Argentina’s Federico Pereyra ended the match with a nasty jump-serve that cut away from the libero at the last moment. Erik Shoji dove with one hand extended and popped the ball over the net, where it landed out.
Everyone saw it as a fitting conclusion to Argentina’s 3-1 (25-18, 25-21, 22-25, 26-24) win over the United States in Friday’s season-opening World League men’s volleyball match at Koch Arena.
Argentina served more effectively than the United States, making it difficult for the Americans to sustain scoring runs. They led once in the first two sets before substitutions helped.
“The contrast between a team ingrained in a system vs. a team that is trying to develop one is apparent,” U.S. coach John Speraw said. “We didn’t set or pass very well.”
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The teams play again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Koch Arena.
“They put a lot of pressure on us by making a lot of serves,” U.S. captain Matt Anderson said. “Our passing wasn’t very well, and that in tune makes our offense more difficult. This match highlights a lot of the weaknesses in our team right now and gives us a lot to work on when we go back to the gym.”
Argentina also controlled the match at the net with its blocking.
“We touched a lot of balls,” Argentina coach Javier Weber said. “In this three weeks (of practice), the focus has been on blocking defense.”
A block by Sebastian Sole gave Argentina an 18-13 lead in the first set. An ace by Bruno Nicolas made it 21-15 and the U.S. didn’t get closer than four points the rest of the way.
In the second set, the U.S. took a 6-5 lead. Argentina responded with a 6-1 run and never trailed again. Ivan Castellani blocked a spike by Anderson for a 24-20 lead and Argentina won on a service error.
Speraw went to his bench for the third set and liked the results. Paul Lottman totaled nine points in the final two sets. Kawika Shoji took over at setter.
“At some points we got the nerves out of our system,” Speraw said. “We served pretty poorly early and pretty poorly late. During the middle of the match, we actually served OK.”
In the third set, the Americans took the lead for good 7-6 on a service ace, part of a 5-0 run. Argentina cut the margin to one nine times without taking the lead. Shoji and David Smith combined on a block for the winning point.
“We didn’t get down,” Speraw said. “Even down 0-2, I didn’t look around and see a bunch of depressed guys.”
The U.S. rallied late in the fourth set after trailing 23-19. Shoji’s ace cut the lead to 24-23. Lee blocked Pablo Crer to tie the set 24-all. Argentina won the next two points, with a kill by Crer and Pereyra’s ace.
Argentina’s Pablo Bengolea led all scorers with 15 kills. Murphy Troy and Antonio Ciarelli led the U.S. with nine each.