U.S. Women Rally Past Trinidad & Tobago in Pan Am Opener

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | July 08, 2018, 12:31 p.m. (ET)

Haleigh Washington hitting through the middle as she makes her international debut
Haleigh Washington scored eight points as one of six players who made their first international tournament appearance for the U.S. Women's National Team in a 3-1 win over Trinidad & Tobago at the Pan Am Cup

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 8, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team opened the Pan American Cup by rallying past Trinidad & Tobago 21-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-15 on Sunday in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The U.S. faces Cuba on July 9 before closing Pool B against Puerto Rico on July 10. Both matches are set for 6 p.m. ET. The quarterfinals are set for July 11 with the winners advancing to the semifinals on July 13. The medal round concludes the tournament on July 14. FloVolleyball.tv will stream all the matches and available in the United States via a subscription service.

The U.S. rallied from a 20-17 deficit to take a 21-20 advantage in the opening set, but Trinidad & Tobago scored the final five points to win 25-21. Team USA regrouped in the second set by scoring the first four points and raced to a 7-2 advantage, cruising to an eventual 25-15 victory. The Americans built an early 7-2 lead in the third set and held a 19-15 advantage, but needed to withstand a late Trinidad & Tobago charge to win 25-22. Team USA clawed its way to a 13-8 advantage in the fourth set and pulled away for the 25-15 victory.

Related: Match Stats | U.S. Women's Home Page

Outside hitter Simone Lee (Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin) led Team USA with 14 points with 10 kills, three aces and a block. Opposite Aiyana Whitney (Norwood, New Jersey), who came off the bench to start the final three sets, scored 13 points with 11 kills and two blocks. Middle Molly McCage (Spring, Texas) charted six kills and three blocks for nine points in playing the first three sets. Outside hitter Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie, Minnesota) contributed six kills, two aces and a block for nine points.

“We feel awesome about it,” Whitney said about getting the opening match victory. “We knew that we were going to need to work through some things in the beginning. I think we did a good job at grinding it out and finding a stretch of good plays to pull together a good win.”

Middle Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Colorado) totaled eight points with seven kills and a block. Setter Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois) pocketed four aces and two blocks in the victory. Opposite Krystal Rivers (Birmingham, Alabama) added two kills and a block for three points. Middle Chiaka Ogbogu (Coppell, Texas) tacked on two kills and a block in starting the fourth set. Outside hitter Adora Anae (Punaluu, Hawaii) rounded out the scoring with a kill and block as a sub in the final set. Jordyn Poulter Aurora, Colorado) subbed in at setter late in the fourth set.

Libero Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona) was credited with eight digs and seven excellent receptions on 20 chances.

The U.S. converted 44.5 percent of its attacks with a .307 hitting efficiency (45-14-101) behind the setting of Carlini. The American defense limited Trinidad & Tobago to a 33.3 kill percent and .162 hitting efficiency.

The U.S. have seven players on the roster making their international debuts at the Pan Am Cup including Lee, Washington, Rivers, Ogbogu Anae, Poulter and Kadie Rolfzen (Papillion, Nebraska). All but Rolfzen entered the match against Trinidad & Tobago.

“I think it was a little bit of nerves,” Whitney said. “For a lot of us it was our first international tournament, so we just needed to work through that, settle into our game. As the game went on, I think we did that.”

The young American squad overcame an experienced Trinidad & Tobago team via a good scouting report.

“I think we did a pretty good job at scouting them, trying to get good block touches,” Whitney said. “We knew Trinidad & Tobago is a strong offensive team. So we needed to touch on the block and turn for a good point. I think our service, we can probably pick up. That kind of hurt us a little bit. But overall, I think we did a good job at sticking to the game plan.”

The Americans held a 13-5 block advantage and 45-37 margin in kills. Both teams served nine aces. The U.S. committed 26 errors in the match to Trinidad & Tobago’s 29.

Trinidad & Tobago was led in scoring by Krystle Esdelle’s 16 points, while Sinead Jack and Darlene Ramdin added 10 points each.

The U.S. started Lee and Wilhite at outside hitter, McCage and Washington at middle, Rivers at opposite, Carlini at setter and Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona) at libero.

Washington scored consecutive kills to put the U.S. in front 2-1 in the opening set, but two American errors lifted Trinidad & Tobago in front 3-2. Trinidad & Tobago built its lead to 5-3 with an ace. Rivers connected for a kill to level the score at 5-all, then McCage put up a block to give the Americans the lead at 6-5. McCage and Wilhite scored back-to-back kills as the U.S. went into the first technical timeout leading 8-6. Trinidad & Tobago scored the first two points out of the break to square the set at 8-all. Lee served consecutive aces after a Trinidad & Tobago service error to yield an 11-8 U.S. advantage. Trinidad & Tobago trimmed two points off the deficit at 12-11. Wilhite pounded a kill to extend the American lead back to three at 14-11. However, a U.S. error followed by a Trinidad & Tobago ace and kill leveled the set at 14-all. Trinidad & Tobago went into the second technical timeout up 16-15 following an ace, then raised the advantage to 18-15 as part of a 4-0 run. Lee hammered a kill and served an ace around a McCage block to tie the set at 20-all. After a Trinidad & Tobago timeout, McCage put up a soft block to give the Americans the lead at 21-20. However, Trinidad & Tobago scored the final five points to win 25-21.

The U.S. gained a 4-0 lead in the second set with two kills from McCage and one by Wilhite around a Carlini ace. Trinidad & Tobago cut the gap in half at 4-2. Wilhite served an ace around a Whitney kill and block to push the American lead to 7-2. Lee and Washington scored back-to-back points to extend Team USA’s lead to 9-3. Trinidad & Tobago cut the deficit to 9-5 with an ace. Washington put up a monster block to inch the U.S. lead to 11-5. Team USA raised its lead to 14-6 with a Whitney back-row kill and Trinidad & Tobago net violation. Trinidad & Tobago whittled the gap to 14-9 with three unanswered points. Team USA reached the second technical timeout up 16-10 following a McCage kill. Washington put up a block, Whitney scored on an overpass and Lee pounded a kill after a Trinidad & Tobago error to raise the American lead to 21-12. Team USA ended the set at 25-15 on a Trinidad & Tobago service error.

Whitney and Wilhite scored consecutive kills, Carlini served an ace and Whitney added another kill to give the U.S. a 4-1 advantage in the third set. Wilhite and McCage knocked down kills around a Trinidad & Tobago attack error to raise the American lead to 7-2. Trinidad & Tobago cut the deficit to 10-8 on a 4-1 run. Trinidad & Tobago continued its charge and leveled the set at 11-11. Carlini served an ace after a Trinidad & Tobago error to gain a two-point cushion at 13-11. Team USA reached a 15-12 advantage following a Wilhite ace. The Americans stretched their lead to 18-14 with a Whitney kill and Trinidad & Tobago attack error. Trinidad & Tobago cut its deficit to a single point at 20-19 with three unanswered points. McCage and Whitney responded with consecutive kills to raise the Team USA lead to 22-19. However, Trinidad & Tobago again closed to within one at 22-21. Consecutive Trinidad & Tobago errors put the Americans at set points, 24-21. Lee ended the set with a kill at 25-22.

Washington and Whitney scored back-to-back kills to give Team USA its first lead of the fourth set at 4-3. Lee added a third straight point with a kill to raise the American lead to 5-3. Ogbogu downed a kill and Carlini followed with an ace and Trinidad & Tobago committed an error to build the U.S. lead to 10-6. Lee and Washington scored consecutive points to extend the American advantage to 13-8. Anae and Whitney downed kills around a Washington monster block to increase the U.S. lead to 18-11. Ogbogu tallied a block to raise the American lead to 20-12. Rivers scored a block to increase the American margin to 23-14. Team USA capped the win with a Lee kill and Trinidad & Tobago attack error at 25-15.

U.S. Women’s National Team Pan American Cup Roster
# - Name (Position, Height, College, Hometown)
1 – Jordyn Poulter (S, 6-2, University of Illinois, Aurora, Colorado)
4 – Justine Wong-Orantes (L, 5-6, University of Nebraska, Cypress, California)
7 – Lauren Carlini (S, 6-2, University of Wisconsin, Aurora, Illinois)
8 – Krystal Rivers (OPP, 5-11, University of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama)
10 – Simone Lee (OH, 6-1, Penn State University, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin)
13 – Sarah Wilhite (OH, 6-2, University of Minnesota, Eden Prairie, Minnesota)
14 – Adora Anae (OH, 6-1, University of Utah, Punaluu, Hawaii)
15 – Haleigh Washington (M, 6-3, Penn State University, Colorado Springs, Colorado)
18 – Aiyana Whitney (OPP, 6-4, Penn State University, Norwood, New Jersey)
20 – Amanda Benson (L, 5-7, University of Oregon, Litchfield Park, Arizona)
21 – Paige Tapp (M, 6-1, University of Minnesota, Stewartville, Minnesota)
22 – Molly McCage (M, 6-3, University of Texas, Spring, Texas)
24 – Kadie Rolfzen (OH, 6-3, University of Nebraska, Papillion, Nebraska)
25 – Chiaka Ogbogu (M, 6-2, University of Texas, Coppell, Texas)

Head Coach: Jon Newman Gonchar (associate head coach at University of Arkansas)
Assistant Coach: Alisha Glass Childress (2016 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team bronze medalist)
Assistant Coach: JJ Van Niel (associate head coach at University of Southern California)
Technical Coordinator: Natalie Morgan (assistant coach at Loyola Marymount University)
Team Manager: John Xie
Athletic Trainer: Salvador Vallejo

Pan American Cup Schedule

Pool B
July 8: USA def. Trinidad & Tobago 21-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-15
July 9: USA vs. Cuba, 6 p.m. ET
July 10: USA vs. Puerto Rico, 6 p.m. ET

Pan American Cup Playoff Schedule
July 11: Quarterfinals
July 13: Semifinals
July 14: Medal Round