2018 FIVB MEN’S VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – WEEK 4/POOL 15
- June 15th-June 17th, 2018
- Sears Centre, Hoffman Estates, Illinois, United States (seating 10,000)
- Time Zone: US Central Time (U.S. Eastern Time -1)
- World Rankings: #2 United States, #3 Poland, #8 Iran, #11 Serbia
|Date||Local Time||US Eastern Time||Home Team||Away Team|
|15 Jun||20:00||21:00||United States||Serbia|
|16 Jun||19:30||21:00||United States||Poland|
|17 Jun||17:30||21:00||United States||Iran|
There are only 2 weeks left of play before the Final Round in Lille, France. Poland seems to have their qualification to the Final Round already sewn up. They are playing in a pool full of teams that could beat them, but even an 0-3 finish this weekend would still not knock them out of the top 6.
The United States faced a setback with a 0-3 loss to Germany last weekend, but they still have a great chance of qualifying for the Final Round. They can get by with only a single or a pair of wins this weekend, but going 3-0 would make it more comfortable heading into the final weekend of the Preliminary Round.
Serbia is in a precarious situation. They sit right in the 6th position. They play 2 teams above them in the standings in the United States and Poland. They need to pick up at least 2 wins by the time they leave Hoffman Estates in order keep themselves in the top 6.
Iran is not mathematically eliminated from progressing in this tournament, but they need to get 3 wins and get help from other teams if they want to have a realistic shot of playing in Lille next month. While they have the ability to beat each of the teams in the pool, they have not displayed much consistency.
The United States, Serbia, and Poland all have great chances at making it to the Final Round. While Poland is over 4,500 miles from home, there is a great deal they will be playing in front of a pro-Poland crowd. The Sears Centre will probably be occupied by many Polish fans, as there is a sizable Polish population in the Chicago Area. Even with injuries, Poland is playing well. They do not have the most difficult pool next week, so they might not enter these matches with the greatest of urgency.
The United States will want to have a great showing in front of a home crowd, and they need to get a few victories to set them up in a good position heading into the final weekend when they play Russia, Italy and France. They will be without Ben Patch (injury) and Taylor Sander (waiting for the birth of his first child). Getting wins over any of these teams are always considered important for the United States. Getting a win over Iran will be vital since they are further down on the standings, and it could be seen as a trap match.
Serbia needs to pull of some wins to set them up for next week. They will mire than likely be the favorites when they play Japan, China, and Canada next week (though Canada is looking a bit stronger at this point in the tournament). Serbia needs 2 wins this weekend. Poland might not have their foot on the gas pedal as they are sitting in a good position heading into the final weekend. That might provide a chance for Serbia to move up in the standings.
You can never count out a team run by Saeid Marouf. Iran will have a tall task of defeated a team from the United States at home, and a team in Poland who will have a great deal of support in the stands. That same factor may also apply to Iran, as they always tend to draw large crowds of supporters when they play in the United States. It is difficult to suggest they will get a few wins this weekend as they have not beaten anybody above them in the standings thus far.
Storylines and Players to Watch:
- Poland: Vital Heynen has used a lot of players in the tournament up to this point. With Michal Kubiak being out, Dawid Konarski and Arthur Szalpuk have stepped into leading roles. They have scored 51 and 69 points respectively. Piotr Nowakowski is leading the Volleyball Nations League in blocking with 0.66 per set. Pawel Zatorski is the leading passer in the tournament and 2nd on the list of digs.
- Iran: Amir Ghafour is Iran’s leading scorer through 3 weeks of play. The opposite has scored 126 points on 116 kills, 9 blocks, and 1 service ace. That total is good enough to be 8th on the list of top scorers. Marouf is still able to establish the middle blocker into the offense better than most other setters in the world. Their 3rd- and 4th-highest scorers are middle blockers. Seyed Mohammed Mousavi Eraghi has contributed 53 points, and Ali Shafiei has chipped in 77.
- Serbia: The Serbian side has rotated many players through their lineup during this tournament. Drazen Luburic has been the most productive player with 110 points on 95 kills, 4 blocks, and 11 aces. He is the 4th- best server in the competition with 0.31 aces per set. It will be interesting to see if he gets used as the primary attacker, or if they will use Aleksandar Atanasijevic in these high-stakes matches. Srecko Lisinac is the team’s leading blocker with 0.43 blocks per set. Uros Kovacevic and Marko Ivovic have chipped in 79 and 78 points for Serbia from the outside hitter position.
- United States: The Americans will be without Ben Patch, their leading scorer through 3 weeks of play. Matt Anderson, Team USA’s 2nd-leading scorer with 83 points, will assume the role of opposite this weekend for the United States. Kyle Ensing will be on the roster as the backup to Anderson. Micah Christenson will be orchestrating the offense, and he is 5th on the list of top diggers in the tournament with 0.94 per set. Erik Shoji is 10th on the list of the best passers. Without Taylor Sander on the roster, the outside hitting duties will be handled by Aaron Russell and Thomas Jaeschke. Jake Langlois and T.J. DeFalco will be on the roster, and both have seen time on the court in this competition.