The U.S. Men’s Junior National Team will leave the World Championship without a medal.
No. 9 United States lost to No. 5 Serbia 25-15, 25-20, 23-25, 25-13 in the bronze medal match Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and failed to win the country’s first medal in the 40-year history of the international tournament.
The United States committed a tournament-high 38 errors in the loss — 19 more errors than Serbia.
This was the second consecutive match that the United States had more than 35 errors. The United States had 37 errors in its four-game semifinal loss to No. 1 Argentina on Tuesday.
With the victory, Serbia captured the first bronze medal at the World Championship in its nation’s history.
Serbia had three players finish the match with at least 10 kills. However, the much anticipated matchup between the top two kill leaders at the World Championship — the United States’ Taylor Sander and Serbia’s Aleksandar Atanasijevic — failed to live up to the pre-match hype.
Sander finished with a team-high 10 kills and was substituted out for the second game after having one kill in the opening game. The BYU All-American outside attacker returned to the court for the start of the third game and had nine kills in the final two games.
Atanasijevic had a match-high 24 kills, including 16 kills in the first two games to help put the United States in a 2-0 deficit.
Atanasijevic at 167 kills will finish with the most kills at the World Championship, while Sander will end the tournament in second place at 131 kills.
Sander was the lone U.S. player with double-digit kills.
Stanford outside attacker Brian Cook came off the bench at the start of the second game and finished the match nine kills.
Cook was one of three U.S. players to get their first significant playing time of World Championship in the bronze medal match.
U.S. coach John Hawks pulled four starters — Pepperdine outside attacker Maurice Torres, USC incoming freshman setter Christenson, Long Beach State outside attacker Taylor Crabb and Sander — after the first game. The United States in a 10-point opening game loss committed 10 errors, three more than Serbia.
Sander and Torres were the only two starters to get pulled and later return to the match.
The 12-point loss in the fourth game was the United States’ most lopsided loss of the entire tournament. Prior to this match, the United States had scored at least 18 points in every game throughout the World Championship.
The United States opened the third game on a 7-2 run and had a six-point lead before Serbia rallied to tie the game at 21. However, the United States scored three of the next four points and then got a kill on its second game-point attempt to force a fourth game.
With several U.S. backup players in the second game getting their first significant playing time of the entire tournament, the United States lost to Serbia to fall into a two-game defict. The loss was also the first time at the World Championship that the United States failed to win either of the first two games in a match.
Serbia qualified for the bronze medal match after it was swept by No. 2 Russia in its semifinals match Tuesday, including losing the final game by 12 points.
This was the first time the United States and Serbia had played in a World Championship match with a medal on the line.
Prior to this tournament, the United States had never reached the semifinals or won a second-round match and its best World Championship finish was seventh place in 2007. In addition, this was Serbia’s first time it even qualified for the World Championship since 2005.
The bronze medal match was the eighth match in the last 10 days for the United States — a significant increase from what most U.S. players experience playing NCAA men’s volleyball. Most men’s volleyball college teams will play two matches per week.
Serbia will be awarded its World Championsip bronze medal following the conclusion of the gold medal match between Russia and Argentina on Wednesday night.