Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Team USA Aces Way into World League Final Six

The following post is an article I posted on www.middlehitter.com originally on July 12, 2008. I posted it here on the blog as it has been moved to the website archives.

Team USA clinched first place in Pool C of the 2008 World League preliminary rounds behind the power of a strong serving and blocking game including 9 aces. The scores were 24-26, 25-22, 25-13 and 25-18. Earlier in the day Finland defeated Bulgaria 3-2 in Varna setting up the clincher. Tonight’s match was once again held at US Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, IL in front of another large crowd of 4,957. Reid Priddy lead Team USA with 21 points including 15 kills, 5 blocks and 1 ace. Iban Perez, despite missing the fourth set, lead Team Spain with 14 points consisting of 13 kills and 1 block.

Tonight’s starters for Team USA were Reid Priddy, Lloy Ball and Ryan Millar in the front row. David Lee, Clay Stanley and Sean Rooney started in the back row with Rich Lambourne as the libero. Team Spain started Francisco Rodriguez, Iban Perez and Julian Garcia-Torres in the front row with Javier Subiela, Guillermo Hernan and Manual Sevillano across the back. Alexis Valido was the libero.

The first set began much like the last set of Friday night’s match with Team Spain leading much of the match and each team getting short runs of points. Clay Stanley lead the set with 1 ace and 5 kills including one cross court smash from the left side that caused pain when it bent back Spain libero Alexis Valido’s fingers as he attempted to dig it with his hands. Team Spain was serving tough many times choosing Sean Rooney as their target. Coach Hugh McCutcheon substituted Riley Salmon for Rooney at the 11-14 mark after Rooney shanked an Alfonso Flores serve. Reid Priddy tied the match at 24-24 with a cross court kill off the libero with no blockers up. Riley Salmon was wide on the next attack and Spain stuffed Ryan Millar for the set point winning 26-24.

In the second set both teams served strong and were siding out effectively. After a Team USA time out, a Francisco Rodriguez attack hit the tape and rolled across out of bounds setting up another Clay Stanley serving run. Stanley’s service took Team USA from 19-20 to 23-20 including two aces. During this run Coach McCutcheon substituted team captain Tom Huff as a blocking specialist for Riley Salmon. Huff served as the middle with Ryan Millar playing the left side position. A Rodriguez jump float service error gave USA the 25-22 set victory.

Team USA provided a blocking and serving clinic during the third set winning it 25-13. Lloy Ball, Priddy and Millar each served an ace. Reid Priddy had 3 of Team USA’s 6 blocks during the set. Coach Marcelo Mendez tried several substitutions to re-energize his team but to no avail. The Hoff-Salmon sub during Stanley’s serve at the 18-8 mark resulted in a Millar kill from the left side and a Hoff kill in the middle.

During the final set both teams traded side outs until another Stanley service run brought Team USA to an 11-8 lead. Juan Carlos Barcala started the 4th set in place of Iban Perez. Kevin Hansen was substituted for David Lee as a serving specialist but served wide right. Ryan Millar once again scored a kill from the left side during the Stanley serve, Hoff-Salmon sub strategy. David Lee ended the set and match with a quick in the middle.

Team USA will travel back to Anaheim then head to Varna, Bulgaria for their final two matches. The team will travel directly to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the finals after the matches in Bulgaria. It is anticipated that Team Bulgaria will be using their most experienced players during those two matches in Varna. This was not the case during the US matches held in Hoffman Estates, IL. Gabe Gardeners injury appears to be minor as it was reported that he did participate in practice earlier in the day.

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