Russell spearheads U.S. sweep of Poland in quarterfinals

One of the youngest players on the U.S. roster had one of his best performances during the Olympics to help bring the United States one win away from a medal.

Outside attacker Aaron Russell finished with a match-high 12 kills on a .400 attack percentage as the United States swept Poland 25-23, 25-22, 25-20 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday afternoon in Rio.


With the victory, the United States (4-2) extends its Olympic winning streak to four matches and advances to the semifinals for the first time since winning the gold medal in 2008. The U.S. opponent for the semifinals will be the winner of the quarterfinal match between Iran and Pool A champions Italy.

Along with his offensive performance, Russell had a team-high two blocks against the 2014 FIVB World Championship gold medalists Poland (4-2). The former Penn State All-American also was one of five U.S. players with an ace in the team’s first sweep of the tournament.

The United States out-hit Poland .409 to .309 and had four players finish with more than five kills

Former BYU All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander had nine kills on a .333 attack percentage along with a team-high two aces. In addition, opposite Matt Anderson added nine kills, while middle attacker Max Holt contributed with six kills.

Russell and Sander also had a combined one error on 36 serve receptions against Poland.

This was the fourth time in the last five matches that setter Micah Christenson guided the U.S. offense more than a .300 attack percentage.

Opposite Bartosz Kurek in the tournament-ending loss led Poland with 10 kills.

Kurek entered the quarterfinals leading all players in the tournament both 78 kills and a .504 attack percentage. The United States, though, held Kurek to a tournament-low .179 attack percentage.

Despite the United States winning in three games, Poland had opportunities to extend the match in the first two games.

Poland in the opening game fought off multiple game-points before Russell with the United States leading 24-23 had the game-winning kill. In addition, coach John Speraw after the United States failed to convert on game-point in the second game successfully challenged the play and had the on-court call overturned because of Polish line violation.

This is the sixth time in Olympic men’s volleyball history that the United States has advanced to the quarterfinals. The United States is 3-2 all-time semifinal matches and has only once failed to medal after reaching the semifinals.