The FIVB World League has come to a close with the United States finishing in fourth place after losing to Canada in the bronze medal match. The United States has had a strong and consistent lineup for years on the court, but in this World League, they relied on some new faces to carry them to the Final Six of the competition.
The first week of the World League saw the United States with a 0-3 start and not much promise going into the final two weeks of play. However, they surpassed our expectations on the court, turning around their preliminary play with a 4-5 record, squeezing their way into the finals.
Along with the team having younger players step up to the occasion at the World League, the team showed their weaknesses as well – in that their serving and receiving were not on par.
The United States used a number of young players to help guide them in the tournament, with the team relying heavily on Ben Patch on the opposite. Heading into the Final Six, Patch ranked 7th overall with 126 points for the American squad on 111 kills, 14 blocks and one ace. In the Finals series, Patch finished with another 52 points on 42 kills, eight blocks and two aces.
Patch took over the role of one of the world’s greatest volleyball players in Matt Anderson, who is taking the summer off to rest. Anderson ranked 2nd overall at the 2016 Rio Olympics with 128 points, helping the Americans to their bronze medal finish. Though Patch stepped up to fill his absence at the World League, we don’t think that he is good enough, yet, to push Anderson to outside hitter when he makes his return to the team.
Patch was not up to his preliminary round play in the finals, as he committed 21 errors in hitting on 108 attempts. In addition, he also made 11 service errors, which proved costly for the United States (though he was not the only one to make an enormous amount of serving mistakes). In the bronze medal match to Canada, Patch was removed from the game for Carson Clark to enter – who has way more experience than Patch does, but is far less talented. Clark entered multiple matches to fill in for Patch as he was making errors that were costing Team USA points.
Though Patch is 23, with tons of volleyball experience in his lifetime, this year’s World League is his first time being a factor on the senior national team. Patch was overwhelmingly reliable in many matches throughout the World League, however, grew inconsistent when it came to crunch time.
In the middle and still competing collegiately, Jeff Jendryk played a steady role for the Americans throughout the competition. In the preliminary rounds, Jendryk posted 58 points on 46 kills, 10 blocks and two service aces. He added another 20 points to his name in the finals with 17 kills and three blocks. Overall, his output is less significant than his teammates and has room to improve his offense. Though, his 6’8″ stature will add some much-needed versatility and depth in the middle blocker position for the United States.
Towards the end of the Finals, Jendryk became a less prominent presence on the court, due to his inexperience and the stakes of the final matches.
Jendryk can prove to be a rising middle blocker for Team USA, with him still having one more collegiate season to play with the University of Chicago-Loyola, where he helped the team to a national title in his freshman season.
Taylor Sander proved himself time and time again for Team USA throughout the World League. In the Final Six, Sander added another 70 points to the 146 he contributed in the preliminary rounds. While other players struggled, setter Micah Christenson could rely on a consistent Sander throughout the competition. Sander would wail on the ball from both the front and backcourt, making him a threat in all six rotations on the court.
Though not as young as a Patch or Jendryk (even Christenson who just turned 24, and a year younger than Sander), he was still a youthful factor that helped the American squad to the finals. Sander was a member of the U.S. squad that won bronze at the Olympic Games, contributing 92 points for the Americans.
Problem with Serving
Team USA struggled from behind the service line, missing serves in crucial moments of a match.
In the preliminary rounds, there were 179 missed serves on 816 attempts. This means that as a whole, the U.S. missed nearly 22% of their serves in the first rounds of the competition.
- Taylor Sander – 28 in 118 attempts
- David Smith – 31 in 144 attempts
- Kawika Shoji – 9 in 67 attempts
- Micah Christenson – 20 in 120 attempts
- TJ DeFalco – 20 in 99 attempts
- Garrett Muagututia – 10 in 53 attempts
- Jeff Jendryk – 10 in 72 attempts
- Jake Langlois -2 in 14 attempts
- Daniel Mcdonnell – 12 in 37 attempts
- Ben Patch – 26 in 57 attempts
- Carson Clark – 11 in 35 attempts
In the Final Six, the team missed 79 serves on 377 attempts. Therefore, Team USA missed nearly 21% of their serves.
- Taylor Sander – 14 in 66 attempts
- David Smith – 10 in 61 attempts
- Thomas Jaeschke – 15 in 63 attempts
- Ben Patch – 11 in 30 attempts
- Kawika Shoji – 2 in 22 attempts
- Carson Clark – 1 in 6 attempts
- Micah Christenson – 12 in 57 attempts
- Daniel Mcdonnell – 3 in 18 attempts
- Jeff Jendryk – 7 in 37 attempts
- Garrett Muagututia – 4 in 17 attempts
Overall, the team missed 258 serves on 1,193 attempts for an average of 21.6% missed serves in the competition. The percentage of missed serves may not seem like a huge deal with it being right around 20% with 80% of the serves making into play, but in reality, it is. Serving is the one aspect of volleyball that is individual, that no one else but yourself can control, therefore, it should be like shooting a free throw in basketball – a routine.
It’s not to say that the American crew doesn’t have any potential from behind the service line because they do, it is just an aspect of the game that seriously needs to be reworked.
In relation to the poor serving from the American crew, they equally struggled to receive the ball off a serve. Many countries around the world use a jump float serve that doesn’t spin and can begin to move around to a different location (float) than originally planned. Whereas many players for the United States use a jump top-spin serve, that is difficult to pass based on the sheer strength and speed behind the serve but is increasingly inaccurate because the toss is so important. This was a problem that Patch ran into often, as his toss for his top-spin was often too far out in front of him, causing him to foot fault or serve the ball in the net.
The Americans practice with a jump top spin a practice more than they see a jump float serve, causing them to struggle on the reception of a serve on a consistent basis. Jendryk had problems with his jump float though, as one of the handful of players on the USA squad to use the serve.
Now with the NORCECA Continental Championships coming up at the end of September, the real test will be put on the United States as they will be back at full strength and players who took the summer off returning. This will force John Speraw to reposition the lineup, especially when it comes to Patch and Anderson, forcing the youth to step up their game to hang with the big name stars on the team.
NORCECA’s competition is getting tougher, with Canada proving their place in the volleyball world and the competition being thin since Cuba stopped being able to keep their talent from detecting. The United States will have to find some balance between the old and new stars to remain a strong presence in NORCECA.