ARIANO IRPINO, Italy (July 5, 2019) – The U.S. Men’s Collegiate National Team – World University Games (MCNT – WUG) opened the 2019 Summer Universiade with a win Friday, downing South Korea in five sets (25-21, 25-20, 18-25, 21-25, 15-13) at the Palazzetto dello Sport in Ariano Irpino. 

“The key to tonight’s match was that we stayed steady when Korea made their run in the third and fourth sets,” said MCNT – WUG head coach Ryan Perrotte. “We got back to our gameplan by feeding as many balls as we possibly could into the middle. Our guys really gritted and grinded out tonight’s match, especially for their first international competition in Italy. The guys are really pumped, and I’m really happy for them.” 

USA Team got off to a roaring start, winning the first two sets for a 2-0 match lead. In the first, the USA maintained a slim lead throughout the frame, and they used a late run in the second for a 25-20 set win. South Korea rallied to win the third and fourth sets and led the fifth as late as 9-10, but the Americans took three of the next four points and held on for a 15-13 set win and 3-2 match win. 

“For not playing a long time together or much at all, I thought we came together very well,” said middle blocker Blake Leeson from Ohio State. We communicated and passed the ball extremely well the first two sets, siding out at a high rate, and I thought that was a big factor to our success and how we executed the gameplan.” 

MCNT – WUG led in most stat categories, outblocking South Korea 17-5 and scoring on 56 of their 111 attacks. Opposite Jaylen Jasper led all players with 16 points in the attack, while Leeson landed 14 kills. Both blocked four South Korean shots, one shy of match leader Raymond Barsemian, who stuffed five. 

In all, five Americans scored double-digit points. In addition to Jasper (21), Leeson (18) and Barsemian (12), outside hitter Ethan Siegfried tallied 12 points, and middle blocker Tyler Mitchem added 10. Only Jeongho Kim (16) and Sanghyeok Hong (13) reached that mark for South Korea. 

“Blake and Tyler were fantastic for us offensively. They were also key in some crucial blocks,” Perrotte said. 

The U.S. also tallied more receptions – 87 – than their opponent, and 71 percent of those were positive. Barsemian tallied 47, 68 percent positive, and Siegfried added 20, 75 percent positive. Libero Michael Simmons received 17 South Korean serves, 82 percent of which were positive. 

With the win, the U.S. is 1-0 in Pool B and will be tied atop the group standings with the winner of the match between Russia and Portugal. After a bye on day one of competition, China is third at 0-0, and South Korea and the loser of Russia versus Portugal will be tied for fourth at 0-1.

MCNT – WUG will continue play at the 2019 World University Games Saturday, July 6, with a match against China. First serve for that contest will be at 8 p.m. local/Noon Eastern, once again at Pallazzetto dello Sport in Ariano Irpino.