Iran finally breaks free of losing streak, beats USA in full-set thriller to earn first win of tournament

Iran finally tasted the sweetness of victory at the 2024 VNL.

Iran earned its first victory of the 2024 FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) after defeating the United States 3-2 (26-28, 25-23, 25-18, 26-28, 15-13) in straight sets in week three of the men’s tournament in Pasay City, Philippines, on Monday (Sept. 19). Prior to this match, Iran had a dismal start to the tournament, losing all eight of their matches, leading to the firing of head coach Mauricio Paez for his poor performance. It took them nine games to finally get their first win at the 2024 VNL. The Americans struggled, with Tori DePalco pouring in 30 points, but lacked firepower on the right side of the floor and became Iran’s first victim.

For Iran, Milad Ebadipour, Mohammed Balizadeh, Amin Ismael Nejad, Foriyah Hossein Khanzadeh, Alireza Moslehavadi Farahani and Mohammed Taher Badi started in the front row. Armand Salehi started at libero. For the United States, Garrett Muagutututia, Taylor Averill, Matt Anderson, Tori Depalco, Jeffrey Zendrick, and Micah Christensen started in the middle. Eric Shoji wore the libero jersey.

The U.S. dominated the first set. Anderson opened the momentum with a service point at 4-2. Anderson, who was playing as an apojeet, also hit a quick, piping attack down the center at 7-5. The Iranians, however, managed to keep the gap from widening further than three or four points as Poriya and Amin steadied the ship with powerful attacks. In the middle of the set, the Iranians slowly closed the gap. At 13-16, a Balizadeh kill and a double contact from Christensen brought the 스포츠토토사이트 Americans to within one point.

The U.S. tied the set at 16-17 when DePalco’s long shot into an empty space went wide. Depalco made amends for her mistake by blocking Amin’s back attack at 19-18, but a straight attack error at 21-20 kept the match in heaven and hell. The two teams battled to deuce in the first set, with the Americans coming out on top. At 26-26, DePalco made a crucial attack at the end of a back-and-forth game, followed by an attack error from Poriya to win the game.

After a hard-fought first set, the U.S. took a three-point lead at 2-1 in the second set, with Anderson scoring back-to-back service points to set the tone for the rest of the set. But Iran quickly fought back, tying the score at 4-6 on a Balizadeh attack and a block by Vardy. The Iranians then scored three straight points at 9-9 to take the momentum back in their favor. Poriya attacked, Amin blocked, and Moslehavadi served and scored in quick succession.

With the momentum in Iran’s favor, setter Badie’s individual skills came into play. At 12-10, she pretended to jump for an A-fastball, but at the last second, she twisted and fired a pass to Amin on the right, who roared as she planted the ball in the court. The U.S. responded with a pattern of Christensen utilizing fakes in the middle to make life easier for the wingers, but overall, Iran still had the better momentum. Late in the set, the U.S. put the pressure on Iran with three straight points from Depalko at 16-20, weaving attacking and blocking, but Iran held on, refusing to let the score be tied, and at 24-23, Ebadipour scored on a clever back-to-back to take the second set.

Iran carried the momentum of the second set into the third. At 5-2, Amin scored back-to-back points on attack and serve to quickly build a five-point lead. Head coach John Sparrow then made a change, bringing in Jordan Yewalt for Muagututia and Kyle Ensing for Anderson. Yewalt lived up to his expectations with a service point at 6-11, and with the continued contributions of DePalco, who led the team’s offense throughout the match, the U.S. chipped away at the gap.

But Iran was too focused. At 15-13, back-to-back kills by Ebadipour reopened the gap, and only Depalko could keep the struggling Americans at bay to reach the 20-point plateau. At 22-18, an attack kill by Poriya and an attack error by Enshing eased the Americans to set point. After another kill by Poriya, the Iranians took the third set 25-18.

The start of the fourth set saw both teams’ setters utilize the fast break. Maxwell Holt and Balizadeh exchanged sharp volleys. It was the Americans who took the lead first. At 4-4, back-to-back kills by DePalco and Anderson, followed by a block by Zendrick, gave them a three-point lead. Iran, on the other hand, was plagued by frequent errors and was unable to erase the two- to three-point deficit until midway through the set.

The U.S. held a steady lead until, at 17-15, DePalco’s right back-attack hit the antenna first and pulled within one point. Seizing the opportunity, Iran continued to chase down the Americans with side outs and had a crucial chance to tie the game at 18-19, but a precise one-handed dig by DePalco led to a hit by Yuelt to give the Americans a 20-point lead. But Iran refused to give up and caught the Americans off guard in the final moments. At 23-24, Amin blocked an attack by Yuelt to lead the deuce. However, Iran’s frequent service errors cost them chances to pull away, and eventually, at 27-26, DePalco rallied to send the match to a fifth set.

With so much at stake, the fifth set got off to an ambiguous start. A hit attempt by Ewert was ruled a blocker’s touch after video review, but the Iranian players protested. The referee then warned captain Ebadipour, who took his frustration out on the ball with a fierce direct attack on a rally shortly afterward. A fierce side-out battle ensued, with Iran the first team to break back. At 6-6, Christensen’s attempt to fend off an Evadipour attack resulted in a net touch error.

Ebadipour then hit a sharp straight down the line to give Iran a two-point lead heading into the court change, and Anderson’s attack error shortly after the court change helped them inch closer to their first VNL win. However, the U.S. put the pressure back on Iran with back-to-back kills from Ewert at 7-9 and a pipe from DePalco at 9-9. However, a crucial block by Ebadipour shortly after Anderson’s attack error at 10-10 gave Iran a two-point lead once again. The ending of the fifth set, which was tightly contested until the end, belonged to Poriya. At 14-13, a strong attack sealed her team’s first win of the tournament.

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