Ottawa, Canada, June 9, 2018 - Matthew Anderson led from the front but it took a blast from coach John Speraw to get the USA back on track and help see off Australia 3-1 (20-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-16).
The Olympic bronze medallists and top seeds came into the match with the Aussies still hurting from Friday’s surprise loss against Germany which saw Speraw’s push for VNL glory hit the buffers.
It looked like the hangover was still seeping through the American ranks as the lowly ranked Australians, who are languishing near the bottom of the VNL standings, amazingly took the first set with some brilliant displays, most notably from opposite spiker Thomas Hodges.
Coach Speraw was furious and ripped into players midway through the second set- and his anger did the trick as his side, thanks to Anderson’s 20 points (15 spikes, one block and four aces) and healthy contributions from Aaron Russell (17 points) and Jeffrey Jendryk (10 points), grabbed a morale boosting win ahead of Sunday’s North American derby cruncher with Canada.
“In the first set we didn’t execute, “ said Anderson whose side gave away 29 errors compared to 25 from their opponents. “We managed to get some more energy and that helped us turn it around.”
It was another gutsy display from the Aussies who were rocking after that electric start yet ultimately Hodges, who ended with 14 spikes while Paul Sanderson (7 points), were unable to cope with the power and class of the Americans as they slumped to their seventh defeat in eight VNL matches.
Australia have met the US seven times before this encounter and lost every one - yet mission impossible looked well and truly on as the first set went the way of Mark Lebedew’s side.
They had served their intentions early on by establishing a 14-8 lead with Hodges and Richards superbly stepping up to the plate. Hodges was scoring healthily - as the set grew older he already had 10 points - and spiking superbly though it was left to Trent O’Dea to deliver the killer blow.
The US, who came into the match off the back of two defeats following the defeat to Brazil in week two, were severely rocked and when a time out was called with the score at 13-11, Speraw laid into his troops in the hope of kickstarting their drive to reach the VNL final six in France towards the end of the month.
It seemed to work although an instant ace from Nehemiah Mote did little to ease the American coach’s dark mood.
But with Russell blocking well and firing up the US, the tide soon began to turn.
Russell teed up set point which was taken straight away when the Australians hit the net.
From then on, the Americans finally got back into their groove although their opponents continued to have their moments, most notably at 6-5 in the third when some brilliant defensive work on both sides of the net was a joy to behold.
The American powerhouses of Russell, Anderson and Jendryk were coming to the fore however and despite Lebdew’s men hanging in, the result was never in doubt.
The US stretched 8-0 ahead in the fourth and even though Australia posed problems made this match interesting, it wasn’t enough.