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Tyler Sander scored 28 points in the Americans’ dramatic five-set loss to Russia on Saturday, he added another 17 on Sunday whilst contributing four blocks. MVP Carson Clark also weighed in with 12 crucial spikes as the visitors had too much firepower for the Poles.
Michal Kubiak (15 points) and Dawid Konarski (12 points) were valuable for Poland, but their defensive resilience and strong serving proved in vain against explosive opposition.
The Americans, who beat the Poles in the 2015 bronze-medal match and in the 2016 Olympic quarter-finals, started strongly and moved into a 7-4 lead. But Poland, roared on by a partisan crowd, responded admirably and took a 19-15 lead. The USA weren’t done though and a couple of David Smith spikes handed them set points, but the Poles came from 28-29 down to take the set 31-29.
United States won the World League as recently as 2014 and took bronze at the Olympics last year, and they roused themselves in the second set to race into a 10-3 lead with their big defenders Jeffrey Jendryk and Micah Christenson putting in some huge blocks. Polish errors were also creeping in – Maciej Muzaj made contact with the net to gift the Americans a point – as the USA surged 18-11 clear. That seven-point deficit proved far too much for the Poles and Jake Langlois scored the winning point (25-17) as the Americans levelled the match at one set apiece.
Into the third set and Poland slowly began to assert their control. With the crowd behind them, the hosts earned a 16-12 lead, yet the Americans, who were facing almost certain elimination if they didn’t win this set, produced a brilliant comeback to draw level at 21-21. The set continued to go back and forth: Konarski fended off an American set point before the Poles missed a chance to go 2-1 up as David Smith kept the Americans in the set. Smith was then on hand to fire an ace to wrap up the set 27-25. Advantage USA.
The momentum was now with the USA, who looked like they were charging towards victory in the fourth set with Carson Clark’s spike putting them 8-4 in front. But some brilliant Polish serving had the hosts back level at 14-14. John Speraw’s side, though, found the extra quality that took them to the Olympic podium last season as they blitzed into a 21-16 lead with some explosive attacking. The US were in the zone and despite the Poles saving one match point, a dreadful serve into the net handed the set (25-20) and the match to the visitors – they now go 13-11 ahead in their head-to-head encounters against Poland.