United States makes big splash, sweeps Bulgaria in U19 World quarterfinals

Photo courtesy of the FIVB

Coach Charlie Sullivan had a plan to get the U.S. players ready for an unusual morning match start time at the FIVB U19 World Championship.

Sullivan about three hours before the start of their quarterfinals match woke up his players and had them take a polar plunge.

The cold water strategy worked and prevented Bulgaria from pouring cold water on the U.S. gold medal hopes.

The United States finished with a .323 attack percentage as it swept Bulgaria 25-21, 25-21, 28-26 on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals for the first time in the nation’s history.


Princeton commit Sean Kelly in the victory led all players with 18 kills on a .359 attack percentage. Kelly had at least five kills in all three games, including a game-high seven kills in the final game to help secure the sweep.

Kelly was one of four U.S. players with more than five kills against Bulgaria. Hawai’i commit Finn Kearney contributed nine kills, while USC commit Sterling Foley had eight kills.

UC Santa Barbara middle attacker Josh Aruya finished with five kills and zero errors on a perfect 1.000 attack percentage. In addition, Aruya on the fifth match-point opportunity for the United States delivered the match-winning kill in the third-game overtime.

The United States out-blocked Bulgaria 13 to 9 with Kearney having a match-high four blocks. This was the sixth consecutive match that the United States finished with double-digit blocks.

Bulgaria in the loss was held to a .242 attack percentage, including being limited to less than a .100 attack percentage in the final game.

Kristian Titriyski finished with a team-high 17 kills and was one of two Bulgarian players with double-digit kills.

The United States with this victory will advance to play France in the semifinals on Thursday.

France swept Egypt in its quarterfinals match on Wednesday. Setter Amir Tizi-Oualou in the win guided the offense to a .514 attack percentage, and the team did not commit more than three errors in any game.