USA (USA) vs. Slovenia (SLO) men - Pool B #7271525

Anderson in attack against Slovenia

Unites States remained the only undefeated team in Pool B of the men’s FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers and are getting closer and closer to snatching one of the two Olympic tickets from Tokyo to Paris. With star opposite Matthew Anderson leading the way, they handed Slovenia their first loss of the tournament, as the two teams got into a head-to-head battle for the top of the current pool standings on Friday.

  • Watch the FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers live on VBTV

The Americans registered a victory over Slovenia to improve to a 5-0 win-loss record and full 15 points. They established total domination on the court to win the first set and had control of the scoreboard until 20-18 in the second, when the Slovenians mounted a six-point run to reach set point and then won the set. Riding the momentum, the Europeans took an early two-point lead in set three and held on to it until 7-5, after which the rest of the match was pretty much all about USA. They cruised on to win the third and the fourth sets, with outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke scoring the match winner with an ace.

Matt Anderson produced two aces and 14 spike kills at a 56% success rate in attack to top the scorers’ chart of the match. Outside Torey Defalco added another 13 points, including a kill block, while the two middle blockers, David Smith and Jeffrey Jendryk, finished with 10 points each towards the victory. In the absence of their captain Tine Urnaut, who was not part of the squad for the match, three of Slovenia’s players reached the double digits in scoring. Young sub-in opposite Nik Mujanovic delivered 12 points, while middle Alen Pajenk and outside Klemen Cebulj added 11 points apiece.

“It was the two undefeated teams on top of the pool, so we knew it was going to be a battle,” USA’s setter and captain Micah Christenson told Volleyball World. “Tonight they were missing their captain Tine, who is a friend of mine and I wish him a speedy recovery from whatever took him out of this game. But I think we played really well, aside from six to eight points. They did some really good things and we didn’t panic. We just adjusted. We are starting to play some of our best volleyball this summer.”

“Slovenia is good. I think they showed that in the VNL, in the European Champs and in this tournament, so we came in really focused, we had a good game plan and I think overall we did pretty good,” libero Erik Shoji added. “We are going to learn from this one, celebrate a little bit and then watch the Serbia and Japan game. Two tough games are coming up for us. We are expecting the best from both and we are excited to play.”

The game between Serbia and hosts Japan offered a clash between the next two teams in the pool table and the only two other teams still with a shot at qualifying for Paris 2024. The Asians mastered an emphatic shutout and overtook Slovenia into the runner-up position. Both are on 4-1 and 12 points, but Japan have a slightly better set ratio. Serbia are down to fourth on 3-2 and nine, still with a remote shot at the top two spots. Opposite Yuji Nishida scored a match-high 16 points, including two aces. Outsides Ran Takahashi and captain Yuki Ishikawa added 15 and 14 points, respectively.

Two five-set battles unfolded in Friday’s earlier matches in Tokyo. First, Türkiye outpaced Finland in an all-European saga, with the Lagumdzija brothers leading the way, Adis with 24 points and Mirza with 20, while Finnish opposite Joonas Jokela finished with 22.

Then Egypt came back from two sets down in the all-African duel with Tunisia to emerge with a victory. Their opposite Reda Haikal impressed with a 30-point match high.

Türkiye and Egypt are fifth and sixth in the standings, respectively, on 2-3 each, followed by Finland in seventh and Tunisia in eighth, on 0-5 each.