No. 11 Spain could only contain Taylor Sander for so long before the BYU All-American outside attacker unloaded and help lift the U.S. Men’s Junior National Team to the World Championship semifinals.
After being held to five kills in the first two games, Sander ended with a match-high 25 kills as the No. 9 United States defeated Spain 25-21, 20-25, 26-24, 28-30, 15-11 on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
With this second-round victory the United States (4-1, 2-0 Pool E) clinched a spot in the semifinals for the first time in the tournament’s 40-year history. The United States previous best finish at a World Championship in the last 10 years was seventh place in 2007.
Sander had at least five kills in each of the final three games, including a game-high five kills in the decisive fifth game.
This is the fourth World Championship match that Sander, the 2011 ACVA NCAA Newcomer of the Year, led the United States in kills. Sander entered today in the tournament’s top 15 for kills and attack percentage, and his previous best performance being 19 kills in a first-round victory against Japan.
Sander was one of two U.S. players to have more than 10 kills against Spain (2-3, 0-2 Pool E)
Pepperdine outside attacker Maurice Torres finished with 17 kills after entering the match with the United States trailing in the second game.
Pepperdine incoming freshman outside attacker Joshua Taylor started in place of Torres for the first time at the World Championship. Taylor finished the match with eight kills before being pulled midway through the second game.
Torres had four kills for the United States in the fifth game. The outside attacker also in the fourth game had kills on three potential game-winning points for Spain before the United States lost the game 30-28 on a controversial line call.
The fourth game was the longest game for the United States at the World Championship and the second consecutive game to go to overtime.
Trailing 16-12 in the third game, the United States went on a 6-2 run following a media timeout to tie Spain at 18. In addition, the United States overcame a 21-18 deficit to force overtime.
The United States won the third-game overtime on two consecutive points with a kill from Long Beach State outside attacker Taylor Crabb and a game-winning ace from Torres.
The United States opened the second game with a 5-1 lead before Spain went on a 14-6 run to take a five-point lead. Spain led by as many as six points in its second-game victory, and U.S. coach John Hawks pulled starting setter Micah Christenson, an incoming USC recruit, for Long Beach State setter Connor Olbright.
Chirstenson, who entered the match leading the tournament with a 8.20 assists per game average, returned to the court to start of the third game.
Spain committed 30 errors — seven more than the United States — during the match, including nine in its four-point opening-game loss.
Spain also out-blocked the United States 12-10 with middle attacker Pablo Bugallo having a match-high four blocks. Stanford middle attacker Eric Mochalski led the United States with three blocks but left the match after falling awkwardly on a block attempt late in the third game.
The top two teams in Pool E after the three second-round matches advance to the World Championship semifinals.
The United States entered this match tied with No. 2 Russia (5-0, 2-0 Pool E) for first place in Pool E after upsetting No. 4 Iran in its second-round opener Friday.
Russia swept Iran in the other Pool E match Saturday. The United States’ victory against Spain also mathematically eliminated Iran and Spain and clinched Russia’s berth in the semifinals.
Russia, the highest ranked team in Pool E and the 2005 World Championship gold medalists, is one of two teams undefeated throughout the first two rounds of the tournament.
The United States will play its second-round finale against Russia on Saturday in what will be the defacto Pool E championship match.
The winner of the match between Russia and the United States will play its semifinals match against the second-place team in Pool F, while the loser will play the first-place team from Pool F in the semifinals.