BARI, Italy Ė The United States and Italy, two of the favorites to capture the Volleyball Menís World Championship title, picked up their second win in as many matches on Thursday.
The US had to go the distance for the second straight day, pulling out a 3-2 (25-23, 25-20, 22-25, 23-25, 15-10) victory over Australia in Pool C thanks to 21 points by Matthew Anderson.
Taylor Sander recorded eight kills in the first two sets to help the Americans build a commanding lead, but the Australians turned the match around thanks in part to a 10-3 edge in blocks through four sets.
The US, however, recovered just in time, getting the win a day after defeating Serbia 3-2 (15-25, 25-14, 21-25, 25-20, 15-10).
The Serbians, meanwhile, bounced back from the loss to the US by defeating Cameroon 3-0 (30-28, 25-16, 25-17) in other Pool C action on Thursday.
The Americans provisionally lead Pool C with four points and Serbia is in second (also four points), but powerhouse Russia (three points) can wrest back first place with six points with a win over unheralded Tunisia on Friday.
In other action Thursday, Italy easily brushed aside Belgium 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-16) to remain in first place in Pool A with six points.
Japan, for its part, recovered from an opening straight-set loss to Italy in its first Pool A match on Sunday to comfortably defeat the Dominican Republic 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-16) on Thursday.
Defending champion Poland (six points) routed Puerto Rico 3-0 (25-14, 25-12, 25-15) on Thursday and currently leads Pool D, while Iran is in second place, also with six points.
Canada leads Pool B with six points after two games, one ahead of reigning Olympic gold medalist Brazil.
Under tournament rules, winners of five-set matches earn two points instead of three; teams that lose in five sets earn one point, compared with zero points for losing in three or four sets.
Sixteen of 24 teams (spread across four pools) will advance out of the first round of the Volleyball Menís World Championship, which is played once every four years and in 2018 is being co-hosted by Italy and Bulgaria.