USA (USA) vs. Türkiye (TUR) men - Pool B #7218105

Aaron Russell was the best scorer of the day in Pool B of the FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers in Tokyo. On Tuesday’s third competition day, he powered United State to their third consecutive win, a hard-fought over Türkiye, with 25 points.

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The first set of the match was nip and tuck until 12-11 Türkiye’s way, after which the Americans broke away to take it by a wide margin. The next set offered a really tough battle with the gap exceeding two points only once, at 17-14 Türkiye’s way. It went into overtime before the Turks could level the match. USA stormed the third set on a 4-0 run, and even though their opponents caught up at 6-6, the Americans ran off again to open a 22-16 gap and reach a quintuple set point at 24-19. However, the Europeans denied it to push the set into overtime. USA wasted another five set points and saved one of Türkiye’s before finally a middle blocker Jeffrey Jendryk attack closed the epic set off at 32-30. In the fourth set, the Americans were back to dominating on the court and cruised on to have outside hitter Aaron Russell spike for the match winner and added another three points to their perfect record on top of the table, pushing the opponents down to fifth place in the pool standings on a 1-2 win-loss record.

United States outplayed Türkiye on all scoring counts (63-49 in spike kills, 9-3 in aces, 13-7 in kill blocks), but what kept the opponents in the game was the abundance of American errors (36-23). Russell led the way with 20 kills in attack (53% success rate), three aces and two stuffs towards a match-high 25-point total. Cross-court teammate Torey Defalco added another 21 points, including five blocks and an ace. Opposite Adis Lagumdzija was Türkiye’s most prolific player with 20 points, including two aces and a block.

“We played hard. They did too. It was kind of surprising how well they turned it around after the first set,” Aaron Rusell told Volleyball World. “They seemed a little bit asleep and then they just started defending a lot of balls. I was mostly trying to focus on passing and I did not realize I had that many points, but I was just out there trying to fight hard with my boys... We are trying to qualify, so we are taking it one game at a time. We are prepared for the big challenges ahead and we look forward to playing.”

Hosts Japan got back on the winning track. On the third competition day, they registered their second win of the tournament, an emphatic shutout of Tunisia, climbing to fourth place in the current standings and leaving the opponents winless at the bottom of the table. Outsides Ran Takahashi and Yuki Ishikawa led the way with 13 points each, followed by middle blocker Taishi Onodera (three kill blocks) and opposite Yuji Nishida (four aces) with 10 points apiece.

The day in Tokyo started with Slovenia’s third consecutive victory in the pool, a victory over Finland, which placed them in second place, below leaders USA on point ratio. Outside hitter Klemen Cebulj was the best scorer of the match with 18 points, including two aces and a block, followed by opposite Rok Mozic with 16 points and Finland’s most productive player, opposite Joonas Jokela, with 14. The Finns are still winless in seventh place on one point.

Then Egypt rode the momentum of their victory on Sunday to take the first set against Serbia, but then the Europeans took matters in their own hands and turned the match around to a win. Outsides Marko Ivovic and Uros Kovacevic, and opposite Drazen Luburic led the scorers with 14, 13 and 12 points, respectively. Egypt’s best scorer, opposite Reda Haikal, also finished with 12 points. Serbia rose to third place on 2-1, above Japan on set ratio, while the Africans are sixth on 1-2.