Russell powers U.S. past Belgium in Olympic qualification opener

Photo courtesy of the FIVB

Outside attacker Aaron Russell had his bounce-back performance following the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals.

Russell during the opening day of Olympic qualification finished with a both a match-high 16 kills and three blocks as the United States defeated Belgium 25-20, 25-19, 17-25, 25-18 on Friday in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

This was the first match for Russell and the United States since the former Penn State All-American was pulled after the first game of the team’s loss to Russia in the Volleyball Nations League gold-medal match in July. Before that match, Russell had 16 combined kills in his two previous finals matches.

Russell was one of three U.S. players to have double-digit kills and more than a 50 percent offensive efficiency against Belgium. In addition, all three of these players were former All-Americans at Penn State.

Opposite Matt Anderson contributed 13 kills along with a match-high two aces, while middle attacker Max Holt had 10 kills on a 90.9 percent offensive efficiency.

Belgium opposite Tomas Rousseaux in the loss had a team-high 13 kills.

With this victory, the United States moves into first place in Pool B. The team with the best record in the four-team pool following round-robin play this weekend will earn a berth to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The United States will continue its Olympic qualification tournament with a match against South Korea on Saturday. South Korea almost upset the host nation Netherlands before losing in five games on Friday.