U.S. can’t overcome France 5th-game rally, drops World League Finals opener

The United States just could not find a way to close out France in its FIVB World League Final Round opener.

France overcame three-point deficit and had a 7-1 run in the decisive fifth game to beat the United States 27-25, 20-25, 26-24, 17-25, 15-12 on Tuesday in Curitiba, Brazil.

The United States (4-6, 0-1 Pool K, 1 point) because of this loss is not eliminated from winning the World League championship. However, it now must win its pool-play finale against Serbia to have any chance of reaching the semifinals.

Along with losing the fifth game, the United States had opportunities to win the other two games it lost to France.

The United States in the opening game blew a 21-17 lead and could not convert on multiple game-points before losing in overtime. In the third game, the United States fought off four game-points to force an overtime, but France (9-1, 1-0 Pool K, 2 points) scored the next two points to retake a one-game lead.

Former USC setter Micah Christenson in the loss had a match-high 37 excellent sets and guided the United States to a better offensive efficiency than France at 45.90 percent to 43.38 percent. Christenson also had a team-high three blocks and guided a U.S. offense that had four players finish with double-digit kills.

Opposite Ben Patch in his World League Final Round debut led the United States with 16 kills on a 45.71 percent offensive efficiency. Patch’s former BYU All-American teammate Taylor Sander also had 12 kills, while former Loyola All-American Thomas Jaeschke added 11 kills.

Middle attacker Jeff Jendryk finished with 10 kills and zero attack errors on a .556 attack percentage against France. The Loyola All-American is one of two current college players on the U.S. roster for the World League.

Despite its offensive performance, the United States committed 22 service errors and had a service error on the match-winning point.

France outside attacker Julien Lyneel finished with a match-high 18 kills. Opposite Stephen Boyer, who entered the finals as the top scorer in World League, had 17 kills against the United States.

Lyneel also had 12 digs and was one of two French players with double-digit digs.

Former Stanford All-American libero Erik Shoji led the United States with 10 digs, while Christenson contributed nine digs.

The top two teams from each three-team pool at the conclusion of the pool-play stage will advance to the semifinals. With this loss, the United States is in second place in Pool K and can clinch a semifinal berth if it beats Serbia in three or four games on Wednesday.