ARIANO IRPINO, Italy (July 6, 2019) – The U.S. Men’s Collegiate National Team – World University Games (MCNT – WUG) squad has quickly developed an aptitude for five-setters as they grinded out another 3-2 win Saturday, this time downing China (19-25, 25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 15-13) at Palazetto dello Sport in Ariano Irpino.
“Unbelievable match, number two for us against a really tough China team,” said MCNT – WUG head coach Ryan Perrotte. “I’m really proud of the way our guys played again. The grit that they showed, the way they can grind out matches is phenomenal. The guys who came in off the bench, they did a tremendous job. I thought the serving really picked up across the board for everybody, but in the end, crucial serving and passing made the difference.”
The U.S. dropped the first set but came out stronger the next two, winning both 25-22 to take the match lead. China used a 2-9 run near the end of the fourth to prolong the match, but the American attack came alive in the fifth set. USA Team scored on 10 of their 15 swings en route to a 15-13 win in the frame and their second win in as many matches at the 2019 Summer Universiade.
“It took every single guy, one through 12, to get it done tonight,” said MCNT – WUG setter Garrett Zolg, who had a strong impact off the bench. “I’m really proud of the guys, we really persevered in another five-setter. Jaylen Jasper came up huge in the fifth set, Brett [Wildman] and Ethan [Siegfried] passed great down the stretch, so we were able to run our middles.”
“Our passers were communicating more and more throughout the match as it was going on and the trust was building more and more,” agreed Siegfried. “We were executing our game plan much better. “
The win was a total team effort as 10 different players saw the floor and nine started at least one set for the U.S. Middle blocker Blake Leeson led the squad with 14 points – 10 in the attack, four on the block – and both Wildman and Brandon Rattray were one off that mark. They both landed 12 kills on the night; Wildman delivered his 13th tally on a service ace while Rattray notched his with a block.
Wildman led all players with 36 service receptions Saturday, 50 of which were positive, while libero Michael Simmons tallied 26, 62 percent positive. Siegfried and outside hitter Parker Dixon also reached double-digits in the category.
With the win, MCNT – WUG is second in Group B standings with four points, two behind fellow unbeaten team Russia. A three- or four-set win is worth three points in the World University Games standings, and five-set wins give two. Both China and South Korea are tied for third with one point apiece, and Portugal is fifth and still looking for their first tally.
“I’m just proud of the guys for being aggressive and going after it and getting it done tonight,” concluded Zolg. “It’s a great feeling to be up 2-0 going into the game against Russia.”
That contest against the group-leading Russians will take place Monday, July 8, at PalaSele Eboli in Eboli, Italy. First serve is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. local/11:30 a.m. Eastern.