James Stuck admitted the USA men’s sitting volleyball team was feeling the heat on Tuesday night. The Americans were in much need of a win, after dropping their first two matches of the 2010 World Sitting Volleyball Championships and the Pittsburgh native made sure they got it.
The U.S. men had little trouble with Libya in the first two sets, but needed some help from Stuck to nail down the third. Libya pulled within a pair at 24-22, but Stuck wouldn’t let them get any closer as he sent the ball between a pair of defenders to clinch the first win for the Americans in the tournament.
“It’s nice to knock out the first win,” Stuck said. “We got the monkey off our backs and now we’re rocking and rolling now.”
USA men’s coach Edgar Miraku shared that sense of relief and said his team was much more relaxed against Libya.
“We needed to get a win and we got one today,” Miraku said. “After playing Bosnia, the No. 1 team in the world, last night we needed to come back and play strong. And today we were more within our own system. We got a little more acclimated and there was some pressure on our shoulders for some of the guys. It was their first time playing in front of our own fans here.”
Still the American men know there’s plenty of work to do if they plan on making it out of the first round. To do so they’ll need to knock of rival Canada today in their final pool play contest of the championship. The two teams will meet up at 3:30 p.m. in the Hamilton Fieldhouse.
“Hopefully we’re going to play well tomorrow,” Miraku said. “We need that win to still finish third in our pool to move on.”
Libya gave the Americans a challenge in the first set as they bounced back from a nine-point deficit to pull within three at 22-19. But the Americans reeled off three straight points for the 25-19 first-set victory.
The Americans then had little trouble in the second set as they led by as many as 12 points, before earning the 25-14 win.
That momentum continued into the third, but a late collapse nearly put the win in jeopardy. USA looked to close out the set with a 23-14 lead, but instead surrendered eight more points. Dan Regan and Eric Duda each saw a potential game-winning shot sail out of bounds, before Stuck delivered the final point for the 25-22 win.
“Anytime you get to end of the match you want to put it away in a big way,” Stuck said. “You want that big hit, but volleyball is a game of finesse and you have to be smart with the ball, relax and get a good snap on the ball so it goes down.”
The U.S. men dropped their first two matches of the championship in straight sets. They lost to China on Sunday (25-10, 25-23, 25-17) and top-ranked Bosnia Herzegovina on Monday (25-10, 25-15, 25-10).
Competition each day begins at 9 a.m. Closing ceremonies will be on Sunday. For more information about the 2010 Sitting Volleyball Worlds, including ticket packages, visit www.2010worlds.com; to buy tickets click on the “buy tickets” link at upper right corner of the home page.