Dominican Republic stuns U.S. in U21 NORCECA semifinals

Photo courtesy of the FIVB and NORCECA

The United States did not have an answer for outside attacker Bayron Valdez and missed a chance to qualify for the 2019 FIVB U21 World Championship.

Valdez led all players with a tournament-high 30 kills as the Dominican Republic upset the United States 21-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-18 in the NORCECA U21 Continental Championship semifinals on Friday in Cuba.

With this victory, the Dominican Republic (4-1) and the other semifinal winner Cuba (4-0) will be the only two teams from this international tournament to clinch World Championship berths. The United States despite the loss still has a chance next year to qualify for the bi-annual World Championship.

Valdez was the lone Dominican Republic player to have double-digit kills in its comeback victory against the United States (3-1).

Valdez entered the semifinals as the top offensive player at the NORCECA Championships. This also was the fourth tournament match that the outside attacker finished with at least 20 kills.

Both Stanford opposite Jaylen Jasper and Stanford outside attacker JP Reilly led the United States with 13 kills.

Jasper and Reilly were among the four U.S. players with more than five kills against the Dominican Republic. USC middle attacker Sam Lewis had seven kills, while Loyola outside attacker Devin Joslyn added eight kills and a match-high four aces.

Jasper one match removed from a tournament-best 11 aces in a victory against Canada had one ace in the semifinals. Reilly also contributed two aces.

The United States in the loss had seven aces — one more ace than the Dominican Republic.

The United States reached the semifinals after finishing group-play undefeated and earning a bye for the quarterfinals. The team following its first tournament loss will now play Canada in the bronze-medal match on Saturday.

The Dominican Republic will attempt to win a NORCECA U21 gold medal for the first time in its nation’s history as it plays the host country Cuba in the finals on Saturday.