Team USA Over Puerto Rico in Pan Am Cup Opener

By Bill Kauffman | June 13, 2015, 11:01 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 13, 2015) – The U.S. Women’s National Team opened the XIV Women’s Pan American Cup with a 25-22, 25-12, 25-18 victory over Puerto Rico on Saturday evening in Lima, Peru.

Opposite Alix Klineman (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) produced a match-best 14 points with 11 kills on 28 attacks, two blocks and an ace in the American victory. Outside hitter Krista Vansant (Redlands, Calif.), playing in her first international competition with Team USA, scored a 12 points with 10 kills on 21 attacks, one block and one ace. Captain Kristin Hildebrand (Orem, Utah), playing at the other outside hitter position, totaled nine points with seven kills and two aces.

Setter Carli Lloyd (Bonsall, Calif.) set Team USA to a 44 kill percent and added three individual points. Middle blocker Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.) pocketed eight points in the victory. Cursty Jackson (Los Angeles), who started the first two sets at middle blocker charted five points. Inky Ajanaku (Tulsa, Okla.), making her debut with the U.S. Women’s National Team, scored four points in the third set as Jackson’s replacement. Cassidy Lichtman (Poway, Calif.) rounded out the scoring with an ace as a sub in all three sets.

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“It is good to start with a victory," said Hildebrand, who is serving as the U.S. captain for the tournament. "It was a thrilling match with our team using some new girls who have adjusted quickly to our squad.”

Natalie Hagglund (Encinitas, Calif.) was 83 percent positive on 12 reception chances from her libero position. Vansant handled a team-leading 15 receptions with a 60 percent positive rating. Hildebrand added 13 receptions with a 54 percent positive and excellent rating.

Team USA out-blocked Puerto Rico 7-4 and had a 5-0 ace advantage. The Americans held Puerto Rico to a 28.6 kill percent for the match.

“Our goal is to develop our game better," said David Hunt, who is serving as the U.S. head coach for the Pan Am Cup. "This tournament will allow our new players to adjust to our game system.”

In the opening set, the U.S. opened up a 16-9 advantage at the second technical timeout only to need to withstand a late Puerto Rico charge down the stretch that resulted in a three-point victory. Team USA controlled the second set from the start with technical timeout leads of 8-3 and 16-5 before settling in for a 25-12 victory. The Americans pulled away from Puerto Rico late in the third set.

The U.S. faces Colombia on Sunday at 1 p.m. PT in its second Pool A match of the round-robin group phase. Team USA will also challenge Costa Rica on June 15 at 1 p.m. PT, Mexico on June 16 at 3 p.m. PT and Argentina on June 17 at 5 p.m. PT. The Pool A winner advances directly to the semifinal round on June 20, while second- and third-place winners play in the quarterfinals on June 19.

The Pan American Cup is a qualifier into the 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster – Pan American Cup
# - Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
2 – Inky Ajanaku (MB, 6-2, Tulsa, Okla., Stanford University)
4 – Lauren Paolini (MB, 6-4, Ann Arbor, Mich., University of Texas)
7 – Cassidy Lichtman (OH, 6-1, Poway, Calif., Stanford University)
9 – Kristin Hildebrand (OH, 6-1, Orem, Utah, Stanford University)
10 – Natalie Hagglund (L, 5-9, Encinitas, Calif., University of Southern California)
13 – Cursty Jackson (MB, 6-2, Los Angeles, University of Arizona)
16 – Michelle Bartsch (OH, 6-3, Maryville, Ill., University of Illinois)
17 – Alix Klineman (OPP, 6-5, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Stanford University)
19 – Hayley Hodson (OH, 6-2, Newport Beach, Calif., Stanford University)
20 – Jenna Hagglund (S, 5-10, West Chester, Ohio, University of Washington)
23 – Carli Lloyd (S, 5-11, Bonsall, Calif., University of California-Berkeley)
24 – Krista Vansant (OH, 6-2, Redlands, Calif., University of Washington)

Head Coach: David Hunt
Assistant Coaches: Nicole Lawlor, Jonathan Newman-Gonchar
Technical Coordinator: Carol Hamilton
Athletic Trainer: Jamie Rodgers
Team Manager: Marci Sanders