The U.S. youth national volleyball team beat Cuba Sunday, 25-20, 25-19, 26-24, to finish in 15th place at the FIVB Boys' U19 World Championship in Bahrain.
The Americans (4-4) took the match in straight sets 25-20, 25-19, 26-24.
"I was really pleased with the team's performance," said U.S. coach Sam Shweisky. "This has been a long tournament. Eight matches over nine or 10 days, a lot of travel. To see the guys compete hard against Cuba was great."
The victory was a little sweeter since Cuba beat the U.S. in the 2016 NORCECA Boys' Youth Continental Championship finals.
"To get the chance to face them again here in the final match here at World Championships was pretty gratifying," said Shweisky.
Once again outside hitter Joel Schneidmiller led the squad in scoring with 22 points with 17 kills on 30 attempts, plus four blocks and an ace. Schneidmiller is among the tournament's leaders in kills.
"Joel has had a fantastic tournament; he played great today," said Shweisky. "But it was a full team effort. Everyone on the court made an impact. It was a great way to end this event. I'm just proud of everyone's effort."
The tournament was a learning experience for the young Americans getting used to the rigors of international play.
"Coach Joel Walton mentioned in our goal setting meeting about stamina," said Shweisky. "I think that's certainly an eye-opening experience for these guys. They're used to playing JOs, four days is the longest tournament that they play. Being able to be mentally strong for two weeks of training, all the travel, and then an eight-game tournament is a lot. I think we did really well."
The team adapted to the international style of play. One example would be serving.
"We talked about how powerful the float serves were going to be here," said Shweisky. "The jump float serves are much different than we see in the United States. Our guys not only adapted, but were able to pass at a higher level than they were when the tournament started, but also to serve an effective jump float serve. A couple of our guys, Jerod Nelsen in particular, switched to a jump float had some really good success."
In today's match versus Cuba, the U.S. held the edge in aces 7-2.
The team responded to adversity. Three players got injured.
"It's never easy, you never plan for that, they responded well, kept fighting," said Shweisky. "I'm really proud of the resolve we showed."
Libero Parker Mikesch suffered a knee injury during the France match on Aug. 24 and was replaced by Brandon Browning for the rest of the tournament.
"I don't think I've ever played libero, unless it was a quick set or something, but it was really fun," said Browning. "It's not too different, because I've always like defense and passing, that's one of my strong suits, so that was really fun.
"This trip has really shown me as well as everyone else a lot," said Browning. "I'm really grateful for this opportunity to work with these college coaches. They've definitely taught us a lot. It was a really great opportunity to be able to experience this at a young age. I think it's really going to help moving forward."
This is group of young men are all in the pipeline and will be considered for the next U.S. Men's Junior National team.
"I think for a lot of guys this is going to prove to be a really important turning point for them as they move on, hopefully, to the Junior and maybe even Senior team down the road," said Shweisky. "I'm excited to see how they'll do."
"I want to give a big thank you to the staff," he said. "Coach Brad Keller, Theo Edwards, Galen Dodd, Joel Walton ... the travel is long for everyone and they put in incredibly long nights putting together game plans, preparation for each match. They also will move up the pipeline as they keep working hard. It's been a pleasure and honor to work with them."