Knight Rising: UCLA freshman lifts U.S. past Nigeria at U19 Championship

Photo courtesy of the FIVB

UCLA outside attacker Alex Knight left no doubt whether the United States would advance out of pool-play.

Knight finished with both a match-high 14 kills and two aces as the United States swept Nigeria 25-22, 25-19, 25-20 on Friday in Tunisia to clinch a Round of 16 berth at the FIVB U19 World Championship.

This victory against the African Championship gold medalist came one day after the United States suffered its first loss of the tournament — a four-game loss to South Korea. The win also moves the United States into second place in its five-team pool entering its opening-round finale.

This was the second time in the opening three matches that Knight led the United States in kills. The UCLA incoming recruit had a match-high 13 kills in a sweep versus the Dominican Republic on Wednesday.


Knight ended with a 58.3 percent offensive efficiency and was one of three U.S. players to have more than five kills against Nigeria.

UC Irvine outside attacker Francesco Sani had nine kills on a 52.9 percent offensive efficiency, while Princeton outside attacker James Hartley added eight kills. In addition, Pepperdine opposite Akinola Akinwumi coming off the bench in all three games finished with five kills on an 83.3 percent offensive efficiency.

Nigeria’s Chinedu Pascal Ekechi finished with a team-high 13 kills and was the only player on his team to have double-digit kills.

Despite the loss, Nigeria out-blocked the United States 6 to 5. Both Knight and BYU outside attacker Gavin Julien led the United States with two blocks.

This was the first match for Nigeria since defeating South Korea in its tournament opener on Wednesday.

The United States will have an off day on Saturday before closing out pool-play with a match against undefeated Russia on Sunday.