No. 9 USA gold medal hopes dashed, lose to No. 1 Argentina in semifinals
The U.S. Men’s Junior National Team’s dream of winning the country’s first gold medal at the World Championship is officially finished.
No. 1 Argentina rallied from a one-game decifit to defeat No. 9 United States 27-29, 28-26, 25-19, 25-20 in the World Championship semifinals Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
With this victory, Argentina (6-1) will play the winner of the other semifinals match between No. 2 Russia and No. 5 Serbia in the gold medal match Wednesday. The United States (4-3) will play the loser of the Russia-Serbia match for the bronze medal Wednesday.
The turning point of the semifinals match came in the second game after the United States won the opening game.
Argentina led by as many as eight points before the United States went on a 12-4 run to tie the game and eventually force an overtime. However, the United States in the second-game overtime could not convert on three game-point opportunities, and Argentina went on to win the game on three consecutive kills and even the match at 1-1.
Following that second-game overtime, Argentina lead the United States by multiple points for almost all of the final two games.
BYU All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander in the loss finished with a match-high 22 kills, including 15 kills in the final two games. It was the fifth time this tournament that Sander led the United States in kills.
Sander also became the third player to have more than 100 kills at the World Championship.
Sander was the only U.S. player to finish the match with at least 10 kills.
Stanford middle attacker Eric Mochalski had tournament-high seven kills but did not record a kill in the final two games. In addition, Pepperdine outside attacker Maurice Torres and Long Beach State outside attacker Taylor Crabb each had eight kills.
This was the first time the United States had ever reached the semifinals in the 40-year history of the World Championship. The United States has never won a medal at the international tournament and its best previous finish was seventh place in 2007.
Argentina had 23 errors in the victory — 14 fewer than the United States — and had two players with more than 10 kills.
Outside attacker Agustin Ramonda led Argentina with 17 kills, including a game-high six kills in the third game.
The United States jumped out to a 13-8 led in the opening game behind multiple kills from Sander, Torres and Mochalski. However, Argentina rallied and fought off two game-points to force overtime.
Argentina stopped two more game-points in overtime before the United States second two consecutive points on a Micah Christenson setter dump kill and a Taylor solo block to win the opening game 29-27.
Christenson had a match-high four blocks in the loss as Argentina out-blocked the United States 14-11.
The United States reached the semifinals after winning Pool A in the opening round. In addition, the United States was 2-1 in the second round, including an upset victory against No. 4 Iran, to finish Pool E in second place and qualify for the semifinals.
Argentina won its pools in the first and second round to reach the semifinals for the second consecutive World Championship. It also was one of two undefeated teams remaining at the tournament before losing to No. 5 Serbia in its second-round finale on Sunday.
The semifinal victory guarantees Argentina its best finish in World Championship history. Argentina won the bronze medal at the 2009 World Championship — the country’s first medal finish at the international tournament — after losing in the semifinals.