Russia Overcomes 28 Taylor Sanders Points to Beat USA 3-2


  • June 2nd-July 8th, 2017
  • Event Page
  • Schedule//Results
  • Pool H1
  • Lodz, Poland
  • Week 3, Group 1 preview

Vengeance was the name of the day in Pool H1 on Saturday, where Russia and Poland atoned for earlier losses to Russia and Iran, respectively, in Lodz, Poland.

For Russia, it was a 3-2 win over the Americans, with both teams finishing with equal 115-point tallies overall, and for Poland it was a 3-0 sweep of Iran. Both matches in their earlier incarnations on earlier weekends were lopsided in the opposing directions.

Both were *almost* elimination matches, with the loser facing either a difficult, or impossible, road back into the Final 6. For Iran, the 3-0 loss was a death-blow, ending their hopes with no more than 4 wins and 10 points possible – which wouldn’t be enough for advancement.

The Americans found the one loophole that didn’t quite leave them eliminated – they picked up a point thanks to the 5th set, but that leaves them needing both a win over Poland on Sunday as well as a lot of losses ahead of them to have a shot at the Final 6. That scenario seems unlikely now, but isn’t impossible.

2 2 0 5
2 1 1 4
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 Russia def. United States 3-2 (31-29, 17-25, 25-19, 27-29, 15-13)

This match was a true back-and-forth affair, with teams trading blow-after-blow, alternating set wins, before Russia was able to inch away in the last.

While Ben Patch has been the offensive leader for the United States as of late, he scored just 14 points in Saturday’s matchup. The difference was made up for by outside hitter Taylor Sander, who exploded with his best output of the World League so far scoring 28 points (24 kills, 3 blocks, and an ace). He did so on just 46 swings, earning him a match-high 52.17% success rate.

“Russia is a big team,” Sander said after the match. “We never stopped fighting, we were very close, so we will learn from it and will get ready for Poland tomorrow. They served good with really tough floaters, they have a really big block, maybe we should make better decisions, but we were giving our best.”

A more balanced Russian attack, though, saw 22 from Egor Kluka and 17 from Maxim Zhigalov to win the day. Both teams went big on the block, with the U.S. stuffing 14 balls and Russia 17 – the latter lead by Ilya Kurkaev in the absence of his injured teammates Ilia Vlasov.

“We lost a lot of strength in the court today, but we are happy about the victory,” said Russian coach Sergey Shilaprnikov. “We are in good mood after the win with Poland and USA.”

“It was a really intresting match and we are happy that we won,” said Russia’s captain Dimitry Kovalev. “To be honest it was either win or lose, but we proved the strenght of our character, our team spirit, and won.”

The American coach John Speraw saw a silver lining in his team’s defeat. “I am obviously disappointed, but happy that we were playing great volleyball and still kept our heads up and fought really hard. We almost took that match not playing our best volleyball. In the third set we really struggled the side-out even if we were passing much better. So we have to go back and learn from that and see if we can play better tomorrow against Poland. We appreciate the Polish fans, we love playing here. We are grateful to be here and look forward to play against the home team.”

Poland def. Iran 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 25-22)

In spite of several Iranian surges, including a big momentum swing on an overturned call in the 2nd set, Poland took a crucial 3-0 win on Saturday to keep Final 6 hopes alive. With the loss, Iran is eliminated from contention for the championship round of the tournament.

Dawid Konarski and captain Michal Kubiak combined for 27 points for Poland, including 25 of the team’s 44 kills in the game. That’s a much higher percentage than the (32/60) that they scored in the two teams’ first matchup in week 1, which Iran won easily 3-1.

“Today we were eager to play a very different game than the last time,” said Poland’s coach Fernando De Giorgi. “I am very happy that my players were focused and stayed in the game and would like to congratulate them. It was visible that they want to play a different match and of course I am glad that we earned these three points.”

The team is not looking ahead to the Final 6, but instead focused on its final opponent the United States, where a win will assure them of a spot in Curitaba.

“We are happy with this victory and, what is most important, with our own game,” Konarski said. “We do not think about the advancing to Final 6 yet. If we win on Sunday, we will go to Curitiba, but we have to play against USA like we played today against Iran. We fought from the first till the last ball. It is important that we played a really consistent game. We can finally call it volleyball.”

Iran didn’t have a single player in double digits, with Farhad Ghaemi and Ghara Ebadipour tying with 8 each. The tournament’s leading setter, Saied Marouf, had 21 to raise his tournament average, but his team was unable to capitalize with only a 39% success rate. Iran also failed to record a single ace, but did have 13 service errors in the match.

“I don’t know what to say because we made too many mistakes,” Marouf said after the match. “Our opponents were better in every element. Only in the third set we played our volleyball. Poland had a good day, they serve well and we had problem with reception.”