Win over Nigeria Means More for 2 Boys Youth Players

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | Aug. 23, 2019, 9 p.m. (ET)

Boys Youth national Team

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 23, 2019)Akin Akinwumi wasn’t originally on the roster for the U.S. Boys Youth National Team at the FIVB U19 World Championship.

But a registration discrepancy for opposite Klistan Lawrence got Akinwumi on the roster and he is taking full advantage, coming off the bench to play a big role.

On Friday, the U.S. Boys Youth Team beat Nigeria, 25-22, 25-19, 25-20 to improve to 2-1 in pool play.

Related: OFFICIAL STATS

The U.S. will have Saturday off before facing Russia (2-0) on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. PT. Live statistics are will be available at http://u19.boys.2019.volleyball.fivb.com/en/schedule/10832-USA-Russia.

Friday’s match against Nigeria was especially significant for Akinwumi, whose parents are both from Nigeria.

“I was excited when I first saw that Nigeria was in our pool. I’ve been excited since then,” Akinwumi said. “For it to really happen, it’s just a blessing. At first, I wasn’t going to be here. Now I’m playing against my parents’ home country. It’s fun and it reminds me of how the game of volleyball unites the world.”

Akinwumi came off the bench in place of starter James Hartley to score five points on kills in the U.S. victory.

“I feel coming off the bench is just as important as starting,” he said. “You have to be ready, because anything can happen.”

Another U.S. player made his first start on Friday as Francesco Sani got the call at outside hitter. He was the team’s second-leading scorer with 10 points on nine kills and one block.

“When Coach Hunt told me I would be starting, I was super happy and played extra well in warmups,” Sani said. “I was definitely really nervous the first five points. But as the game went along, I started to get the feel of it and it was super exciting to compete with the boys the whole time.”

Outside hitter Alex Knight led the U.S. Boys with 18 points on a match-high 14 kills, two blocks and two aces.

Opposite Hartley finished with nine points. Middle blocker Gavin Julien had six. Middle blocker Ethan Hill finished with five points and setter Kevin Kauling had two kills.

Kauling set the U.S. team to a .400 hitting efficiency. The United States led Nigeria in attacks (46-29) and aces (4-1). Nigeria led in blocks (6-5).

STARTERS FOR THE U.S. BOYS YOUTH NATIONAL TEAM VS NIGERIA
Outside hitters: Alex Knight and Francesco Sani
Middle blockers: Ethan Hill and Gavin Julien
Opposite: James Hartley
Setter: Kevin Kauling
Libero: Mason Briggs
Substitutes: Akin Akinwumi (Opp), Joe Karlous (S), Joe Deluzio (OH)

2019 U.S. Boys Youth National Training Team

Name (Pos., Height, Hometown, Region, College commit)
1 Kevin Kauling (S, 6-8, Naperville, Ill., Great Lakes, committed to Lewis)
3 Mason Briggs (L, 5-11, Valencia, Calif., So Cal, signed with Long Beach State)
4 Joe Karlous (S, 6-0, Costa Mesa, Calif., So Cal, signed with Pepperdine)
8 Akinola Akinwumi (Opp, 6-6, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., So Cal, signed with Pepperdine)
9 Clarke Godbold (Opp, 6-5, San Pedro, Calif., So Cal, committed to Long Beach State)
10 James Hartley (OH, 6-6, Waxhaw, N.C., Carolina, signed with Princeton)
11 Rico Wardlow (MB, 6-5, Bolingbrook, Ill., Great Lakes, signed with Purdue University Fort Wayne)
12 Alex Knight (OH, 6-6, Culver City, Calif., So Cal, signed with UCLA)
13 Ethan Hill (MB, 6-7, San Clemente, Calif., So Cal, signed with UCLA)
14 Francesco Sani (OH, 6-8, Bethesda, Md., Old Dominion, committed to UC Irvine)
15 Joe Deluzio (OH, 6-6, Windermere, Fla., Florida, committed to Pepperdine)
17 Gavin Julien (MB, 6-8, Whitefish Bay, Wis., Badger, signed with BYU)

Head Coach: David Hunt (Pepperdine men’s volleyball head coach)
Assistant Coach: Nick MacRae (Long Beach State men’s assistant coach)
Assistant Coach: Colin McMillan (Penn State men’s associate head coach)
Technical Coordinator: Nate Ngo (U.S. Men's National Team)
Team Manager: Gabby Lutjen
Doctor: David Dyck

Schedule/Results (All times PT)
Aug. 21: USA def Dominican Republic, 25-18, 31-29, 25-17
Aug. 22: Korea def USA, 25-27, 25-17, 25-20, 25-22
Aug. 23: USA def Nigeria, 25-22, 25-19, 25-20
Aug. 25 at 11:30 a.m. USA vs Russia