By Ryan Gregory | July 30, 2019, 6:28 p.m. (ET)

Jace Pardon and Karissa Cook celebrating after winning the beach volleyball finals at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 30, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

LIMA, PERU – A comeback effort from the U.S. beach volleyball duo of Jace Pardon and Karissa Cook resulted in the first Pan American Games gold medal ever in the event. They defeated Ana Gallay and Fernanda Pereyra of Argentina, 14-21, 22-20, 15-10.

The U.S. entered the match with a historic record of 0-1, a 1999 loss to Brazil. Pardon and Cook had not dropped a set in their five matches, but that changed when Gallay and Pereyra broke an 8-8 tie to control the first set. An impressive display of defensive tenacity sparked a 10-2 run for Argentina, as Gallay and Pereyra gobbled up kill attempts from the Americans. Pardon and Cook showed life at the end of the set, finally figuring out how to connect with the sand, but the damage was done.

“Argentina came out really strong,” Cook said. “They never let up, they stayed gritty. We just had to figure out our passing, and we had to be aggressive and stop being timid.” 

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The second set was tight throughout, as neither team could build a lead larger than two points. The defining moment came from Pardon. Sitting on a 20-19 lead with a chance to secure the set for Team USA, Pardon’s kill attempt was caught by the net. Undeterred, Pardon persevered, slamming home an emphatic block soon after to win the set, 22-20.

“Obviously, I wish it wasn’t so close,” Pardon said. “Whenever I make a bad play, I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, I need to make up for that’ and I want the ball back. I’m lucky I’m playing with (Cook), she sets really well and helped me stay calm.”

The momentum from that electric second set carried over for the U.S. Pardon secured the first point with a thunderous kill. Just as Argentina had controlled the first set, the Americans locked down their defensive effort in the third. This was best illustrated by Pardon, who blocked two consecutive kill attempts from Gallay to increase the lead to 14-9. Two plays later, Cook delivered a touch kill over their heads to secure the gold.

“Sometimes being down early lets you relax,” Cook said. “When you’re down big, you have nothing to lose. I felt like we came out hot in the third because we were relaxed so we could just play our game. The third set can go either way, so it’s important to keep your head.”