2017 U20 PAN AMERICAN CUP
- May 8-13th, 2017
- San Jose, Costa Rica
- The top-placing North American and South American teams qualify for the U20 World Championships this summer
It will be North America vs. South America in the gold medal match of the 2017 U20 Pan American Cup, as both the United States and Argentina advanced on Friday.
That means the two big prizes of this tournament have already been awarded – as the top-finishing teams from the NORCECA and South American regions, respectively, both teams have qualified for the U20 World Championships that will be held in Mexico from July 7th-16th.
United States def. Cuba 3-1 (25-17, 25-23, 30-32, 25-20)
In spite of a first-set delay caused by a power blackout, the Americans held control throughout the first set to take an early 1-0 lead over Cuba. Then, in the second, the Americans recovered from an early 4-point deficit to set up a potential sweep.
The easy rout was not to be though, as a dramatic 3rd set saw Cuba fight back for a 32-30 win – the highest-scoring set in the tournament today.
“Cuba is such a great team and they have the ability of putting you emotional and think about what you’re doing,” said USA captain Khalia Lanier. “In the first and fourth set showed how much we keyed in. It was a hard loss in the third; it’s good to be challenged by your opponents to make you think on the fly. I’m proud of our composure”.
In the 4th set, however, Cuba was their own undoing. Back-to-back unforced errors sealed the day for the Americans, which was the story throughout – Cuba had 32 errors in the set, to just 17 for the Americans. That’s in spite of more total kills (57-54) and blocks (13-11) for Cuba.
“It was really difficult match; we had too many errors which led to our loss. We are very sad and frustrated,” said Cuba’s leader Diaris de la Caridad Perez. “For our next match we’ will continue to play strong.”
That match will see Cuba face off against fellow island nation Puerto Rico for the bronze medal.
High school junior and University of Florida commit Thayer Hall led the Americans with 20 points, including 17 kills and 3 blocks. That output was the 5th-best single match scoring performance off the tournament so far as the United States relied more heavily on their starting line in this match. Middle Regan Pittman had 14 points, with Khalia Lanier‘s 13 and Mackenzie May’s 12 also in double figures.
Cuba’s top scorer Heidy Casanova did one better than Hall, picking up 21 points – tied for the 3rd-best single game performance of the tournament.
“After the lights went out we came out to win sets one and two executing well,” said American coach Jerritt Elliott. “We were up by two or three points but lost a really close set in game three. I am very impressed the way we came out in set four and executed in serving and our outside game. For as practicing so little, it’s phenomenal the job and chemistry the group has; we’re potentially qualified to worlds, we’ll just have to wait.”
“We should have been as effective as we were in the second set,” said Cuba’s chief Wilfredo Robinson. We failed in receiving and we couldn’t control their serves. We weren’t able to counter-attack enough and we handed out too many points. The girls must have learned from this experience for their next international tournament”.
Argentina def. Puerto Rico 3-0 (25-21, 25-11, 25-9)
The second semi-final was significantly less eventful than the first. After a first set where Argentina cruised to a win in spite of what appeared to be a slow start, the South Americans rolled to a straight-set victory, giving up just 41 points in 3 sets.
Argentina had 41 kills to only 23 for Puerto Rico and also out-blocked their opponents 8-4. 22 of Argentina’s points came from their opponents’ errors, while committing just 10 of their own.
“We finished with a huge advantage after a difficult first set,” Argentinian captain Azul Benitez said. “I consider that Puerto Rico had no chance to get into their usual rhythm like we did with very demanding matches; this helped us a lot.”
“We came out a hard first set, Puerto Rico had more energy than us, and their previous matches weren’t as difficult as ours,” said Argentina’s coach Guillermo Caceres. “Today we played a very difficult match and it showed in our slow beginning, it felt like empty. This is a spectacular group and limited their errors with hard work.”
Argentina was led by 14 points from Benisse Soria and 12 from Anahi Tossi. Puerto Rico’s top scorer was Dariana Hollingsworth, who scored 11 points.
“Our passing was off, we couldn’t execute our game plan; our errors were many,” said Puerto Rico’s captain Hollingsworth. “We played well the first set and had fewer errors. Argentina’s serves damaged us and they defended very well.”
Argentina now faces the Americans for gold. The U.S. won 3-1 when the two teams faced off in pool play.