Veteran Setter Makes A Difference
Team Italy defeated Team USA 3-1 in World League Men’s international volleyball tonight at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois in front a crowd of 4,310 fans. After a great first set, Team USA struggled to get their offense to side out consistently and watched helplessly as Italy strung together 2 and 3 point runs in critical points in the next three sets. Although the team hitting percentages were close (.495 US versus .538 ITA) Team USA was out blocked 12 to 9.
For the first set, the US started Sean Rooney and Scott Touzinsky at the outsides, Captain David Lee and Andy Hein in the middle with Clay Stanley at opposite and Kevin Hansen setting. Team Italy started Cristian Savani and Matej Cernic at the outsides, Andrea Sala and Emanuele Biraelli at middle with Michal Lasko at opposite and Dragan Travica setting. Team Italy jumped to a 4-8 lead at the first technical timeout taking advantage of US service errors and an ace. The US tied it back up 10-10 when Sean Rooney crushed a no approach kill after a pancake save and a bump set two meters from the net. A five point run 16-17 to 21-17 opened up the set which Rooney ended with a high hands shot off a Rich Lambourne back bump set. Team Italy made a setter change bringing in veteran Valerio Vermiglio at 21-17. This change would be the beginning of a momentum change.
In the second set, Team Italy, lead by their setter Vermiglio, once again jumped out to a 4-8 lead at the first technical timeout. Coach Alan Knipe substituted Jayson Jablonsky for Touzinsky at that time out. After a couple of side outs by each team, Italy once again went on a run stretching their lead to 6-11 including a huge Savani line shot and a Lasko ace. The US got as close as two points but Italy ran three points at 19-21 including a stuff block of a David Lee quick attempt and a Stanley hitting error. Vermiglio connected with his middle, Biraelli for the final point (20-25). The change of setters changed Italy’s hitting percentage from an unimpressive .370 in the first set to an outstanding .620 in the second. Team USA racked up a 7-5 blocking advantage by the end of the second set but the serving resulted in 9 errors with no aces. Team Italy had 2 aces with only 6 service errors.
In the third set, Jablonsky started for Touzinsky but Team Italy continued their quick start including a 4 point run that Coach Knipe stopped with a time out at 4-7. Each team traded side outs and the US pushed the score to a 16-16 tie with a Clay Stanley ace. Side outs resulted in ties at 17, 18 and 19. A Rooney miss of a high hand shot and Italy’s Savani getting back-to-back kills pushed the score to 19-23. Evan Patak was brought on to serve for Sean Rooney hoping to get on one of his wonderful World League service runs. Patak’s first serve resulted in a poor pass and Vermiglio getting called on a double contact. It appeared Patak had another point on a back row roll shot to the end line but the up official overruled the line judge giving the point to Team Italy. Cristian Savani ended the set with another one of his booming line shot. Team Italy went up 2-1 on the 22-25 third set win.
In the fourth and final set, déjà vu set in as Team USA quickly went down by a score of 3-6 resulting in a Team USA time out. Italy sandwiched a couple of two point runs between a Stanley kill. Donald Suxho was brought in for Kevin Hansen at 10-13. David Smith was subbed in for Andy Hein at 11-15 and Team Italy quickly attacked the rookie with a quick set to Emanuele Biraelli in the middle resulting in an 11-16 score and technical time out. Team USA finally went on a run of their own getting 6 points and actually taking the lead 22-21. Italy used both of their time outs during that six point run. After knotting things up at 24 each, a David Smith service error and scramble play off of a Michal Lasko serve off the tape resulted in the US dig caroming past the US backline for the final point of the match. Italy won the match with a 24-26 fourth set score.
Middle Hitter will post expanded match coverage including match photos and press conference video Saturday morning.