Lille, France, July 5, 2018 - Taylor Sander starred for the United States as they ended Poland's FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League hopes with a commanding 3-0 victory (28-26, 25-17, 25-18) in Lille to book their place in the semifinals.
World champions Poland knew they had to win this Pool B clash - preferably with all 3 points - having lost 3-1 to Russia on Wednesday, but they were outclassed by an attacking American side who will take some beating on this form. John Speraw's men came into this one having lost to Russia and France in Week 5 of the Preliminary Round, but led by the dangerous Sander and the classy setter Micah Christenson who was the heartbeat of the team, they rediscovered their flamboyant style in a bad-tempered match to book their place in the semifinals.
Sander (14 points) was the attacking threat for the USA throughout with some potent serving and blistering spikes, but it was Christenson who was setting the tempo for a slick US team, providing the kind of service that the game's best sharp-shooters thrive on. Matthew Anderson was the game's top scorer with 15 points and David Smith - who made 2 blocks - both had strong games, while Benjamin Patch chipped in with 12.
Poland, who had lost five of their previous seven matches coming into this one, were excellent in the opening set, which they might've taken had some marginal calls not gone against them, but their heads dropped after that with only Damian Schulz (13 points) standing out from a side which looks low on confidence. Despite fewer errors - Poland made 19 in contrast to USA's 26 - they were simply overpowered as their Nations League hopes evaporated.
These two sides were neck-and-neck at 18-18 in their head-to-head record, so it was no surprise that the first set was a tight affair. The Poles led 8-7 at the first technical timeout, but the US began to get on top. A brilliant Sander ace edged them into a 2-point lead, but the US were still making errors, not least when Sander handed Poland an 18-17 lead. Schulz's precise spike levelled things up again at 21-21 and Poland were hard done by when a touch off Patch went undetected. Smith and Anderson launched down stinging spikes but it was Sander who eventually converted USA's 5th set point as they took it 28-26.
Poland lost 3-0 to the US in Chicago in Week 4 in the preliminary round and a similar scoreline was on the cards after a woeful start to the second set by the eastern Europeans. John Speraw's side roared into a 10-4 lead with Poland struggling to deal with the US' brilliant serving. Schulz attempted to drag the Poles back into it and reduced the gap to 4 points (12-8) but that was as good as it got. The 2015 World Cup winners moved through the gears and Christenson's second point of the game brought up set point before the Americans quickly finished it off, 25-17.
Any hopes that Vital Heynen's Polish outfit would make this a contest were quickly doused as the Americans set about wrapping up the victory quickly. Polish setter Fabian Drzyzga was losing the battle against his opposite number Christenson who continued to pick out his team-mates. The Polish blockers couldn't get into the game and Sander's serving - he won 3 service points - was too good. A powerful Smith spike nudged the US into an 11-6 lead and there was to be no comeback. Anderson converted their first match point to complete an emphatic 4th straight victory over Poland that was only marred by an injury to Sander towards the end of the third set. The Olympic bronze medallists have qualified for the semis and play Russia in the final Pool B game on Friday; Poland are on the plane home.