Nagoya, Japan, September 12, 2017 – Matthew Anderson ushered USA’s opening day straight-set (25-21, 25-18, 25-13) win over hosts Japan at the 2017 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup at the Nippon Gaishi Hall on Tuesday.
Anderson topped all scorers with 13 points, including 11 attacks and two blocks. Two other USA scorers – Thomas Jaeschke and Aaron Russell – had double-digit outputs of 11 and 10 points, respectively. Yuki Ishikawa led all Japanese scorers with nine points. USA performed well in all scoring categories with 40 attacks, eight blocks and seven aces.
USA and Japan met for the fourth time at the World Grand Champions Cup and the NORCECA side gained a 3-1 winning edge over the Asian side. Japan won 3-1 in their first encounter in 1993, but USA won the last three encounters, including back-to-back victories in 2013 and 2017.
Japan’s combination plays gave USA trouble, but a few adjustments on defence and Anderson’s performance from the attack and service lines enabled them to seize the opening set at 25-21. USA had a better finish in the next set, as Micah Christenson got his other hitters involved on offence. USA played with consistency on both offence and defence, while Japan had difficulty to convert on their attack attempts.
USA coach John Speraw: I was interested to see how we would start the match tonight. We did talk about that in the locker room as being an important aspect of this match. It feels like we didn’t play much volleyball this summer. We rested Matt Anderson and Max Holt during the World League and Aaron Russell was pretty significantly injured at the end of the season. So we didn’t have three key players for much of the summer and Taylor Sander was hurt so we have not had enough time to train to make me feel comfortable.
I felt better after this match not because we won, but because of the way we played the game. What we did in the previous four years was to invest in young players and even though we haven’t had enough time to make me feel comfortable, what I saw tonight was a team comfortable playing with each other and competing the way I wanted them to compete and that was because we have some returning players that have some experience but are still young in the game.
In the last couple of weeks, we spent some time working on our block and defence and serve and I think those elements were strong for us tonight. We still have room for improvement but I saw really good fundamentals and I thought that we served the ball really well, which allowed us to put pressure on Japan and was the difference in the match.
USA captain David Smith: It’s always nice to be here in Japan. I think in the locker room before we came out we were talking about how it’s always difficult after a long layoff, but I think we did well today. We wanted to focus on our side, especially the serves to put pressure on them and I think we did a very good job.
Japan coach Yuichi Nakagaichi: Before the game I said tonight was about showing what we have been working on this summer. As John Speraw said, their service took all the momentum away from us and we couldn’t find a way back. They didn’t allow us to focus and I think they have the best defence in the world.
We just couldn’t do what we wanted. I was frustrated and disappointed and I’m sure the spectators felt the same way. You can’t get much out of a match like this, but still the most important thing is to be able to learn from it. This tournament has strong teams in it and so we have to show our spirit as challengers, and I hope we start doing that tomorrow. We prepared to receive strong serves. Their service was good but we were deficient in other aspects. Still, I feel we could have done more in response to their serving.
Japan captain Hideomi Fukatsu: Before the start of the World Grand Champions Cup, we had good preparation, so there was a good atmosphere in our build-up. I feel very disappointed by the way we lost rather than the result. We were a bit nervous and couldn’t get going, but we shouldn’t let our mistakes affect our mentality too much. The fans tried to push us forward, so we have to reflect on our poor performance. We have to show more fighting spirit.
Japan player Issei Otake: Today was our first match so we were a bit nervous and each play wasn’t as efficient as it should have been, so we made mistakes. USA’s blocking was very good and even when they had only one blocker, he was always imposing. We have four matches left and the question now is how much of our volleyball can we show.
Japan player Yuki Ishikawa: We couldn’t play the volleyball we wanted to play. We will try to do this from tomorrow. To be able to play in my hometown was a big thing for me, so I can’t be happy with the result. I want to show how we can play tomorrow.