2017 FIVB WORLD LEAGUE – GROUP 1
The United States and France will enter Tuesday’s Pool K1 opener of the Final 6 of the World League with very different momentums. The French enter the match as the hottest team from pool play and the favorites, given Brazil’s injuries, to emerge as the tournament champions. Most of that effort was done without arguably their biggest star, Earvin Ngapeth, who was recovering from an injury during pool play and saw just a limited action.
“It was good taking this month to take care of myself,” Ngapeth commented. “As the team was doing well, I could take my time to recover completely. I’m lacking some rhythm now, but I am well physically and looking forward to play.”
In his absence, Stephen Boyer emerged as a bona-fied scorer. His 165 points in pool play was the most of any player by a comfortable margin (18 ahead of Bulgaria’s Tsvetan Sokolov).
France has a powerful offensive machine, including setter Benjamin Toniutti, who is in his prime and is one of the top players at his position in the world. Defensively, however, they have holes. Their best middle blocker, Kevin Le Roux, has been battling injuries, and ranked just 17th among all players in blocks/set in the pool play rounds. Their libero Jenia Grebennikov had just 37 digs and 30 errors in the opening rounds in limited action.
The United States is more of a balanced team in abilities, though their youth and inexperience leaves them unpredictable in consistency. Opposite Ben Patch rode the bench in the team’s first game, but has since exploded for 111 kills and a 52.86% hitting percentage. That ranks him 3rd among all players in the tournament. His outside hitter Taylor Sander isn’t far behind, ,ranking 5th in 50.43%.
David Smith has emerged as a powerful force in the middle for the Americans, averaging .66 blocks/set, and the veteran Micah Christenson has brought stability to a very young team at setter.
Outside of Sander, the Americans have struggled mightily in service reception, however. Because the American program has long-espoused a traditional serve, they rarely see float serves in their practice gym, and have had a difficult time receiving those serves in the World League. With France carrying some of the best servers in the tournament (Boyer leads all players in aces), that could be trouble for the Americans.
The live match stream is below. The game will start at 5:40 in Curitaba, which is 4:40PM in New York City and 10:30PM in Paris.
Editor’s note: Video not made available in the United States. If you are not in the United States, but an error in YouTube’s geolocation service is still blocking your access, you can use a program like TunnelBear to redirect to the proper country. It is also airing live on Universal HD.