Incoming Stanford freshman Jaylen Jasper recorded 19 points, including 16 kills, and the U.S. boys’ youth national team defeated host Bahrain, 28-26, 25-19, 20-25, 25-23, in the opening match of the FIVB Boys’ U19 World Championship at the Isa City Sports Hall.
The Americans meet Puerto Rico on Sunday morning, Tunisia on Monday and Egypt on Tuesday.
“It was insane," Jasper told USA Volleyball. "Everyone was yelling. I could barely hear myself think. Coaches are screaming at us in the huddle. When I’d go back to serve, they were chanting my number. I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of a crowd that loud and that large. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Bahrain, No. 38 in world rankings, proved to be a strong first opponent for the U.S., ranked No. 7, with the crowd firmly on their side. The host country withstood three set points before dropping the first set 28-26. Bahrain opened the second set by taking a 9-5 before the young Americans righted the ship, 25-19.
"The crowd was unbelievable," said U.S. coach Sam Shweisky. "We really couldn’t hear each other right next to each other. The energy was fantastic. Once we got a chance to settle down a little bit and get comfortable, the guys started playing really well. The staff did an amazing job keeping the guys focused on the task, playing great systems. Coach Brad Keller, Theo Edwards and Galen Dodd did a fantastic job preparing the guys for the match and I think that’s the major reason we did well."
Bahrain owned the third set with an 18-12 advantage; the U.S. fought back but Bahrain took the set 25-20.
Coach Shweisky subbed in Jerod Nelsen in the third and started him in the fourth. The 6-7 Nelsen provided a spark, scoring six points with four kills and two blocks. The fourth set was closed throughout but the Americans closed out the set and the match 25-23.
Outside hitter Joel Schneidmiller led the U.S. scoring with 23 points with 21 kills on 43 attempts, and two blocks. Schneidmiller also had 11 excellent receptions and four digs. Jasper added three blocks. The U.S. led in kills 54-46 and blocks 13-5, while Bahrain had 38 opposition errors, nine more than Team USA.
“The middles opened up the pins, which was amazing, made my job and the outsides’ jobs a lot easier," Jasper said. "I think we could improve on the serve receive and serving. If we get that down, it will be hard to beat us."
One of those middles, Kyler Presho, is also an incoming freshman at Stanford. He was in the starting lineup with Jasper and had eight points on three kills, a team high four blocks and a service ace.
The U.S. team earned a silver medal at the 2016 NORCECA Boys’ Youth Continental Championship in Cuba and finished seventh at the last U19 World Championship in 2015, equally the team’s best finish at Worlds.