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Golden Again! U.S. Women Rally to Win Pan Am Cup

By Bill Kauffman ( | July 14, 2018, 11:09 p.m. (ET)

U.S. Women with the Pan Am Cup gold medals and trophy
The U.S. Women celebrate after winning the Pan Am Cup gold medal, coming back from a 2-0 deficit against a veteran Dominican Republic team playing on its home court.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 14, 2018) – A young U.S. Women’s National Team – with seven players making their international tournament debuts and no player with more than two years National Team experience – showed its resilience Saturday night in rallying from a two-set deficit to defeat Dominican Republic 24-26, 21-25, 25-21, 25-19, 15-8 in the Pan American Cup gold-medal match in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Team USA has now won the Pan Am Cup six times in 17 editions – including five of the past seven years (2003, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018). Dominican Republic was attempting to win its fifth Pan Am Cup title, but will settle for its ninth silver medal in the tournament. Dominican Republic has reached the podium in 16 of the 17 Pan Am Cups. Canada defeated Brazil in straight sets to capture the bronze medal.

Team USA charged back from an 11-7 deficit in the opening set to take a 19-18 advantage, but Dominican Republic used a 4-0 run to take a 23-20 lead. The Americans saved three set points to tie the set at 24-all, but Dominican Republic regrouped to win 26-24. The U.S. trailed 9-4 in the second set, but charged back to tie the set at 12-all. However, Dominican Republic used a key 6-2 run to gain a 20-16 advantage and went on to win 25-21.

Despite the two-set deficit, the Americans battled back and did not allow their inexperience show against a veteran Dominican Republic team playing at home. Team USA broke a 14-all tie in the third set with a 7-2 run to take 21-16 advantage and went on to win 25-21. Trailing 3-2 early in the fourth set, Team USA used a 12-3 run to build a 14-5 advantage and went on to win 25-19. In the tiebreaker, the U.S. scored six of seven points to produce a 6-2 advantage and never looked back in winning 15-8.

"It took us two sets to adjust our game," said Jon Newman-Gonchar, who is serving as the U.S. head coach at the Pan Am Cup. "Once we slowed down their two strong attackers, we applied U.S. pressure and finished the job. I am very proud of successfully defending the crown."

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

Team USA opposite Aiyana Whitney (Norwood, New Jersey) scored a match-high 27 points with 23 kills on 41 attacks, two blocks and two aces. Middle Chiaka Ogbogu (Coppell, Texas), selected Best Blocker of the Pan Am Cup, contributed 21 points with 14 kills on 24 swings and match-high seven blocks.

Outside hitter Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie, Minnesota) pocketed 15 points with 12 kills on 28 attacks, two blocks and an ace. Middle Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Colorado) charted 14 points with eight kills on 14 errorless attacks, five blocks and an ace. Outside hitter Simone Lee (Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin) tacked on seven points with six kills on 21 attacks and a block. Outside hitter Adora Anae (Punaluu, Hawaii), a sub in the first set and starter in the second set, rounded out the American scoring with two kills.

Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois), credited with 14 running sets on 115 total set attempts, led the American offense to a 46.4 kill percent and .314 hitting efficiency (65-21-140). After the match, she was named the Most Valuable Player and Best Setter of the Pan Am Cup. Team USA limited Dominican Republic to a 37.0 kill percent and .188 hitting efficiency (51-25-138).

"Once again I am very proud of my team and how we battled against the home-court advantage," Carlini said. "It was not an easy task. We battled point by point and with the game we improved our passing and got better playing cleaner volleyball."

American libero Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona) was credited with nine digs and 10 excellent receptions on 30 chances. Wilhite handled 25 receptions with seven being excellent. Lee also had seven excellent receptions and three digs.

The U.S. held advantages of 17-10 in blocks and 65-51 in kills. Dominican Republic’s serve netted a 10-4 advantage. Team USA held a 23-20 lead in digs.

Team USA has now won gold in both its tournaments entered in 2018. The Americans won the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League title, which also was a five-set victory in the gold-medal match against Turkey. However, the U.S. roster at the Pan Am Cup was much different with only one player who was on the Volleyball Nations League Final Six roster.

Dominican Republic was led by Brayelin Martinez’s 21 points.

The U.S. started Lee and Wilhite at outside hitter, Ogbogu and Washington at middle, Whitney at opposite, Carlini at setter and Benson at libero.

The teams traded points early in the opening set until Whitney downed a kill after a Dominican Republic service error to give the Americans a 6-5 lead. Dominican Republic scored five unanswered points, including three consecutive aces, to stake a 11-7 advantage. Wilhite and Anae scored back-to-back kills to cut the deficit to 12-10. Whitney put up a block to bring Team USA to within one, 13-12. Washington blocked Dominican Republic to level the set at 14-all. Dominican Republic recovered with consecutive points to go into the second technical timeout up 16-14. The U.S. tied the set at 17-all with a Washington kill and Dominican Republic attack error. The U.S. reversed the lead to its side at 19-18 with consecutive Dominican Republic errors. However, Dominican Republic charged back into the lead at 23-20 with four straight points. Whitney and Anae scored back-to-back kills, then Whitney served an ace to save three set points at tie the set at 24-all. Dominican Republic scored the final two points to win 26-24.

The U.S. scored three straight, including a Washington kill, to take a 3-1 advantage in the second set. However, Dominican Republic quickly took a commanding 7-3 lead with six unanswered points. Dominican Republic raised its advantage to 9-4. The U.S. closed the gap to 10-8 with four consecutive points, including an ace by Whitney. Washington connected for a kill and block to place the Americans within one at 11-10. The U.S. tied the set at 12-all with kills from Wilhite and Lee. Dominican Republic went into the second technical timeout leading 16-14, then raised its lead to 20-16 with three unanswered points. Whitney and Wilhite notched kills to cut the gap in half to 20-18, but Dominican scored back-to-back points of its own at 22-18. Whitney and Washington slammed consecutive kills to slice the deficit to 22-20. Dominican Republic reached set points at 24-20 on back-to-back points, then won 25-21.

Dominican Republic was the first to score consecutive points in the third set in reversing the lead to its side at 7-6. Team USA answered with an Ogbogu kill and xx ace to give the Americans an 8-7 margin at the first technical timeout. Dominican Republic went back into the lead at 10-9 then raised its margin to 12-10. Team USA took a 14-13 lead on a Washington ace after a Dominican Republic service error and Wilhite kill. The U.S. reached the second technical timeout leading 16-14 with a Wilhite kill and Dominican Republic error. Out of the break, Ogbogu added a block to raise the American lead to 17-14. Dominican Republic answered with consecutive points to close to 17-16. Consecutive Dominican Republic errors extended the U.S. advantage to 19-16. Out of a Dominican Republic timeout, Ogbogu put up a block and overpass kill to raise the American lead to 21-16. Dominican Republic saved two set points before Wilhite ended the set with a kill at 25-21.

Team USA used a 4-0 run to take a 6-3 advantage in the fourth set as Whitney and Wilhite hammered consecutive kills, then Washington tapped down an overpass kill and Dominican Republic hit wide. Out of a Dominican Republic timeout, Wilhite put up a block for a fifth consecutive point at 7-3. Whitney slammed a kill between two Dominican Republic errors, then Ogbogu pounded an overpass kill and put up a block to extend Team USA’s lead to 13-5 on a 5-0 run. Out of a Dominican Republic timeout, Whitney put up a block to raise the margin to 14-5. Dominican Republic sliced the gap to 15-8 with back-to-back points. Lee pounded a kill off the block to take a 17-8 advantage. Wilhite tallied a kill and block to provide Team USA a 20-10 lead. Dominican Republic chipped two points off the deficit at 21-13. Whitney and Ogbogu slammed consecutive kills to put the Americans up 23-13. Dominican Republic saved five set points before the U.S. ended the set at 25-19 with an Ogbogu kill.

The U.S. scored four consecutive points on two Whitney kills, a Dominican Republic error and Ogbogu block to take a 4-1 lead in the fifth set. Whitney and Lee scored a kill and block, respectively, to prompt Dominican Republic to call timeout down 6-2. Whitney hammered a kill and Washington pounded an overpass kill to yield an 8-3 American lead the side-switch. Lee and Washington downed back-to-back kills to prompt Dominican Republic to call timeout trailing 10-4. Out of the break, Dominican Republic tallied back-to-back points to close to 10-6. A Wilhite kill and Dominican Republic error extended the American lead to 13-7. A Wilhite kill and Ogbogu block ended the set at 15-8.

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 lost to Cuba 18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 13-25, 15-13
July 10: USA def. Puerto Rico 25-22, 25-21, 25-14

Pan American Cup Playoff Schedule
July 11: USA def. Colombia 25-12, 25-17, 25-17 (Quarterfinals)
July 13: USA def. 25-18, 23-25, 25-23, 25-19 (semifinals)
July 14: USA def. Dominican Republic 24-26, 21-25, 25-21, 25-19, 15-8 (gold-medal match)