Sunday, July 12, 2009

That’s The Stanley I Remember


Team USA defeated Team Italy in their second home matchup Saturday night 3-1 on the back of a vintage Clay Stanley performance. Stanley did not start the first two sets of the match but subbed in as a serving specialist. He replaced Evan Patak in the third and fourth sets and lead Team USA to victory with 4 aces and 6 kills. In addition, Stanley’s overpowering serves generated at least a half dozen additional points on Italian overpasses and out-of system plays reminding the crowd of 4,183 of his 2008 Olympic MVP performance.

The first set Team USA started Sean Rooney and Scott Touzinsky at outside, Andy Hein and David Lee in the middle with Evan Patak at Opposite and Donald Suxho getting the starting setter duties. Team Italy started Christian Savani and Matej Cernic at outside, Andrea Sala and Emanuele Birarelli at middle with Michal Lasko at opposite and veteran Valerio Vermiglio as the setter. Both team traded side outs until 11-11 where Team USA ripped a three point run including a Scott Touzinsky ace in the deep right corner forcing an Italian team time out. The US had one more three point push off two Patak kills bringing them to a 23-18 lead and another Italian time out. Mauro Gavotta served long as a serving specialist for Team USA’s set point. Team USA hit .530 with one ace and 2 blocks. Team Italy hit .430 with no aces and 2 blocks. Sean Rooney had an excellent first set with 6 kills and 1 block.

In Set Two, Team USA avoided starting out in the hole like that had Friday night leading up to a 7-8 score at the first technical time out. Team Italy completed a three point run off a Lasko high hands kill and Evan Patak being called in the net. Team USA countered with a three point run including a Suxho one-on-one stuff of Christian Savani. Team Italy surged back with 6 points in a row including two block kills and a Lasko ace resulting in a 14-19 lead. Paul Lottman was brought in for Scott Touzinsky at 18-24 and Team Italy served directly to him. Despite the good serve receive Team Italy won the set 18-25 after two attempts in a row by Sean Rooney were sent back by the Italian block. Team USA dropped to a .330 hitting percentage with 0 aces and 3 blocks. Team Italy jumped up to a .500 hitting percentage, picked up an ace and four blocks.

Coach Alan Knipe made a change in the middle for the third set by starting David Smith for Andy Hein. Smith’s presence was felt as he contributed two kills and two blocks for points in the third set. Both teams traded side outs for most of the first half including a 14-14 tie. Clayton Stanley was subbed in for Patak at the 10-11 mark and contributed two aces in a row to fire up his team. A Touzinsky kill through the block gave Team USA set point at 24-18. The Italians fought off five set points but lost on a Cernic service error (long) resulting in a 25-22 score.

Coach Knipe kept Stanley in the lineup for the beginning of the fourth set. Sean Rooney and Clay Stanley rose up to the occasion and lead their team with a combined 10 kills and 3 aces in the final set. Stanley’s two aces and a back row kill were part of a five point run resulting in a Team USA 16-10 lead. Evan Patak played the serving specialist role and added his own ace in the deep right corner for a 22-17 lead. Rooney complete the match victory with a smash through an Italian double block.

With tonight’s win, Team USA can lock in first place in Pool A with a single 3-0 or 3-1 win in one of the their two remaining pool play matches against The Netherlands next weekend in Wichita. The winner of each pool advances to the Final Round of Six being hosted by Serbia. The final round will be played over 5 days in Belgrade. The four pool winners, the host country (Serbia) and a wild card team will make up the six teams. Team USA has advanced to the Final Round both in 2007 resulting in a fourth place finish and 2008 where they won their first World League championship.

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