COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 29, 2007) - Later today, defending tournament champion Brazil faces Cuba for the championship at 7 p.m. CDT.
The U.S.-Dominican Republic contest was a rematch from preliminary group play in which the Americans won 25-20, 18-25, 26-24, 18-25, 15-13 on June 23 en route to finishing atop Pool A. During that match, the U.S. lost starting middle blocker Tracy Stalls (Denver, Colo.) to a tournament-ending injury during the fifth set Team USA reached the semifinal round by winning the tournament's Pool A with a 5-0 record, but lost to the defending tournament champion Brazil last night to fall into the third-place match. The U.S. was the only country in the 12-team tournament to go undefeated in pool play.
Despite the two losses to close out the Pan American Cup, the Americans qualified for the 2008 FIVB World Grand Prix, one of the goals for the team at the tournament. Based on the final standings of the Pan American Cup, the top three teams from NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Federation) and the top team from the CSV (South American Confederation) qualify for the 2008 FIVB World Grand Prix. Along with Team USA, Cuba, Brazil and Dominican Republic have earned spots in the 2008 World Grand Prix.
During the third-place match, the U.S. started captain Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu) at setter, Jen Joines (Milpitas, Calif.) and Laura Tomes (Sioux City, Iowa) at middle blocker, Katie Wilkins (Lakeside, Calif.) and Cynthia Barboza (Long Beach, Calif.) at outside hitter, and Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.) at opposite. Candace Lee (Eugene, Ore.) is Team USA's designated libero for the tournament. Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) and Katie Olsovsky (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) subbed in all four sets.
Wilkins topped the American offense with 19 points on 17 kills via 36 swings and two blocks. Joines added 15 points on 10 kills and five blocks. Busse contributed 10 kills and a block for 11 points, while Barboza reached 10 points all on kills with just one attack error on 26 swings. Tomes tacked on seen points with three blocks, three aces and a kill. Olsovsky came off the bench in all four sets to score six points, including five kills on nine swings. Ah Mow-Santos provided a kill on two attacks.
"I liked the fighting spirit of our team," Ah Mow-Santos said. "It was a good match and unfortunately we couldn't win the fourth set. For our younger players, it has been a good experience to compete at the international level which is different than the college ranks."
Both teams secured 12 points via blocks, while Dominican Republic held a 6-3 margin in service aces.
The U.S. finished fourth at last year's Pan American Cup held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The top four teams at the 2007 Pan American Cup remain the same as last year, as well as the championship contest of Brazil versus Cuba.
The Dominican Republic never trailed in the opening set after bolting to a quick 3-0 lead and increasing the margin to five at 7-2. Team USA cut the deficit to three at 9-6 as Joines racked up three kills in a 4-1 run. However, Dominican Republic stretched the lead back to six points at 13-7 on a 4-1 run of its own. Team USA never pulled closer than six points the rest of the set.
The second set witnessed 10 lead changes and 19 ties in a seesaw battle. Wilkins scored a kill at 22-21, but Dominican Republic challenged back with consecutive points to take its final lead of the period at 23-22. Wilkins answered the call with a kill and stuff block to provide the U.S. with set point at 24-23. Dominican Republic saved three set points before Barboza slammed a kill and the U.S. gaining the final point at 28-26 on an opponent's error.
Trailing 4-3 in the third set, the U.S. charged out to a 7-4 advantage on four consecutive points on Tomes' serve that included an ace and blocks from Joines and Busse. Dominican Republic inched its way back until regaining the advantage at 10-9. Dominican Republic methodically rolled off a 6-1 run to take a commanding 16-11 lead en route to a seven-point victory at 25-18.
Dominican Republic continued the pressure in the fourth set by assuming a 5-2 lead. Team USA fought back to take an 8-5 advantage on a 6-0 run as Barboza, Wilkins and Joines all scored a kill with Tomes notching an ace. The U.S. maintained a three-point edge to 12-9, only to watch Dominican Republic regain the lead back at 13-12 on a 4-1 spurt. Dominican Republic increased its margin to four points at 19-15 and maintained it through until 22-18. The U.S. fought back with five unanswered points mainly through opponent miscues to take a 23-22 lead. The advantage evaporated quickly as Dominican Republic took its first match point at 24-23. Wilkins and Olsovsky each saved one match point before the Dominican Republic converted on its fourth opportunity at 28-26.
Cindy Rondon Marte led the Dominican Republic with 20 points on 15 kills, four blocks and an ace. Milagros Cabral de la Cruz added 17 points on 16 kills and a block. Annerys Vargas Valdez chipped in 12 points on eight kills, three blocks and an ace. Cosiris Rodriguez punched in 10 points via eight kills, one block and an ace.
"I am very satisfied with this victory and the continued growth of our project," said Miguel Beato Cruz, the Dominican Republic coach. "In the history of the Pan American Cup we have three second places and three third places, so I thank the Lord for being again on the podium."
Cruz noted the Dominican Republic attack offset other deficiencies in the match. His squad converted 50 percent of its attacks into kills with just 22 hitting errors on 124 swings.
"The key today was our attack because we did not block well and the quality of our serves descended after the first set," Cruz said.
USA-DOM Short Box
USA (Points-Kills-Blocks-Aces): Marcie Hampton (DNP); Tracy Stalls (DNP); Laura Tomes 7-1-3-3; Katie Wilkins 19-17-2-0; Jen Joines 15-10-5-0; Cynthia Barboza 10-10-0-0; Robyn Ah Mow-Santos 1-1-0-0; Katie Olsovsky 6-5-1-0; Candace Lee 0-0-0-0; Courtney Thompson 0-0-0-0; Lindsey Hunter (DNP); Cassie Busse 11-10-1-0. Totals: 69-54-12-3.
DOM: Annerys Vargas Valdez 12-8-3-1; Rosalin Angeles Rojas 2-0-02; Sidarka Nunez (DNP); Brenda Castillo 0-0-0-0; Carmen Rosa Caso Sierra 0-0-0-0; Sofia Mercedes Heredia 0-0-0-0; Gina Del Rosario Selmo (DNP); Nurys Arias Done 6-4-2-0; Milagros Cabral de la Cruz 17-16-1-0; Cindy Rondon Marte 20-15-4-1; Cosiris Rodriguez 10-8-1-1; Bethania de la Cruz 13-11-1-1. Totals: 80-62-12-6.