In what was essentially a play-in game for the 2019 World University Games men’s volleyball main quarterfinal bracket, the U.S. Men’s Collegiate National Team – World University Games (MCNT – WUG) put up a stiff battle but ultimately fell 3-0 (25-19, 33-31, 25-21) to Portugal Tuesday at PalaTedeschi.

“Tough match for our guys,” said MCNT – WUG head coach Ryan Perrotte. “I thought we really played hard, we just couldn’t make a play when needed, and that’s the difference at international competition. You have to be a playmaker, and we just weren’t able to do that consistently enough in our serve and pass game, in our blocking and our defense and sideout game. Unfortunately, Portugal was able to do those things when needed.”

Portugal pulled ahead early in the first set and never relinquished the lead, but the second set was a battle. The frame featured seven lead changes and 21 tie scores, and neither team led by more than three points. Portugal managed to claim a 23-21 lead late, but the Americans managed to tie the frame at 23-all and 24-all to force extra points. The squads essentially swapped points from there until Portugal took three in a row for a 33-31 set victory. 

In the third, Portugal took several four-point leads, and MCNT – WUG battled back every time but the last. They pulled within one at 22-21 after a Portugal error but lost the next three points to cede the set and the match. 

“There are a lot of things I think we could have done better, but we gave everything we had, and we left it all out on the court,” said MCNT – WUG opposite Jaylen Jasper after the match. “Our setter (Chandler Gibb) did a great job of finding who needed to be set and making plays, and our libero (Michael Simmons) was just picking up balls left and right. Our middles did a good job putting balls down, and I really felt the energy from our bench. We were always trying to catch up, and we just couldn’t do that.” 

Not for a lack of trying on Jasper’s end. He led all players with 21 kills on 43 swings for a .488 scoring percentage. The rising junior from Stanford added two blocks as well, giving him another match high with 23 points. 

Middle blocker Tyler Mitchem also reached double-digits, scoring 12 points on 16 attacks. He added three blocks, as well. Fellow mid Blake Leeson stuffed two Portugal attacks and scored on four of his own for six points. 

“Credit to Jaylen, I thought he played tremendous for us. It was his best match of the tournament,” Perrotte said. “Offensively, his game was sharp, and I really liked what he did defensively as well. Also, kudos to our middles. I thought our middles played really, really well, both Tyler and Blake. 

Outside hitter Raymond Barsemian led MCNT – WUG with 27 receptions, 30 percent positive, and Simmons posted 19, 63 percent positive. Brett Wildman also reached double digits in the category. 

With the loss, the U.S. wraps up group play with a 2-2 record and in third place in Group D. They’ll move onto the 9-16 Quarterfinals where they’ll face Switzerland on Thursday, July 11, at 12 Noon local/6 a.m. Eastern. That match will once again take place at PalaTedeschi in Benevento, Italy.