Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand — Illinois recruit Jordyn Poulter and the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Volleyball Team continued a historic run in the FIVB Girls’ Under-18 World Championship on Saturday by advancing to the title match.
The fifth-ranked Americans rallied after losing two of the first three sets in the semifinals to defeat second-ranked Brazil 16-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-17, 15-12. Team USA (6-1) will face top-ranked China (5-2) today in its first appearance in the championship final. The best previous finish by the United States in this tournament was fourth place, in 2003 and 2005.
The semifinal win also assured USA Volleyball of its first world championship medal for either gender at the youth or junior levels.
To remain in contention for a gold medal, the Americans needed to defeat Brazil (5-2) for a second time. However, this victory was much harder earned than the previous meeting in pool play, where Team USA swept the Brazilians in three sets.
“Beating Brazil for a second time, to get into the gold-medal match, was the best feeling in the world,” Poulter said. “There was so much energy and emotion from both teams, and the match was anyone’s game. But when it came down to the final points, we maintained our level of play and executed.”
Poulter, who started at setter and played in all five sets, recorded 29 running sets. The Class of 2015 commitment from Aurora, Colo., also added three kills, one block and one service ace.
In most of the major statistical categories, the match was a virtual standoff, with the U.S. leading Brazil in kills (56-53) and barely trailing in blocks (12-11) and in aces (6-4). However, the Americans benefited from 30 errors by the Brazilians while limiting their own to 22.
China also needed to rally to reach the final, overtaking No. 10 Peru 17-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-19, 23-21.
“We have nothing to lose but everything to gain in this next match against China,” Poulter said. “We’ve been playing with house money for the majority of this tournament, and all chips are on the table for this championship game.”