Taylor Sander scored 13 points but USA's lack of ability to deal with Iran's block will have caused concerns
Osaka, Japan, September 17, 2015 – USA took one step closer to the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Cup 2015
and a Rio 2016 Olympic Games berth after they held off a dogged effort from Iran 3-1 (20-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-21).
It was the first time USA had lost a set since their second match against Japan and although they picked up the win in Osaka on Thursday, coach John Speraw will be hoping for improvements as Iranians controlled much of the first part of the match, especially in blocking as they scored 15 to USA's 3. Matt Anderson led USA on 19 points.
The loss means that Iran are mathematically out of the running for a top two finish.
It was Iran who took the early lead, blocking efficiently and giving the United States little room to attack. Iran had done their homework and extended their lead to 23-19 with their service reception taking away a crucial element of USA’s game plan. An error from the serve line saw Iran clinch the set.
USA could not get into the game, and the second set saw Iran continue a positive rhythm. A miscommunication in reception gave Iran a two point lead at 7-5. But a bit of luck helped the US gain the lead for the first time in the set, a lucky dig sending them 10-8 clear. David Lee, Taylor Sander and Matt Anderson managed to bring some success to the US block, and that helped swing things in the world No.5’s favour before two thunderous Anderson aces drew things level at 1-all.
It was sideout after sideout at the start of the third, with USA finally breaking free at 14-12 following a Micah Christenson ace. Iran would not drop back though, and stayed close as the set reached its conclusion. A perfect Christenson set led to a vicious Holt spike as USA took a 2-1 lead in the game.
Neither team could control the match in the fourth as USA looked to continue that unbeaten run and Iran aimed to secure a third win to keep themselves in the hunt. But with two sets behind them, and Iranian discipline starting to slip, they powered on home to stay top of the table.