By Rob Browning, Team Leader for U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team
Pan American Cup * Lima, Peru
June 14, 2013
Yesterday was a rest day for the teams in Pan American Cup. Four of the teams played the first round in Iquitos, which is in the middle of the Peruvian rain forest. They flew into Lima yesterday and now all 12 teams are now staying in our hotel, where we've been from day one.
Our trip started with a flight from LAX to Dallas, then Dallas to Lima without incident. Getting out of customs at 1 a.m. proved to be lengthy because there were a few international flights that all arrived at the same time. By the time we got our bags and got outside it was 2 a.m. Then we had to find our bus! Usually there is someone waiting to greet us and guide us, but in the wee hours of the morning I can't completely blame them for slacking. Our bus was there and we arrived at the hotel around 2:45 a.m.
Everything was groovy until the man behind the desk mentioned casually that they didn't have any rooms for us. "¿cómo?"
"Si, we thought you were arriving at 12:40 p.m., not 12:40 a.m. There are no rooms available right now, but we will get some cleaned lo mas pronto posible. It will be a couple of hours though."
They gave us access to their executive lounge on the 12th floor where the team could catch an hour or two of sleep until they had beds available for them. At around 5 a.m. all of the girls got into rooms, then at 6ish Karch and I got a room so we could sleep for two hours before our 8 a.m. meeting. Tom, Joe and Reed got a couple of rooms an hour later.
When we finally woke up in the morning we found ourselves in a very nice hotel in a pretty little neighborhood called San Isidro with great food! That first night is a distant memory now...
We played Trinidad and Tobago first. They've got some great athletes with great arms so we were ready to battle. The match was easier than we expected and there is a reason for it. The next night T&T played Argentina with a much stronger line up and played great. Argentina had their hands full most of the night. Tom and I are convinced they threw our match so they could catch Argentina sleeping--and they almost did. T&T should have won the first set, but they let Argentina slip by in the end.
Next up was Puerto Rico, who lost convincingly to Argentina the first night. They played much better against us and got out to an early 2-0 lead. Our girls made adjustments and played better and better as the match went along, eventually winning 15-13 in the 5th set.
This set up an interesting scenario. Argentina had 10 points because they won both of their first two matches by scores of 3-0. We only had 8 points because we dropped two sets to PR. If we beat Argentina (a very good team) in 5, we would end up with a 3-0 record, but only 11 points, while Argentina would have a 2-1 record, but 12 points. They would have won the group with a 2-1 record and we would have gotten 2nd with a 3-0 record. Makes sense, right? We didn't think so either.
USA stepped it up against Argentina, executing the game plan well and putting much more pressure on them with our serve. USA 3, Argentina 0. That secured a pass straight to the semifinals of the tournament and qualified the team for the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix, the premier annual women's volleyball event.
Today we will scout the two quarterfinal matches, Canada vs. Brazil and Argentina vs. Cuba.
Did you know our national anthem has a second verse? Neither did we, but they proceeded to play it at the beginning of our first match against T&T. The first verse concluded and we all applauded, including all 17 people in the stands, only to find ourselves placing our hands over our hearts again for the second verse, sung majestically by whoever was singing it on the CD they were playing. There you go. Learn something new every day.