From Bench to Hero: Jendryk spearheads U.S. comeback win in VNL semifinals

Photo courtesy of the FIVB

Jeff Jendryk wasn’t shy admitting following the U.S. win that he just had the greatest serving run of his college or professional career.

The statement wasn’t boasting — it was just honesty. It’s not every day that a float server jump-starts a six-point run in the decisive fifth game of the season’s biggest match so far.

Jendryk’s jump float serve resulted in an ace and forced Brazil’s offense out of system on multiple points during the run as the United States won the semifinals 25-21, 17-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-9 on Saturday in Chicago at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals.

The former Loyola All-American middle attacker made his late-match serving run after starting the match on the bench.

Jendryk was inserted into the lineup with the United States trailing late in the third game. Along with his serving, he finished the match with four kills on a 80.0 percent offensive efficiency and a block.

Jendryk was one of two critical U.S. substitutions coach John Speraw used that helped ignite the comeback. Former UCLA outside attacker Garrett Muagututia came off the bench in the third game and helped the U.S. passing game against Brazil’s serve.

Besides Jendryk and Muagututia, the United States had several critical contributions from its starters to secure the win and a meeting with Russia in the gold-medal match.

Former Penn State opposite Matt Anderson led all players with a 20 kills on a 58.8 percent offensive efficiency. Anderson’s former college teammate middle attacker Max Holt had six kills on a 75.0 percent offensive efficiency and a team-high three blocks.

In addition, former BYU outside attacker Taylor Sander finished with 15 kills and added an ace against Brazil.

Brazil in the loss had three players with double-digit kills, including opposite Wallace De Souza who had a team-high 17 kills. Outside attacker Yoandy Leal Hidalgo contributed 11 kills and a team-high three aces, while middle attacker Lucas Saatkamp had 12 kills and a 80.0 percent offensive efficiency.

Anderson in the fourth game finished with a team-high six kills to help the United States force the decisive fifth game. In addition, Jendryk playing his first full game of the match had three kills and a block.

Despite the United States trailing for the majority of the third game, it had a chance to tie the game at 20-20 but committed an attack error. That error jump-started a 5-2 Brazil run to close out the game that was highlighted by two aces.

With the second game tied at 7-7, Brazil went on a 5-1 run to take a lead that it would not relinquish. In addition, the defending Olympic gold medalists closed out the game on a 7-2 run that featured a kill from Leal Hidalgo.

The United States in the opening game capitalized on 11 Bralizan errors to take a one-game lead. In addition, Anderson, outside attacker Aaron Russell and middle attacker David Smith each had a team-high three kills in the first game.

This victory comes after the United States suffered semifinal losses in the last two years of the annual tournament. The United States will now play Russia on Sunday with a chance to win its first gold medal at the Volleyball Nations League, or the tournament’s predecessor the FIVB World League, since 2014.

Russia defeated Poland in the other semifinal match on Saturday. Poland and Brazil will play in the bronze-medal match on Sunday afternoon prior to the gold-medal match.