COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 30, 2008) – The U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team opened the 2008 Pan American Cup with a 20-25, 25-18, 25-27, 25-23, 15-8 loss to Dominican Republic Friday evening at Mexicali, Mexico.
The U.S. overcame an 8-5 deficit in the opening set to win 25-20. Dominican Republic recovered from a 9-5 deficit in the second set to win 25-18 by scoring 14 of the final 21 points. Team USA trailed by as many as four points in the third set, but came back to win 27-25 on its third set point attempt. The U.S. scored three unanswered points in the fourth set to tie the score at 23-all, but Dominican Republic sent the match to the tiebreaker with a 25-23 score. Dominican Republic never trailed in the fifth set and broke free from a 7-6 score with eight of the last 10 points.
The U.S. continues pool play on Saturday against Costa Rica at 4 p.m. Pacific Time. The tournament field of 12 teams is broken into two pools of six teams. Pool play consists of five matches in five days. The winner of each pool advances directly to the semifinal round on June 6. The second- and third-place finishers in each pool will have crossover quarterfinal matches on June 5 to determine semifinal opponents for the pool winners.
“It was a good experience for our young players,” said Tom Hogan, who is serving as head coach for Team USA at the Pan American Cup. “It is good for them to be in pressure situations. I want to congratulate the Dominican Republic because their experience showed at the end.”
Team USA started captain Angie McGinnis (Fraser, Mich.) at setter, Cynthia Barboza (Long Beach, Calif.) and Kristin Richards (Orem, Utah) at outside hitter, Tracy Stalls (Denver) and Alexis Crimes (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) at middle blocker, Heather Hughes (Fallbrook, Calif.) at opposite and Stacy Sykora (Burleson, Texas) at libero. Alix Klineman (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) subbed into the match during the second, fourth and fifth sets.
Crimes led the Team USA offense with 19 points, 15 of which came via kills on 26 swings to go with two blocks and two aces. Stalls added 14 points, including a match-high five blocks to go with nine kills on 19 attacks. Barboza chipped in 11 kills, one block and an ace for 13 points, while Hughes and Richards each contributed eight points with six kills. McGinnis rounded out the scoring with a kill and block. Sykora charged a 70 percent on excellent serve receive.
Dominican Republic’s Sidalka Nunez was nearly unstoppable with 34 points on all kills, including four putaways in the final period. Milagros Cabral added 20 points with 16 kills and a team-high four blocks. Cindy Rondon tallied 14 points in the victory, including a match-high four aces to go with eight kills and two blocks.
Dominican Republic held a sizeable 72-48 advantage in kills and a slim 5-4 service ace edge. The victors converted 49 percent of its attacks into kills for the match compared to the Americans’ 39 percent. The U.S. held a 12-10 advantage in blocks and took advantage of 27 Dominican Republic attack errors (12 blocked, 15 errors).
The Pan American Cup will yield four berths into the 2009 World Grand Prix. The top three teams from NORCECA and the top South American team will advance to next year’s annual FIVB tournament.
The United States is ranked fourth in the FIVB world ranking. However, Team USA is using a young team at the Pan American Cup to evaluate individuals for potential Olympic roster spots in 2008, as well for future teams in the next quadrennial beyond the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Dominican Republic is ranked 14th in the world and just returned from the World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Japan in which it barely missed out on an Olympic berth. It finished fourth in the overall standings, but needed to finish among the top three to secure a bid.
After behind 8-5 in the opening set, the U.S. knotted the score at 8-all out of the first technical timeout. Hughes scored consecutive points to give the U.S. a 13-11 edge, and the margin increased at 16-13 after Stalls downed a kill followed by a Hughes ace. Team USA widened the gap to 19-14 as Richards scored a kill in the middle of a 3-0 run. Crimes collected a kill and gave the U.S. a set-point at 24-19 with an ace. Stalls end the set at 25-20 on a kill.
The U.S. jumped to a 9-5 lead in the second set thanks in part to a 4-0 service run with Crimes at the line. Dominican Republic battled back to tie the score with four unanswered points at 9-all. The U.S. regained a two-point cushion at 11-9, only to see Dominican Republic roll off six of the next seven points for a 15-12 lead. The U.S. would not be able to score consecutive points the rest of the second set as Dominican Republic won 25-18 closing on a 4-1 run.
Dominican Republic broke a 5-all tie in the third set with a 6-2 spurt. The U.S. whittled away at the gap until it knotted the score at 15-all as Hughes and Crimes each scored two points in an 8-4 run. Team USA scored three straight points with blocks from Richards and Stalls after a Barboza kill to give the U.S. a 19-17 lead. Dominican Republic tied the set at 19-all, only to have the U.S. rebuild its two-point lead at 21-19 starting with a Barboza kill. Dominican Republic scored consecutive points to tie the set at 23-all, but could not push the lead to its side. Stalls provided the U.S. with its third set point with a kill at 26-25, and Barboza concluded the frame with an ace.
Dominican Republic took an early 6-3 lead in the fourth set, but the U.S. rolled off a 6-3 run with Stalls and Crimes score two points apiece from the middle to tie the set at 9-all. Team USA grabbed a 14-12 lead on consecutive Dominican Republic errors. However, four unanswered Dominican Republic points swung the two-point lead to the other side at 18-16. Crimes scored three unanswered points as part of a 4-0 U.S. run to push the lead back the Americans, 20-18. However, Dominican Republic answered the challenge with five straight points for a 23-20 edge. Barboza scored back-to-back kills after an error to knot the score at 23-all, but Dominican Republic closed out the set at 25-23.
Dominican Republic gained its first two-point cushion of the tiebreaker at 6-4, then traded points until leading 8-7. Dominican Republic scored the next seven points with two off the block.