Dallas – The U.S. Men’s volleyball team clinched a spot to the FIVB World League Finals in Krakow, Poland with its 3-0 sweep over Australia Saturday.
That fact went unnoticed by some players.
“Honestly, I didn’t know we clinched tonight, I really try to not focus on that stuff,” outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke said. “Confidence wise though, we feel good about our guys; you always feel good walking onto the court against anyone.”
It doesn’t seem matter who the U.S. men put on the court on a given night, the confidence seems to stick.
The starting lineup from Saturday’s match against Australia saw three new faces from Friday’s match against Bulgaria.
It also saw three new leading scorers.
“I think we just approach the match with being aggressive with as much energy and fire as possible,” setter Micah Christenson said. “We know that whatever lineup we put out there we’re always going to compete.
“We’ve got such a deep, talented team and we’re super confident with whoever is out there, and it was a great time tonight.”
One of last of the night’s fresh faces was Maxwell Holt, a middle blocker who hasn’t played since the World League schedule began for the U.S. Men on June 16 in Rio de Janairo.
Holt led the way in both blocks (4) and service aces (3) for the U.S., tying him with Murphy Troy for leading scorer, each finishing with 14 points. Aaron Russell was not far behind with 13 points of his own.
Head coach John Speraw said he has been pleased with his ability to switch up his lineups with younger and older players throughout the summer.
“I think our depth has really improved over the last few years, obviously the inclusion of a few young guys who have now had the opportunity to go play overseas and gain some good experience has helped,” Speraw said. “We’ve developed great depth at every position on the volleyball court.”
Depth in also an advantage to the U.S. Men during an Olympic summer in the World League.
The nature of the World League schedule in an Olympic year has left little room for any team to reflect on one particular night. During Olympic summers, four teams travel to one location to play three matches against one another in a single weekend, compared to the usual one-match-at-a-time competitions.
“You know this is a long tournament,” veteran outside hitter Reid Priddy said. “Playing three nights in a row is kind of unique. It’s only on an Olympic year that we do this. No other tournament is like this.”
The U.S. men will finish three-match World League weekend in Dallas against Russia (5-3), a team they are familiar with.
“We’ve talked about Russia a little bit earlier in the week,” Speraw said. “There’s a lot of familiarity with a lot of these players because a couple of our key guys play in Russia over the professional year.”
But, like the U.S., Russia has a couple of new faces that Speraw hasn’t seen much of before.
The match between the Americans and the Russians will be final match for USA before travelling to Krakow, Poland on July 13-17 for the FIVB World League Finals.