Modena, Italy, June 23, 2018 – For the first time Russia are position number one in the Volleyball Nations League after Volkov and his side beat a much changed American team in straight sets 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-23). With this result Russia also claim consecutive wins against USA for the first time since 2012-2013 (Olympic Games and Grand Champions Cup).
With the Pala Panini filling throughout the match in anticipation for Italy vs France to come, it was the effectiveness and power of Russia that saw them claim a fifth successive match 3-0. The first time they have achieved this at a world level major tournament since a run of six at the 2011 World League. Notably if they manage to get six here they will be guaranteed to finish top.
Whilst Volkov’s right arm was their main weapon, Victor Poletaev also scored well as the opposite hitter taking 12 points while Igor Philippov took 11 – including six aces – through middle. The competitions top scorer Dmitriy Muserskiy was not in the team for Russia so we will have to see if he returns for tomorrows big showdown.
The United States suffered their fourth VNL defeat, and again two in a row after they lost 3-2 against France on Friday. Coach John Speraw will have learnt a lot and will be pleased to have rested some of his bigger stars. Kyle Ensing was the top scorer with 15 points while Jake Langlois took 10 in the time he was on the court.
USA have won eight of the last nine matches but Russia were victorious most recently in the 2017 World League and whilst this game was mainly for pride it will obviously count towards the head-to-head.
To conclude the round robin stage tomorrow USA will face Italy while Russia will take on table toppers France to decide who finishes top of the table after the 15 matches.
Having confirmed their spot at the Finals yesterday by taking a point against France, USA fielded a much changed team with only Torey Defalco keeping his place. In a first set that was close throughout it was Russia who found the points when it mattered to take it 25-23. With a good distribution of points among the Russian players again it was clear they are one of the favourites for the title.
The second was a different story as the American experimental side seemed to have lost the confidence and enthusiam they had in the first set. Russia were up at the first interval (8-4) and apart from a few short runs of serve from the American team it was them who hit the gas.
Key to their success throughout, but particularly in the second set, was a consistently strong serve. Igor Philippov was the leader in this department with five aces to his name across the first two sets alone. Russia recorded 9 in the second set – one of the highest in the competition within a single set.
With the match seemingly in the bag, Russia’s coach Sergei Shliapnikov stuck with the same line-up again obviously keen to keep the momentum they have got going at the moment.
With the USA seeming to be resigned to a defeat, a mega rally at 7-10 down brought them some confidence as Jake Langlois ended up with a one on one attack and secured the point. Ever the optimist, Kawika Shoji used that play to try and get his team going again and it seemed to work as they established a two point at 14-12.
An ultimate team is strong when in the lead and strong when chasing a game and Russia have shown great form in both of these situation through the competition. Evidenced again as despite trailing they were leading come the second technical timeout 16-15.
But with captain David Smith cheering his young team on from the side lines USA pushed on again to 21-18, all keen to force themselves into the thinking of the coaching staff for the upcoming Finals.
Just as things were going well Langlois was forced off with an injury and it was the Russian captain that dominated proceedings from here. For the final points of the set Dmitry Volkov was outstanding scoring at the net and then from the service line to see his team home 25-23 again.
With many of the biggest names from both teams watching on from the bench, only time will tell if these to Volleyball giants will face each other again in the 2018 Volleyball Nations League.