New starter helps U.S. breeze through South Korea in Olympic qualification

Photo courtesy of the FIVB

Outside attacker Garrett Muagututia made the most being inserted into the starting lineup and flashed his offensive capabilities to bring the United States to the brink of an Olympic berth.

The typical defensive replacement had eight kills on a 66.7 percent offensive efficiency and added an ace as the United States swept South Korea 25-20, 25-21, 25-16 in Olympic qualification on Saturday in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

With this victory, the United States remains in first place in its qualification pool and is now one win away from clinching a berth to its 10th consecutive Olympics.

Muagututia, former All-American at UCLA, was moved into a starting role for this match in part because of injuries to the U.S. outside attackers.

Former BYU All-American Taylor Sander has yet to play in Olympic qualification because of a shoulder injury. In addition, former Loyola All-American Thomas Jaeschke, who is still recovering from a knee injury, rested after playing in the team’s tournament-opening victory against Belgium on Friday.

Along with Muagututia, the United States had four more starters with at least five kills against South Korea.

Outside attacker Aaron Russell finished with a match-high 10 kills on a 62.5 percent offensive efficiency and has now led the United States in kills in back-to-back matches. The former Penn State All-American also contributed 16 kills in the team’s four-game win versus Belgium.

Former Penn State All-American opposite Matt Anderson added nine kills against South Korea. In addition, both middle attackers Jeff Jendryk and David Smith contributed at least five kills and a 70 percent offensive efficiency.

Jendryk also had a team-high two blocks as the United States out-blocked South Korea 7 to 3.

Middle attacker Yung-Suk Shin the loss led South Korea with both eight kills and two blocks.

The United States will play a de facto championship match against the host nation Netherlands in its tournament finale on Sunday. The winner of this match will clinch the pool’s lone berth to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The Netherlands swept Belgium on Saturday to remain undefeated in qualification play.

South Korea, which was the lowest ranked team in the tournament field, will play Belgium on Sunday to close out the qualification tournament. Both South Korea and Belgium have been eliminated from earning an Olympic berth in this round of the qualification process.