VNL: With Final 8 chances slim, Team USA turns focus to Olympics

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Team USA’s Micah Christenson in the VNL Week 3 in Manila. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — USA skipper Micah Christenson has accepted they won’t make it to the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) Final Eight despite the slim chance, but he looks to make the most of their Manila experience to entertain Filipinos and prepare for the Paris Olympics 2024.

Christenson had a playmaking masterpiece of 41 excellent sets to treat the Filipino fans with USA’s 25-21, 18-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-9 win over Brazil on Thursday evening at Mall of Asia Arena.

The veteran setter, who is averaging 30.7 excellent sets per game in the VNL, gave his best effort to greet and sign autographs of their supporters at the fan zone after their game.

READ: VNL 2024: Team USA overcomes Brazil for first win in Manila

“Back in the United States, we play in certain areas where other teams’ fans fill the gym a little bit more. So, this feels like a pretty true home game for us and we’re very grateful for that,” said Christenson, whose teammates also felt at home with the hospitality and energy of the Filipinos.

“I can’t say enough about the support. We felt it a lot, even being here in the Philippines. So now we’re finally here, and we get to feel it in the stadium, it’s something really really special and we can’t say enough about it. We can’t thank the fans enough for being here and supporting us.”

USA, the runner-up of last year’s VNL, still has a chance to the Final Eight with a 4-6 record in 11th place but Christenson is already shifting their focus to the Olympics.

READ: Team USA has ‘mountain to climb’ as VNL unfolds in Manila

“We’re probably not gonna make the VNL Finals so what we’re gonna do is try to build and work our way towards the Olympic Games and getting ready. Tonight was just the first step, the first building block,” said Christenson. “Hopefully, for these next two games, we continue to get just a little bit better.”

“We can do a little bit more in certain phases of the game but we’re having that mindset of just getting a little bit better and trusting the process with the building blocks that we can build,” he added. 

USA wraps up its VNL campaign against Germany on Saturday at 11 a.m., before facing fellow crowd-favorite Japan on Sunday at 7 p.m.



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“I think we’ve shown over the years that we are a very resilient team. We know how to respond to a lot of difficult situations so, we’re gonna fix a few things, but at the same time, we’re gonna trust our process,” Christenson said. “I think, like I said before, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.”





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