Despite a two-game lead, the U.S. Men’s Junior National Team was unable to close out No. 2 Russia and win its second-round pool at the World Championship.
Russia rallied to remain undefeated in the tournament as it defeated No. 9 United States 19-25, 27-29, 25-21, 25-17, 15-13 on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to win the Pool E title.
Both the United States (4-2, 2-1 Pool E) and Russia (6-0, 3-0 Pool E) entered their second-round finale having already clinched top two spots in Pool E and berths to the World Championship semifinals. However, the Russia victory dropped the United States into second place in the final Pool E standings and it will have a lower seed for the semifinals.
One of the biggest reasons for Russia’s comeback was lineup changes during game three.
Russia outside attacker Bogdan Glivenko came off the bench midway through the third game and finished the match with 14 kills — one of only two Russian players with more than 10 kills. In addition, Valentine Krotkov replaced Alexander Safonov at middle attacker and contributed with eight kills and four blocks.
Long Beach State outside attacker Taylor Crabb led the United States with 18 kills in the loss.
Crabb was one of three U.S. players with at least 10 kills. Pepperdine outside attacker Maurice Torres had 11 kills, while BYU outside attacker Taylor Sander had 15 kills.
This is the second time in the United States’ six World Championship matches that Sander did not lead the team in kills. Sander entered the day in the tournament’s top 15 with 99 kills, including a U.S. tournament-high 25 kills against Spain on Saturday.
Russia won each of the three final games with late runs that it ahead of the United States.
With the fifth game tied at 10, Russia scored three consecutive points to take a commanding lead. The United States able to cut the deficit to 14-13 but lost the next point and match on a Russian kill.
In addition, Russia led by as many as eight points and went on a 10-4 run to close out the fourth game.
Russia outside attacker Leonid Shchadilov had a match-high 23 kills, including a game-high seven kills in Russia’s third game victory.
Despite winning the first two games, the United States almost blew a 24-20 lead in the second game.
Russia fought off four U.S. game-points to force overtime and two additional game-points in overtime. However, the United States was able to score two consecutive points on a block and a kill from UC Santa Barbara middle attacker Dylan Davis to win the game 29-27.
The United States trailed 16-14 in the first game before going on 8-2 run to take a four-point lead and eventually win the game.
Sander had a game-high six kills in the first game.
The opening-game loss for Russia was its first dropped game in the second round and the second game it lost throughout the entire tournament.
Stanford middle attacker Eric Mochalski for the first time this tournament did not start or play in a match. Mochalski left the court midway through the United States’ match against Spain on Saturday after falling awkwardly on a block attempt.
UC Irvine Scott Kevorken started in place of Mochalksi and finished the match with two kills and zero blocks.
The United States and Russia entered this match after they both defeated No. 4 Iran and No. 11 Spain in their earlier second-round Pool E matches to clinch semifinals berth. Russia swept both teams, while the United States upset Iran in four games and beat Spain five games.
With this victory, Russia will play the second-place team from Pool F — No. 5 Serbia or No. 6 Brazil — in the semifinals Tuesday. The second-place team will be determined following Brazil’s second-round finale against last-place India.
The United States will play No. 1 Argentina in the other semifinals Tuesday.
Argentina entered the day with Russia as the two undefeated teams remaining in the tournament, but lost in five games to Serbia. Despite the loss, Argentia was still able to win Pool F.
This is the first time the United States will play in a World Championship semifinals match. If the United States defeats Argentina it will secure its first medal finish in the 40-year history of the World Championship.