Gdansk, Poland, July 6, 2011 – World No. 2 Russia made the best start possible to the FIVB World League Finals in Gdansk, Poland with a 3-1 (29-31, 25-16, 25-21 and 25-22) win over USA in the first match of Pool F on Wednesday.
Russia's Maxim Mikhaylov led all scorers with 29 points, while the best scorer for USA - Matthew Anderson - scored 17.
Much of the build up to the match focused on USA’s heavy travel schedule and their
possible jet lag but the world No. 5, who started the match having only won two of eight previous World League encounters with Russia, who started the better winning three points on the trot.2011
The match started with USA gaining a slight advantage but the Russians didn't lose touch with the Americans leading 8-6 at the first TTO. Last year’s silver medallists tied the set at 16-16 before jumping out to a 21-17 lead thanks to a series of great serves from the tallest man in the competition Dmitriy Muserskiy, who stands at 2.18m. Russia missed two set balls before USA levelled at 24-24 on the back of a Evan Patak ace. With both sides going blow to blow, an Alexander Volkov spike long gave the US the set 31-29. Russia's Miklaylov led all scorers with eight points.
The second set started better for Russia with captain Taras Khtey particularly to the fore. The 2002 champions quickly gained a four-point-lead at 6-2 and didn’t relent throughout the set. With their defence struggling, USA trailed all the way as Russia easily picked up the set 25-16.
The third set once again started well for Russia with a three-point-advantage for the side at the first TTO. With better blocking and Mikhaylov continuing his scoring prowess (seven points in the set, 19 in total) the 13-time medallists maintained their lead going on to win the set 25-21 and take the lead in the match 2-1.
The fourth set was very tight, point by point, with neither the team gaining the edge. A streak of four points 10-9 down to 13-10 ahead, Russia claimed a brief lead. USA quickly levelled at 15-15. The Olympic champions finally managed to break the Russian block, which was their major problem in previous sets however, when it came to the crunch Russia proved to be a step up and clinched the match and the set 25-22.
Russia will now take on Cuba on Thursday while USA take on defending champions Brazil who they beat twice during the Intercontinental Round.