#VNL Men’s Semifinals Preview

  0 Blair Lambert | July 06th, 2018 | International Volleyball, News


Date Time Score Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5 Total Report
7 Jul 14:00 France   United States     0–0  
7 Jul 16:30 Russia   Brazil     0–0  


The standings after the pools in the VNL Final Six worked out very similarly to how the they did after the Preliminary Round. France, the top team overall, won Pool A with a 2-0 record. Russia, second place after the Preliminary Round, went undefeated in Pool B and finished on top. United States finished the last round in third place and took the second position in Pool B. The only difference was that Serbia, fourth after the Preliminary Round, lost to Brazil and did not make it into the top four teams.

Pool A

Matches Pts Sets Points
Rank Team W L W L Ratio W L Ratio
1  France 2 0 5 6 2 3.000 183 159 1.151
2  Brazil 1 1 4 5 3 1.667 183 169 1.083
3  Serbia 0 2 0 0 6 0.000 115 153 0.752

Pool B

Matches Pts Sets Points
Rank Team W L W L Ratio W L Ratio
1  Russia 2 0 6 6 1 6.000 172 147 1.170
2  United States 1 1 3 4 4 1.000 142 136 1.044
3  Poland 0 2 0 1 6 0.167 144 175 0.823

How They Got Here

  • Russia went through Pool B nearly unblemished. They handled Poland 3-1 during the first match of the VNL Final Six on Wednesday. They were the first team to qualify for the semifinals when the United States went up 2-0 over Poland on Thursday. Russia returned to the court on Friday and swept the United States (who was fielding an entirely new lineup from the Thursday’s match) to finish with a 2-0 record and a perfect 6 points.
  • France started a bit shaky in Pool B, but bounced back and finished strong. They got down 2-1 to Brazil on Wednesday, but came back to win in 5 sets. They entered Friday’s match needing a victory over Serbia to claim the last spot in the semifinals. Their one-sided 3-0 sweep over Serbia was more than enough to take the top spot in Pool A.
  • Brazil was on the brink of elimination after their 3-2 defeat to France. They need to come back the next day and win in 3 or 4 sets against Serbia to clinch their spot. Despite some injuries, they got an emphatic sweep over Serbia to guarantee a place in the semifinals.
  • The United States clinched their place in the semifinals after their first match, a 3-0 win against Poland. They started a new 7 players on Friday and lost to Russia 3-0. At that point, both teams already had their qualification into the next round secured.

Players/Stories to Watch

  • France: This current generation of French internationals has had quite a bit of success at this tournament (or the World League which proceeded the VNL). While they have not won any medals in any of the major FIVB tournaments (with the exception of a bronze medal in the 2002 World Championships), they won the 2015 European Championships. France always seems to place a high level of importance on the World League/Volleyball Nations League and have won the titles in 2015 and 2017 with a bronze in 2016. Earvin N’Gapeth is the top scorer of the Final Six with 40 points, and averaging 5 points per set. Stephen Boyer is 3rd on the list of top scorers with 37 points. Boyer is 3rd in terms of attack efficiency, hitting 62.75%, and the 4th-best blocker with 0.63 per set. Thibault Rossard is the leading scorer of the Final Six with 0.63 aces per set.
  • Russia: This tournament is usually not one that Russia has lately put a lot of emphasis on.  They last earned a medal in 2013 when they won gold. Since winning the 2012 Olympics, their only FIVB medals were there 2013 World League gold mentioned earlier and the 2013 Grand Champions Cup silver medal. They won the 2015 European Olympic Qualification Tournament and the 2017 European Championships. Russia is always in the hunt for the podium, and often a tough opponent. They have used many lineups in this competition and have had strong results each time. While they have a few familiar names absent, they seemed to have settled into a starting lineup that may be their lineup in the World Championships. They have the 4th, 5th, and 6th-best scorers in the Final Six thus far in Maxim Mikhailov (32), Dmitry Volkov (28), and Egor Kliuka (25). Dmitry Muserskiy has slowed down a bit, but much of his offense production tapering has been to the addition of Mikhailov. Though while he has 15 points, he only has 1 service ace and 2 blocks.
  • Brazil: The #1 ranked team in the world and 2016 Olympic gold medalists have gone through a multitude of injuries in and before the VNL, but find themselves among the top 4 teams. They have not won this tournament since 2010, they have been in the finals 14 times since 2001. They won the Grand Champions Cup last year as well.  The last major FIVB tournament they have not won a medal at was the 2000 Olympic Games (they did not play in the 2015 World Cup because they had already qualified for the Olympics as hosts). At this point they are essentially using outside hitters that would fall somewhere between 3rd and 5th on the depth chart. No Lucarelli, no Mauricio Borges, and no Lipe means they are relying on Lucas Loh and Doulgas Souza on the left side. Wallace De Souza has led Brazil all tournament, and is the 2nd best scorer in the Final Six with 38 points (4.75 per set).  Lucas Saatkamp came alive in Thursday’s match against Serbia with 8 blocks. He has scored 22 points this week.
  • United States:  John Speraw has directed the United States to a great deal of success since taking over in 2013. They won the 2014 World League gold medal, and the bronze in 2015. Last year they reached the semifinals. The United States also won the 2015 World Cup, and earned a bronze in the 2016 Olympic Games. They experimented with players and lineups throughout the Preliminary Round. Against Poland it was the first time they had used that particular lineup. Taylor Sander had rejoined the team after the birth of his son, and Ben Patch was back from an injury. That resulted in a 3-0 sweep (albeit against a Polish team without a number of stars). All of those players rested against Russia on Friday. Matt Anderson leads the United States with 15 points and 5 points per set (on par with N’Gapeth). Sander and Aaron Russell are right behind with 14 points each (4.67 per set). Sander also has 1.0 aces per set, leading the Final Six at this point.

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