmitri Volkov (Russia), Bartosz Bednorz (Poland)
Best Middle Blockers: Max Holt (USA), Ivan Iakovlev (Russia)
Best Libero: Erik Shoji (USA)
Best Setter: Micah Christenson (USA)
MVP/Best Opposite: Matt Anderson (USA)
Outside hitter Taylor Sander was the top scorer for USA with 20 points, with 17/29 in attacks, two aces and a block. Matt Anderson, named the tournament’s most valuable player/best opposite, scored 19 points on 18 kills and an ace.
“We managed to control Matt Anderson, the key player, and Taylor Sander in attack,” Sammelvuo said. “Blocking was a difference while their reception broke down.”
With an influx of youth on Russia’s team, Sammelvuo praised his squad for coming through for another title.
“I am happy because we have some new players at this level and big roles for the first time,” he said. “So that is great.”
Sammelvuo agreed with Volkov on the team’s expectations to win the VNL this year with many of the top players missing. Instead of looking to win the tournament, the team’s expectations were more short term.
“I think we didn’t expect to win when we started,” Sammelvuo said. “We focused on getting better day by day.”
USA Head Coach John Speraw: “Gosh, we just got beat by a team that was a little better than us tonight. I think we had our chances in the first set. There were some ebbs and flows where I thought we were the better team, and they just made a lot of plays at the service line. At the end of the day, we didn’t serve the ball as well as we should have so we had enough scoring opportunities. They got more efficient offensively as the night went on.”
USA Player Micah Christenson: “It is hard to say. I thought they turned up the service pressure quite a bit. We could have turned up our service pressure a little more. I thought our passers did well, fought off a lot of hard serves. We gave it our all. I am proud how we fought.”
USA Player Micah Christenson on what USA learned in the tournament: “We learned a lot. We learned a lot about players who come off the bench especially.”
Source and Photos: volleyball.world