SAN DIEGO — The United States national volleyball team didn't get more than it bargained for Saturday in the team's second World League match at the Sports Arena. But it got more than it wanted.
Japan took the Americans to five games, losing 15-12, 16-17, 12-15, 15-13, 15-8 in front of 2,998.
It was a good victory for the Americans, who came back from a 2-1 deficit. With the victory, the U.S. improved to 2-0 in the league and is in first place in its pool. Japan is 0-2.
The victory doubles the U.S. victory total from last year, when it finished 1-11.
Leading the way for the U.S. was Scott Fortune with 44 kills and Bryan Ivie with 35. Ivie was named the U.S. team's most valuable player. Ivie also had eight blocks, and Bob Samuelson had 11.
The three-hour performance--accomplished only because fifth-game scoring eliminates sideouts--came one night after the U.S. team beat the Japanese team in four games in the league opener at Irvine.
"I feel we should beat this team any night we play them," said Javier Gaspar, the U.S. setter. "If we lose, they have to beat us. We're not going to give them the match."
The Americans didn't give them the match, but came close.
The U.S. led 11-8 and 12-10 in the second game before falling, 17-16.
For that matter, the U.S. led 11-9 in the third game before losing, 15-12.
Both teams are part of a five-team pool that is playing for a first- or second-place finish and a chance to compete in Milan, Italy, for the World League title July 26-28.
"I really feel we can make it to the top four," said Gaspar. "If you win your home matches, you're in good shape. It's very important to win your home matches in World League in three or four games because in case of a tie, they go by games played."
But Japan did foil the American plans.
U.S. Coach Fred Sturm's interests weren't in winning as much as performance.
"What I'm really interested in is how well we play," he said beforehand. "When the match is over, I just want us to be a better team than we were before the match.
"We have our standards--and they're high--and this would be a great match to win tonight. We'll have to play very well--that's what I'm interested in."
The 16-match season won't get any easier. After a bye next weekend, the U.S. plays host to defending World League champion Italy in San Diego on May 31 in the first of a two-match set.
Sturm said after the match he was more pleased with the way the U.S. team played a night earlier.
"(But) Against a team like Japan, you have to be prepared to grind it out," he said.
The U.S. certainly made too many service errors (27) and made several at inopportune times, stalling its momentum.
The U.S. won the fourth game, rebounding from a 9-5 deficit. The key rally came when it was down, 9-8. It got an ace by Uvaldo Acosta, a stuff block by Bob Samuelson and Scott Fortune, and another stuff block by Samuelson and Bryan Ivie that drew a yellow card on Japanese coach Seiji Oko.
The U.S. won the first game, coming back from 12-10. Trailing 12-11, they won two of the best points of the match back to back. Bryan Ivie made the play of the game, going over the scorer's table to keep a ball in play. The U.S. got the point on Uvaldo Acosta's kill. It was the best point of the match and Acosta followed with another point to give the Americans a 13-12 lead. With Scott Furtune serving, a lift gave the U.S. a 14-12 lead, and a stuff block by Mark Arnold Javier Gaspar ended the game.