USA Goes 7-0 in World League with 3-1 Win Over Bulgaria
Team Bulgaria started out strong in the first set at the Sears Centre behind strong local Bulgarian fan support. However, Team USA recovered with a switch of setters late in the first set to eventually defeat the visitors 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-16, 25-16). Sean Rooney also added his 2014 World League best performance with 13 points on 10 kills, 2 blocks and an ace.
Team USA started the same lineup as last weekend against Serbia. Matt Anderson, David Lee and Taylor Sander in the front row (L to R). Sean Rooney, Max Holt and Micah Christenson were in the back. Team USA struggled with serve receive and serving including six service errors. Bulgaria stretched their 8-6 lead to four points (11-7) shortly after the first technical time out with a Nikolay Nikolov ace off Taylor Sanders arms. Taylor soon returned the favor by ripping an ace off of Todor Aleksiev to bring it to 11-9.
In addition to serve receive challenges, USA hitters were suffering from set placement. Coach John Speraw replaced Christenson with Kawika Shoji at setter at the 14-20 mark of the first set. While it wasn't enough for Team USA to recover and win the first set, it proved to be the difference for the match. During the post-match press conference, Speraw said Christenson was suffering from tightness before the match but he started him since he was warm. After it became evident it was impacting his set placement, he made the decision to put Shoji in.
Team Bulgaria won the first set 25-20 lead by Todor Skrimov with 4 kills and an ace. Taylor Sander had 4 kills and 2 aces to lead Team USA. The US had zero blocks in the set.
Team USA started to gel in the second set including the block. The match was tightly contested throughout with the lead changing multiple times. The match was tied at 19-19 when USA pushed ahead with 2 straight points including a Matt Anderson line shot and a Venelin Kandankov hitting error. Another hitting error gave Team USA the second set win 25-22. Sander and Skrimov both added four more kills to their totals during the set. Team USA had four blocks.
The third set quickly became a rout as Team USA quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead off a Taylor Sander back row quick attack. The US never gave up the lead and added 6 more blocks including solo blocks by Sander and Lee. Bulgaria tried to shake things via substitutions including changing out starting setter Dobromir Dimitrov for Georgi Seganov and Nikolay Penchev for Todor Skrimov but to no avail. Matt Anderson ended the set 25-16 with a thundering right side crush with no Bulgarian blockers up. Matt Anderson came alive with four kills.
The final set was more of the same for Bulgaria. After a 2-2 tie, Team USA widened the lead with multiple 2 and 3 point runs. The Team USA serve also came alive with 5 aces including contributions from Holt, Anderson, Sander and Rooney. The final point of the set was a frustrated Bulgarian serve into the back of the head of their middle. Team USA won again at a score of 25-16.
Taylor Sander led the US with a total of 20 points including 14 kills, 3 blocks and 3 aces. Venelin Kandankov led Bulgaria with 15 points off 12 kills, 1 block and 2 aces.
The teams will meet again Saturday night at the Sears Centre. It is expected the Bulgarian crowd will be even larger.