Monday, June 25, 2007

USA Completes Sweep of Hobbled Italian Team, 3-0

I am capturing this article in my blog since I will eventually be moving the article off of the home page.

The US National Team completed their home sweep of the Italians in World League play Saturday evening in front of 3,720 fans in Chicago. The scores were 25-19, 30-28 and 25-23. The Asics Junior National Championship tournament also being held in Chicago provided an additional source of fans from both local and out-of-town junior players and their parents. Pockets of junior players could be seen throughout the crowd, some still in their team uniform shirts.

The Team USA starting rotation included three different players tonight compared to their starting rotation on Friday night’s match. Kevin Hansen, who saw action in the 4th set Friday night, was the starting setter Saturday. Tom Hoff, who occasionally subbed into Fridays match in a blocking role for a few plays, was one of the starting middles. Hoff replaced David Lee. Lastly, Clay Stanley who was only used as a serving specialist Friday night was the starting opposite, replacing Gabe Gardner.

On the Italian side, Alessandro Farina, the Italian starting libero Friday night, was unable to play Saturday night. Prior to the match, Farina felt disoriented and nearly passed out. There was no prognosis on his condition at the post-match press conference. In his place, Alessandro Paparoni became the starting libero. This impacted the Italian offensive power Saturday night as Paparoni was a key attacker with 14 kills on Friday night.

The first set was close for the first ten points with the last tie score being at 6-6. Clay Stanley and Reid Priddy kills began to stretch out the lead to a 3 or 4 point spread. Team USA put together a run of points resulting in an Italian time out with the score 20-17. Reid Priddy put together back-to-back aces moving the score to 22-17. The first ace was shanked while the second one hit the floor untouched between two players. Coach Montali performed a double sub with Matteo Martino replacing Alberto Cisolla and Mauro Gavutto replacing Lorenzo Perazzolo. Priddy’s next serve resulted in an out-of-system free ball back to the US side and a Riley Salmon kill, 23-17. Tom Hoff ended the set with a quick, 25-19. Statistically, the US hit .380 and Italy .180. Both teams had only two serving errors with the US getting one ace. Clay Stanley had seven kills with a .550 hitting percentage.

The second set was the best set of the match. After the US jumped to a 3-0 lead, the next several minutes of play resulted in side outs or two point runs. Italy tied the set at 16-16 when Priddy was called on a back-row attack while attempting a roll show on an out-of-system set. For the next couple of rally’s both team seemed to lose focus as they were standing around letting balls go unpursued and resulting in a several free balls back to each other. The score was tied again when Kevin Hansen attempted to bring an overpass serve receive back over the net and was called for a lift, 21-21. Coach McCutcheon called a time out just before the up official signaled for serve. After a Millar kill, Giordano Mattera surprised the US with a dump with no US blockers up, 22-22. Italy had the first three attempts at set point, 23-24, 24-25 and 25-26. An Italian mental mistake resulted in a 26-26 score when after making a good dig on a Hoff quick attack, they let the dig drop to the floor within a few feet of several players. Clay Stanley put the match away with back-to-back kills, 30-28. The US maintained its .550 hitting percentage while Italy improved to .350. The US had a cumulative 2 aces to 8 service errors and Italy had a total of 5 service errors with no aces. USA had 5 blocks and 12 digs. Team Italy has 2 blocks and 5 digs. Another notable difference was 10 Italian ball handling errors versus 5 for the US. Clay Stanley had 10 kills in the second set.

David Lee started for Ryan Millar in the third set. Christian Savani and Cisolla kept Italy in the match with their timely kills. After the technical time out, Kevin Hansen would not be given the serve signal until he realized the up official was asking him to tuck in his shirt tail. Once he complied his was signaled for serve. Cisolla’s strong play, assisted by an Andrea Sala block resulted in Italy taking a 13-10 lead. The US charged back and tied the score at 15-15 with two Riley Salmon aces. After being tied at 17-17 and 19-19, the US blocked Cisolla twice resulting in a 21-19 lead and an Italian time out. After exchanging points, a missed serve by both teams resulted in a 24-23 score. Riley Salmon’s roll serve ended up with Tom Hoff stuff blocking Savani for match point. Cumulative stats for the US: .440 hitting, 4 aces to 10 service errors, 14 digs and 10 blocks. Stats for Italy: .330 hitting, 0 aces to 8 service errors, 9 digs and 4 blocks.

In the post-match press conference, Captain Tom Hoff was asked about the significant improvement in service errors compared to Friday night. It was noted that many of tonight’s serves were more of a role shot versus a full hard swing. Hoff said that the team discussed their Friday night service errors and agreed to focus on improving Saturday night. That focus resulted in a reduction of 7 errors (10 down from 17) with six of them coming in the second set. Coach McCutcheon stated the general instruction is to swing away if they have a great toss but they should control their serves with a point of getting them in if the toss is not ideal. They believed their block could protect them if their half speed serves were in bounds.

I will share more of the non-match related press conference notes in a separate article.

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