Two days into the World Championship and the U.S. Boys’ Youth National Team is on the brink of being eliminated from medal contention.
No. 9 United States lost its pool-play match against No. 15 Bulgaria 25-22, 27-29, 25-16, 25-20 on Saturday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and dropped into third place in Pool A.
The top two teams in each pool following the three-match pool-play round receive berths to the second round of the World Championship.
With this loss, the United States (1-1, 1-1 Pool A, 2 points) trails Bulgaria and No. 1 Argentina in the Pool A standings entering the final day of pool-play. The United States will have to defeat the world’s top ranked team Argentina (1-1, 1-1 Pool A, 4 points) in its pool-play finale Sunday to advance to the second round of the international tournament.
Bulgaria (2-0, 2-0 Pool A, 5 points) held the United States to a tournament-low .179 attack percentage in the four-game match. The United States also committed 41 errors — 11 more errors than Bulgaria.
Outside attacker and Loyola incoming freshman recruit Cody Caldwell led the United States with 10 kills, including seven kills in the first two games.
This was the second consecutive match Caldwell finished with a team high in kills. Caldwell had a tournament-high 26 kills in the team’s pool-play opener against No. 10 Egypt on Friday.
Along with Caldwell, outside attacker Greg Petty and middle attacker Aaron Russell each had nine kills.
Petty, an incoming freshman recruit for Loyola, came off the bench midway through the first game and played the rest of the match. Russell, an incoming freshman recruit for Penn State, also had a team-high two aces in the loss.
Bulgaria outside attacker Ivan Ivanov finished with a match-high 15 kills.
The United States’ nine-point loss in the third game was the team’s most lopsided loss in its two matches at the tournament.
The third-game loss also came after the United States in the second game rallied to force overtime and defeat Bulgaria to even the match at 1-1.
The second game was the fourth time the United States had played in an overtime game at the World Championship. The United States following its second-game win moved to 2-2 in overtime games at the tournament.
Bulgaria and the United States entered this match tied for first place in Pool A.
The United States defeated Egypt in five games in its pool-play opener, while Bulgaria upset Argentina in its opener.
Argentina swept Egypt in its pool-play match Saturday to move into second place and ahead of the United States in the Pool A standings.
In order for the United States to advance to the second round, it must defeat Argentina in three or four games.
The United States has never reached the second round since the World Championship changed its tournament format in 2007. In addition, the United States has never finished better than fifth place in the tournament’s 22-year history, including a 10th-place finish at the 2009 World Championship.
Bulgaria will play Egypt in its pool-play finale on Sunday. The team clinched a spot in the second-round with its victory against the United States and can win Pool A if it defeats Egypt.