Russia meddles in U.S. upset bid, completes sweep at World Championship

The serving errors put a damper on the possible U.S. upset against the defending World Championship gold medalists.

The United States committed a tournament-high 18 service errors as it lost to Russia 25-20, 25-21, 25-22 in its opening-round pool-play finale at the FIVB U21 World Championship on Sunday in the Czech Republic.

With this loss, the United States (0-3, 0 points Pool B) was swept in all three opening-round matches and finished Pool B in last place. U.S. coach Jay Hosack, though, said in a postmatch interview with USA Volleyball that he was proud of the U.S. effort, especially with having to play professionals in this tournament.

“When you look at the rosters of every team that we’ve faced so far in this tournament, every single one of their players are professional players making a lot of money,” Hosack said. “Our guys are not making money. Our guys are still in college, and they’re still learning the game at a high level. For us to be in these matches, for us to fight the way that we are fighting shows the heart and determination of our kids to get better and work hard every day.”

The United States ended with a better offensive efficiency than Russia at 40.5 percent to 40.0 percent and had two players with double-digit kills.

UCLA outside attacker Dylan Missry led all players with 12 kills, while Stanford outside attacker Jordan Ewert add 10 kills. In addition, Ball State Freshman All-American outside attacker Matt Szews making his first start at the tournament contributed seven kills and a match-high two aces.

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Szews started in place of Long Beach State All-American opposite Kyle Ensing. Ensing through the first two days of the World Championship was fourth in the tournament with 31 kills.

The United States entered its pool-play finale already eliminated from medal contention and had secured its spot in its second round consolation pool.

Russian outside attacker Anton Semyshev had a team-high eight kills on a 57.14 percent offensive efficiency against the United States. Semyshev came into the match second at the tournament with a 66.7 percent offensive efficiency.

Russia (3-0, 9 points Pool B) out-blocked the United States 9 to 8 in its third consecutive sweep to open the tournament.

UCLA All-American setter Micah Ma’a defensively led the United States with both a team-high three blocks and seven digs. Szews and Hawai’i libero Gage Worsley each also had seven digs against Russia.

Despite the loss, the United States had opportunities to extend the match versus Russia and avoid the sweep.

The United States led 11-3 in the second game before Russia went on an 11-2 run to retake the lead. Russia also overcame a one-point deficit midway through the game and closed out the game converting on the final three points.

In the final game, the United States rallied from a four-point deficit and came within one point at 23-22. Russia, though, had a kill on the next play and then benefitted from a U.S. attack error — a call that visibly outraged the U.S. players and coaching staff — to complete the sweep.

The United States will have a day off before playing the first of three matches in its second-round consolation pool. If the United States can finish in the top half of the four-team pool, it will advance to the ninth-place semifinals and remain in contention for a top-10 tournament finish.

“This tournament is not over,” Hosack said. “We have a chance to finish in the top 10. We’re going to get there one way or the other.”