FM WU18 ROUvsSVK (27)

Defending champions the United States and Romania have both made it to the quarterfinals of the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship in dramatic fashion on Sunday. Americans and Romanians have both prevailed in five-set Round of 16 meetings against Argentina and Slovakia at the Auditorio de Pueblo to advance.

The Americans, who remain undefeated in the tournament after five matches, will try to continue their winning streak against Turkey while the Romanians will now challenge Italy. Both matches will be played on Monday at the Fenadu.

In the first five-setter of the Round of 16, Romania were better in the final points to take Slovakia down in five sets and move on to the quarterfinals. The match was absolutely even, with the winners prevailing by a narrow margin in aces (9-7) and opponent errors (30-29) and the Slovakians slightly dominating in kills (57-54) and blocks (11-9).

Romanian captain Lidia Partnoi led her team’s offense as the outside hitter tallied 16 points (15 kills, one block). She was significantly helped by opposite Denisa Cheluta and middle blocker Tara Cristea, who added 14 and 13, respectively. The top scorer of the match, however, was Slovakian opposite Radka Haskova, who left the court with 21 points (18 kills, one block, two aces) to her name.

“We started the match really well but then we lost our focus and things got complicated,” Partnoi commented. “It was a crazy match, full of emotions, and it’s important that we won it so we can keep going forward. We were really determined and played as a team, helping each other, and I think that was the difference at the end. We lost to Italy in the European Championship last year and now we want to do better than we did in that occasion to prove who we are and how much we improved since then.”

The defending champions were truly challenged for the first time in the tournament by a brave Argentinean team that managed to take the match to five sets but not to deliver at the end, losing in a thriller. The Americans were better offensively (61-48 kills) and from the service line (11-5) but the South Americans were surprisingly strong with their blocking (20-12).

Wucherer was a solid contributor to the American offense

Wucherer was a solid contributor to the American offense

American outside hitter Mckenna Wucherer led all scorers with 25 points (19 kills, two blocks, four aces), followed by Argentinean outside hitter Nicole Perez, who produced 22 (18 kills, four blocks). They were supported by outside hitter Harper Murray, who delivered 17 for the winners, and opposite Valentina Vaulet, who tallied 15 for the South Americans.

“At the end, we played like USA,” American head coach Jamie Morrison reflected. “We went away from it a little bit and Argentina has a really good volleyball team. I couldn’t believe they finished fourth in their pool. Congratulations to them on pushing us, but I’m glad we showed up and got back to being ourselves at the end. I was telling the players we hadn’t been challenged during pool play, so we needed that. I’m really happy and fired up that Argentina played like they did tonight.”