NORCECA Women’s Pan American Cup
- July 8-14, 2018
- Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
- Pool B: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, USA
After stumbling in the opening set, the United States recovered to top Trinidad and Tobago in four sets to open Pool B action at the Pan American Cup. In the late game, Puerto Rico made quick work of Cuba in Set 1, before fighting to hold on for the sweep.
United States def. Trinidad & Tobago 3-1 (21-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-15)
Eleven played saw the court for the Americans with nine registering two or more points. Penn State alum Simone Lee led the way with 14 points on 10 kills, three aces and a block. Aiyana Abukusumo-Whitney chipped in 13 points on 11 kills, with seven coming in Set 2 . Sarah Wilhite (9), Mallory McCage (9) and Haleigh Washington (8) followed. Wilhite and McCage turned in six kills apiece, while Washington downed seven. McCage was the team’s top blocker with three stuffs. Setter and captain Lauren Carlini served up four of the team’s nine aces.
The match marked the international debut for Lee and Washington as well as three other players.
Krystle Esdelle racked up a match-high 16 points for T&T, on 14 kills and two aces. Darlene Ramdin and Sinead Jack tacked on 10 points apiece. Ramdin downed eight kills and added two blocks, while Jack chipped in five kills, three aces and two blocks.
The USA outdid T&T in kills (45-37) and blocks (13-5), while both teams served up nine aces. The Americans also scored on 29 errors, while giving up 26 points on miscues.
“We were a little nervous in the first set which is normal because is the first time for many of our players to compete internationally,” Carlini said. “We adjusted and came back with our game plan and put pressure with our serves.”
The Americans came back from a 20-17 deficit in Set 1 to grab a 21-20 lead, but could not hold on, giving up five points in a row.
Team USA jumped out to a 7-2 lead in Set 2 en route to a 25-15 win. Trinidad & Tobago cut the margin to five at 14-9, but the USA held on as Whitney starred.
Set 3 was more of the same with a 7-2 advantage turning into a 19-15 lead en route to 25-22 victory. The teams were level at 11 before a Carlini ace, and a few T&T miscues gave the Americans the 19-15 edge. A 3-0 run pulled Trinidad within one at 20-19 and again at 22-21, but miscues set up the final point for the USA, which came on a Lee putaway.
In Set 4, the Americans went up 13-8 and held on for a 25-15 win to clinch the match. The USA upped its advantage to seven at 18-11 with kills by Whitney and Adora Anae. A block by Krystal Rivers pushed the margin to nine at 23-14 and a Lee kill and T&T miscue clinched the victory.
Despite the loss, Trinidad & Tobago coach Francisco Cruz was happy to see his team take a set off the Americans for the first time in its history.
“It is a feat to win a set against USA no matter what kind of a team they bring,” Cruz said. “I am really impressed with the ability of their setter (Carlini) who is one of the best I have ever seen.”
Puerto Rico def. Cuba 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-23)
Three Puerto Rican players turned in double-digit scoring efforts to pace the team in a sweep of Cuba on Sunday.
Marie Victoria Pilar (13), Noami Santos (12) and Shirley Ferrer (11) made up the group, with Pilar notching 13 kills and Shirley added 10. Santos notched six kills, four aces and two blocks. Alba Hernandez also served up four of the team’s 11 aces.
Captain Sulian Matienzo was the top scorer for Cuba, posting 10 points on six kills and four aces. Ailama Cese Montalvo added eight points with seven putaways and a block.
Puerto Rico won the stat sheet, besting Cuba in kills (33-27), blocks (9-6) and aces (11-4).
“Our service was important but we also had good reception and defense,” Puerto Rican captain Natalia Valentin said. “Cuba never quit and they deserve credit. Our team will continue improving.
Matienzo noted her team’s progress in the match.
“We improved the level after the first set but Puerto Rico kept pressing,” she said. “I think we are going to play better.”