Chicago, USA, June 17 , 2018 - Matthew Anderson served up some magic to help push the USA closer to the VNL finals and make it a weekend to remember in Chicago as Iran were beaten 3-0 (29-27, 25-20, 26-24) to maintain their formidable home turf record.
John Speraw’s team were clinical all over the court but especially dangerous from the service line with Anderson finishing with three aces as well as 13 spikes and two blocks to seal the triumph which should ensure the second placed Americans finish in the top six and make the trip to Lille at the start of July.
You have to go back to Juy 2016 for the last time the US lost a set at home and after racking up a perfect record in Chicago with straight-set wins over Poland, Serbia and now the plucky Iranians, that excellent run continues.
There were a total of eight aces while the consistent threats of Aaron Russell - 11 points - and Torey Delfaco - 10 points - added to the pressure.
“We passed really well and it made us very difficult to stop,” said Jeff Jendryk who finished with six points and will now travel to Europe with his team-mates to take on table-topping France, Russia and hosts Italy.
“We will carry on fighting in every game.”
This was another Iranian display full of heart, courage and plenty of skill - they out-blocked the US 9-7 - and roared on by a sizable Iranian contingent in the stands, Igor Kolakovic’s side contributed massively to this exciting sporting spectacle.
Milad Ghara performed well again, bagging nine spikes, two blocks and two aces while the big hitting Porya Yali also impressed with 13 points.
Iran’s VNL campaign may now be over but they have shown enough in the last few weeks to confirm there’s plenty to build on for next year’s tournament.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic in the first set with Iran managing to establish a 13-11 lead and everything was being pulled out of the locker to keep in the match.
At 15-15, the ball was brilliantly kept in thanks to a Ghara overhead kick and although the US stole ahead once more, the set was delicately poised at 21-21.
Russell however changed the momentum in a flash, two booming aces taking Speraw’s title chasers to 23-21 and although Iran pulled level once more in a rollercoaster ending which saw them fail to take a set point, it was left to Daniel McDonnell to step up and seal it with an ace.
It was the sixth of the set for the men wearing the Stars and Stripes.
The crowd were treated to more of the same in the second and although Anderson was spiking with brute force, Iran’s defense was on point.
One rally lasted an amazing 30 seconds, but back came Anderson once again - his 12th point was another service special before a Jeff Jendryk block helped establish a 2-0 lead.
Iran may have been down - but they weren’t giving up.
Their fans were going crazy in the stands as the scores were level at 16-16. It was very close and the US were being pushed all the way.
Iran managed to save one match point but it was that man Anderson who scored the winning point, a fitting moment for the home team's star performer.