international volleyball

Amid mixed results in VNL Manila debut, USA volley stars hope to do more for PH fans

JR Isaga

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Amid mixed results in VNL Manila debut, USA volley stars hope to do more for PH fans

WORLD'S BEST. USA men's volleyball team captain Micah Christenson sets the ball.

Micah Christenson's Instagram page

USA men's volleyball stars TJ Defalco and captain Micah Christenson aspire to give more effort in their VNL Manila debut stint amid astounding Filipino support, even with their Paris Olympics spot already locked up

MANILA, Philippines – Heading to the Manila leg of the 2024 Men’s Volleyball Nations League (VNL), the USA men’s volleyball team was arguably the most awaited and hyped squad arriving on Philippine soil – even more so than crowd darling Japan, which already played in the country in the last two years.

Results for the world top 10-ranked Americans, however, have been mixed, as they lost in stunning fashion to once-winless Iran in five sets on Wednesday, June 19, before needing five more frames to take down fellow powerhouse Brazil less than 24 hours later on Thursday, June 20.

Although already guaranteed a spot in the 2024 Olympics, USA stars like top scorer TJ Defalco and veteran captain setter Micah Christenson still hope to give more effort in their remaining preliminary games, all for the sake of their thousands of Filipino fans who invested in tickets to watch them win.

“Yeah, [the Iran game] was tough. We’re in an interesting part right now in USA volleyball. We just come out of every game trying to get better and just trying to play USA volleyball. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re figuring it out and that was a big step for us,” Defalco said after a 21-point effort versus Brazil.

“I hecking love this place. It’s amazing, the country and the fans. Everybody speaks English and it’s very accommodating. It feels like home.”

Amid mixed results in VNL Manila debut, USA volley stars hope to do more for PH fans

Christenson, who followed up a 35-excellent set outing against Iran with a massive 41-excellent set eruption over Brazil, admitted they needed to rework their somewhat passive mentality to kick off their Manila tour, as USA still remains in 12th place with a 4-6 record in the 16-team field.

“Our mantra for today was just let’s just be a little bit better than yesterday. With the mentality of ‘let’s just try to get a little bit better and we don’t have to play perfect,’ I think we did a very good job of that tonight, and it showed, especially in that fifth set,” said the amiable 31-year-old leader.

“I can’t say enough about the support. It’s something that I’ve talked about before, but we felt it a lot, never even being here in the Philippines. Now we’re finally here, and we get to feel it in the stadium, it’s something really, really special and we can’t thank the fans enough for being here and supporting us.”

Christenson, Defalco, and the rest of the highly-touted American squad don’t need to give their all for their next two assignments: one on Saturday, June 22, 11 am, against Germany, and a Manila leg send-off showdown against Japan on Sunday, June 23, 7 pm.

With the Olympics just around the corner, VNL results don’t necessarily matter for them when looking at the big picture.

But for the Filipino fans, who have given them more love than they ever expected, Team USA will definitely try. –

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