Nothing came easy for the United States to earn a spot in the gold-medal match and a berth to the 2017 U19 FIVB World Championship.
The U.S. Boys’ Youth National Team survived an upset scare as it rallied to defeat Mexico 17-25, 25-18, 25-23, 23-25, 17-15 in the NORCECA Continental Championship semifinals on Tuesday in Cuba.
With this fifth-game overtime victory, the United States (4-0) will advance to play the host-nation Cuba (4-0) in the championship match on Wednesday. Both the United States and Cuba for reaching the gold-medal match will also earn NORCECA’s two automatic bids to the upcoming FIVB World Championship.
Opposite Jaylen Jasper in the semifinals had a tournament-high 14 kills and was one of three U.S. players with double-digit kills. Outside attacker Joel Schneidmiller had 13 kills, while outside attacker Brandon Browning added 10 kills against Mexico (3-2).
Both Brandon and Schneidmiller also combined for seven of the United States’ eight aces.
Mexico outside attacker Raymond Stephens finished with a match-high 18 kills versus the United States.
Mexico despite the loss had a out-hit the United States 34.64 percent to 33.12 percent. This was the first time at the international tournament at a team had a higher offensive efficiency than the United States.
Mexico also had 15 blocks — one more block than the United States. Middle attacker Sam Lewis led the United States with four block, while offensively adding seven kills.
The United States entered the semifinals after going undefeated in the group-play stage to win the Group A title. In addition, the opening-game loss to Mexico was the first time in the tournament a team won a game against the United States.
Cuba swept Nicaragua in the other semifinal match on Tuesday to reach the gold-medal match.
This will be the first meeting at this tournament between the United States and Cuba, which both enter the finals undefeated and have lost a combined three games in eight matches.