Team USA in high gear

Joey Villar - The Philippine Star
Team USA in high gear
Torey Defalco of the United States drills it in against Germany yesterday at the MOA Arena.
Russell Palma

MANILA, Philippines — Volleyball-crazy Filipino fans have been bracing for the much-anticipated showdown between the two most popular teams in the VNL – Japan and the United States.

But while the Japanese are a little ahead in terms of fan support in the Philippines, the Americans are determined to change a lot of hearts by playing the best they could.

The three-time Olympic champion did just that by outlasting a hard-fighting Germany, 25-23, 21-25, 26-24, 25-23, at the MOA Arena yesterday to keep its slim chances alive in making the eight-team final round in Lodz, Poland late this month.

Battle-scarred Matthew Anderson unleashed 23 points while hard-spiking Torey Defalco scattered 20 hits that gave the Americans their fifth win against six defeat for 15 points for 11th spot, or just a breath behind No. 8 Cuba (17 points), No. 9 Serbia (15) and No. 10 Argentina (15).

The Germans dropped to 12th with 12 points.

And it would be like killing two birds with one stone if the Americans could slay the Japanese, who are currently at No. 6 with 20 points, in their 7 p.m. duel tonight – a matchup that is expected to draw a jampacked crowd.

US skipper and setter Micah Christenson later said he and several of his teammates tried to convince several members of Alas Pilipinas, which included its charismatic captain Jia de Guzman, Fifi Sharma and Vannie Gandler, to cheer for them instead of Japan during a planned dinner last Friday.

“It was awesome just to get to talk to them, listen to their experience and talk about how and who they are going to cheer for, if it’s gonna be Japan or us tomorrow (today),” added Christenson.

“So it will put a little pressure on them to cheer for us,” he added.

For Defalco, they weren’t surprised the Germans would engage them in a dogfight in the event powered by PLDT Home, the official local partner of the Volleyball Nations League 2024. Catch the latest in sports with PLDT Home Fiber Unli All Plan 1799 which comes with unlimited Fiber, unlimited entertainment from Cignal, and free mobile calls.

In the nightcap, crowd darling Japan showed nerves of steel as it ekedf out a come-from-behind win over France, 17-25, 19-25, 25-16, 25-23, 15-10, that kept it in the final round hunt. Skipper Yuki Ishikawa gave the 11,879 fans their money’s worth and unloaded 33 points.

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