With the U.S. Boys’ Youth National Team at match-point in the fifth game, it was fitting that outside attacker Matthew Tarantino got the final kill to upset No. 2 Russia.
Tarantino had a match-high 19 kills as the No. 9 United States defeated Russia 25-20, 20-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-13 in its World Championship consolation second-round pool-play match Thursday in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The victory keeps the United States (2-3, 1-1 Pool H, 2 points) alive for a chance to finish the international tournament in ninth place. It was also the highest ranked team any U.S. junior or youth team has defeated in tournament-play this year.
This was the second time Tarantino, an incoming freshman recruit for Pepperdine, led the United States in kills at the World Championship. The outside attacker had a team-high 14 kills against No. 1 Argentina in the opening round.
Tarantino was one of two U.S. players with more than 10 kills against Russia (2-3, 1-1 Pool H, 3 points).
Middle attacker Aaron Russell, a Penn State incoming freshman recruit, finished the match with 11 kills. In addition, outside attackers Cody Caldwell, a Loyola incoming freshman recruit, and Nikola Antonijevic, a Pepperdine incoming freshman recruit, each added nine kills.
The United States out-blocked Russia 14-8 in the victory.
Outside attacker Austin Kingi, an incoming freshman recruit for UC Santa Barbara, and setter James Shaw each led the United States with four blocks.
Shaw, who will be a high school senior this school year, started his first match of the tournament. Shaw replaced Matt West, an incoming freshman recruit for Pepperdine, as the United States’ starting setter.
With this victory, the United States snaps its three match losing streak at the World Championship.
After winning its tournament opener against No. 10 Egypt, the United States lost to No. 15 Bulgaria and Argentina to drop into the second round consolation bracket. The team also lost its second-round opener to No. 4 Iran in four games on Wednesday.
The United States began today in last place in the four-team Pool H.
The victory Thursday moves the United States moves into third place and one-point behind second-place Russia. The United States can clinch a spot in the semifinals for ninth place if it defeats last-place No. 19 Korea in its second-round finale Friday and if Russia loses to Iran its final second-round match Friday.
The top two teams in Pool H at the end of the three-match pool-play second round will advance to the semifinals for ninth place. No team in the second-round consolation bracket can finish the 16-team international tournament higher than ninth place.
Iran defeated Korea (0-5, 0-2 Pool H, 1 point) in four games on Wednesday and clinched one of the two Pool H spots in the ninth place semifinals.
The United States will play Korea in its second-round finale at 6 p.m. (5 p.m.) Friday.