The front-row defensive stepped-up for the United States in its FIVB U21 World Championship semifinal match.
Nine U.S. players contributed at least one block and the team had a tournament-best 13 blocks as the United States swept Morocco 25-18, 25-23, 25-21 in the 13th-place semifinals on Saturday in the Czech Republic.
The United States had four players with two blocks against Morocco — Long Beach State opposite Kyle Ensing, Long Beach State setter Joshua Tuaniga, Princeton middle attacker George Huhmann and Hawai’i outside attacker Austin Matautia.
Along with its blocking performance, the United States had a better offensive efficiency than Morocco at 43.90 percent to 33.33 percent. It also was the first time this tournament the United States (2-5) held an opponent to less than a 40 percent offensive efficiency.
“I give a lot of credit to Morocco. They never quit fighting. That’s the mark of a good team with a lot of heart,” U.S. coach Jay Hosack said in a postmatch interview with USA Volleyball. “I’m proud of my guys in the way that they executed. It’s a tough match to play when on paper you know that you should be the victor pretty clear in a way. But when you have the other team in front of you, you got to be able to play it correctly and respect the opponent.”
Morocco, which earned the final at-large bid to the World Championship, remains the only winless team at the tournament. In addition, the United States was the sixth team in the World Championship to sweep Morocco (0-7).
This was the third match this tournament that the United States had double-digit blocks and its second consecutive match with 13 blocks. The United States had 13 blocks in a four-game loss to Egypt on Thursday that relegated the team to the 13th-place semifinals.
UCLA outside attacker Dylan Missry coming off the bench at the start of the second game finished with a team-high seven kills against Morocco. Matautia also contributed five kills and led the United States with eight digs.
Morocco outside attacker Elazhari Oussama in the loss had a match-high 11 kills.
With this victory, the United States will advance to play Japan (4-3) in the 13th-place finals on Sunday to conclude its World Championship.
Japan rallied from a two-game deficit to beat the Czech Republic in five games in the other 13th-place semifinal match on Saturday.
“We’ve got an opportunity tomorrow to finish 3-5 and 13th in the tournament, which may not be where we wanted to be, but it’s a respectable number for this tournament and the caliber of the play this year,” Hosack said.