American Aces Rise, Service Errors Fall in Week 1 of VNL

One of the biggest stories of last year’s FIVB Men’s Volleyball World League was the American men’s struggle from the service stripe. Early returns for the 2018 Volleyball Nations League show some improvement there, however.

In last year’s preliminary play, the U.S. ranked 7 out of 12 teams with just 49 service aces (1.4/set) and had the most service errors with 179 (5.1/set) Italy, who was 12th out of 12 in the team table, had 9 fewer service errors than did the 4th-place Americans.

2017 Team Leaders in Aces (Preliminary Rounds)

Team Aces Errors
1 FRA 70 114
2 ITA 57 170
3 BRA 56 127
4 RUS 55 127
5 CAN 54 124
6 SRB 51 144
7 USA 49 179
8 POL 42 137
9 BUL 41 161
10 BEL 39 106
11 ARG 33 141
12 IRI 28 97

The service game, in spite of still-high errors, does seem to be improving.

This year, they are tied with Italy for the most aces through 1 week of play at 22, which for the Americans comes out to 1.83 aces/set.

The U.S. also had 58 service errors, however, which ranked them 2nd behind Bulgaria for the most. At 4.83/set, however, that’s still a small improvement from last year.

Taylor Sander leads the Americans with 6 aces (and 11 errors), while Kawika Shoji has 5 aces and 8 errors. Ben Patch continues to have problems from the service stripe, though he is improving – in last year’s World League preliminary rounds, he had 1 ace and 26 service errors. This year, he’s at 2 aces and just 13 errors in 35 attempts so far.

2018 Team Leaders in Aces

TEAM Aces Errors
ITA 27 52
USA 22 58
JPN 19 52
POL 18 30
GER 18 58
BRA 17 39
SRB 17 48
RUS 14 34
AUS 14 43
BUL 13 65
CAN 11 28
IRI 10 30
FRA 9 49
KOR 8 40
CHN 6 33
ARG 3 49

Other key statistical trends after Week 1:

  • Italy’s Ivan Zaytsev leads all players in scoring with 69 points in 12 sets for Italy (5.75 points/set). All areas of his game are working, including 6 blocks, 7 aces, and a 55.45% hitting percentage. His 14 service errors are a tournament-worst so far, but big risks lead to big rewards.
  • We were critical of Germany’s libero situation at the outset of the tournament, after last year their young duo at the position Julian Zenger and Egor Bogachev (who is actually an outside hitter) struggled. But Zenger, who got the nod this week, actually played pretty well in his team’s first two games. He had a 22.2% service reception with just 5 errors on 45 attempts and leads all players (by a wide margin) in digs-per-set through 2 games. The 3rd game, a 3-0 hammering from Brazil, was less successful, and Germany finished the weekend 0-3, though they managed to win a set against each Italy and Serbia.
  • We knew Wallace de Souza would need some offensive help on the outside if Brazil wanted to win the first edition of this Nations League. Middle blocker Mauricio Borges Almeida Silva is the team’s second-leading scorer through week 1 with 31 points, with 32-year old Luiz Felipe Marques Fonteles’ 21 points (16 kills) being the next-best from a hitter. That still leaves the questions of support up-in-the-air for Brazil, who lost a 3-2 match to Italy in week 1 but swept both Germany and Serbia.
  • American Taylor Sander, who started all 3 matches for the United States, ranks 3rd among all players with 54 points. He hit 56.58%, which also ranks him 4th in the tournament.
  • Russia’s 7’2″ (218cm) middle blocker Dmitriy Muserskiy was a force in Russia’s 2-1 start. He leads all players in hitting percentage (60%), blocks/set (.89/set), and aces/set (.67 aces/set), all done with only 7 service errors and 4 hitting errors. His hitting efficiency (kills-errors/swings) his a whopping .520 in 3 matches.
  • Russia and Poland are tied for the week 1 lead with 31 blocks each. South Korea is last with only 6 – which is 13 behind the next-lowest total of 19 from Canada.
  • Without Sharone Vernon-Evans, John Gordon Perrin, or Ryley Barnes, Canada’s offense struggled. The top scorer was Bradley Gunter with 33 points (ranked 16th overall) and were just 11th out of 16 teams in offensive points produced.
  • Hitting percentages as a whole were relatively high – almost exactly 1 full percentage point than last year’s preliminary rounds (48.80% vs. 47.85%).

Statistical Leaders – After Week 1

Scoring

  1. Ivan Zaytsev, Italy – 69
  2. Chuan Jiang, China – 56
  3. Taylor Sander, USA – 54
  4. (TIE) Nikolay Uchikov, Bulgaria/Yuji Nishida, Japan – 51

Hitting % (Eligible Players)

  1. Dmitriy Muserskiy, Russia – 30 kills, 50 attempts, 60.00%
  2. Nikolay Uchikov, Bulgaria – 47 kills, 79 attempts, 59.49%
  3. Wallace de Souza, Brazil – 33 kills, 57 attempts, 57.89%
  4. Taylor Sander, USA – 43 kills, 76 attempts, 56.58%
  5. Drazen Luburic, Serbia – 22 kills, 39 attempts, 56.41%

Stuff Blocks/Set

  1. Dmitriy Muserski, Russia – 8 blocks, .89/set
  2. Srecko Lisinac, Serbia – 7 blocks, .70/set
  3. (TIE) Simone Giannelli, Italy – 8 blocks, .67/set
  4. (TIE) Egor Kliuka, Russia – 6 blocks, .67/set
  5. (TIE) Jeff Jendryk, USA – 8 blocks, .67/set

Aces/Set

  1. Dmitriy Muserskiy, Russia – 6 aces, .67/set
  2. (TIE) Ivan Zaytsev, Italy – 7 aces, .57/set
  3. (TIE) Masahiro Yanagida, Japan – 7 aces, .57/set
  4. (TIE) Harrison Peacock, Australia – 5 aces, .50/set
  5. (TIE) Taylor Sander, USA – 6 aces, .50/set

Assists/Set

  1. Maximiliano Cavanno, Argentina – 308 assists, 25.67/set
  2. Kawika Shoji, USA – 287 assists, 23.92/set
  3. Yaochen Yu, China – 114 assists, 10.36/set
  4. Georgi Seganov, Bulgaria – 119 assists, 9.15/set
  5. Saeid Marouf, Iran – 69 assists/6.27/set

Digs/Set

  1. Jenia Grebennikov, France – 23 digs, 2.09/set
  2. Santiago Danani, Argentina – 19 digs, 1.58/set
  3. Maurcio Borges Almeida Silva, Brazil – 17 digs, 1.55/set
  4. Julian Zenger, Germany – 17 digs, 1.55/set
  5. Erik Shoji, USA – 18 digs, 1.50/set

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