By Rob Browning, Team Leader for U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team
Pan American Cup * Lima, Peru
June 17, 2013
Team USA claimed the Pan American Cup Sunday night with a convincing 3-0 victory over Dominican Republic. USA asserted itself early and dominated the first set. The Dominicans are a hard hitting group that is good at putting teams on their heals with their big arms, then catching their opponent unaware by tipping over the block.
Karch, Reed, Tom and Joe put together a great scouting report with input from the team, many of whom know DR well from facing them regularly in NORCECA and other events. The result was a lot of thunderous Dominican attacks that were met with a solid USA block--the ball was coming back at them as hard as they were hitting it.
Once again Nicole Fawcett put the hurt on the opponent with her jump serve. She consistently sent missiles at the Dominicans. It was a weapon for USA the entire tournament. Kristin, Kayla and Megan were steady in serve receive, even after the Dominicans served some rockets of their own, and Megan and Kristin terminated on the outside when they needed to. Alisha was setting a fast and relentless offense and our middles--Rachel and Lauren--were too much for our Caribbean foes. Jenna and Kelly subbed in each set to keep the pressure on without missing a beat. Cassidy was a good serving sub and ball control player when needed. We all know that if Kim Hill or Lauren Paoloni were needed at any time they would have gotten the job done. Truly a team success if ever there was one.
We were firing in all cylinders and made a good Dominican team look bad. The 2nd and 3rd sets were much more competitive, but USA was in control throughout.
The awards ceremony was fun with Megan Hodge, Nicole Fawcett, and Kayla Banwarth receiving individual awards for their outstanding play, but the team clearly had the most fun on the podium holding the cup amid confetti and cheers from the modest-size crowd.
Our departing flight was at 2am, so we needed to go straight to the airport from the arena. Carlos (see below) arranged to get pizzas to the gym, Reed "Money Bags" Sunahara splurged for ice cream for the team, and it was off to the airport.
Remember how I said previously that the Peruvian team is "wildly popular--paparazzi popular"? Well they were in Iquitos, and their junior national team certainly was two years ago when they hosted the Junior World Championships. Turns out they're not as popular when they aren't in the running anymore and their team is not playing well, which was the case the last few days of the tournament. Unfortunately the crowds dwindled in Lima so we played in front of less than a thousand people even though Peru played right before us.
Not that it made a difference for our team. USA came to take care of business.
The Pan American Cup is more than just a tournament, it's a cup--an honest to goodness cup of golden color and impressive size. After the party is over someone needs to get that coveted cup back to the USA where it belongs. That someone is none other than Rachael Adams, who earned the distinguished honor as the youngest member of the team. Although not as heavy as it looks, it is bulky and must be carried on to the plane--which means it must be carried through airports and down jetways...and through customs...to baggage claim, etc.
It's kind of like the Stanley Cup being toted around the country with heavy security, except it's totally different. There really is no threat of this cup being stolen. The thief would then just have to lug it around with him and would probably end up leaving it on a bus or something.
This is my second trip to Peru with USA volleyball in the past two years and I have had the privilege of meeting and working with so many wonderful Peruvian people. They are gracious and generous hosts and will go out of their way to help.
One such person is Carlos Chia, a volleyball coach who coached in the US for many years and is now back in his native Peru. Carlos was on hand to help us with anything we needed and made our stay much more enjoyable and comfortable. Gracias Carlos!
To Andrea, our attaché, the local organizers, NORCECA and CSA officials, bus drivers, court attendants and everyone else who helped pull off such a big event, thank you!