The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team had five players score at least 13 points as the Americans defeated Cuba 25-23, 25-17, 24-26, 25-23 Friday afternoon during semifinal action at the XV Pan American Games. The U.S. will play the winner of Brazil and Venezuela in the gold medal match on Saturday at 10 p.m.
The U.S. has captured four gold medals at the Pan American Games, including the first two that included men’s volleyball in 1955 and 1959. Team USA earned its third title in 1967, but had to wait another 20 years to win its fourth championship in 1987. The U.S. looks for the 20-year cycle to prove true in 2007 as it works towards a fifth championship. In the 14 previous Pan American Games featuring men’s volleyball, the U.S. has played into the final match on seven occasions and has advanced to medal-round matches 10 times. The Americans finished fourth at the most recent Pan American Games held in 2003 at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The match was tight in three of the four sets. The winning team in three of sets won by the minimum two points and needed to make a play on the final rally to win. The U.S. held three-point leads on three different occasions in the first set only to see Cuba tie the score. After the 14th tie of the first set, the U.S. finished the period with consecutive points at 25-23. Team USA broke a 7-all tie in the second set with an 8-2 run en route to winning 25-17. Cuba rallied from a 22-20 deficit in the third set with a 3-0 run and finished out the set with a 26-24 win. The U.S. lead 17-13 in the fourth set, only to see Cuba tie it at 20-all. Team USA sided out until scoring the final two points at 25-23.
“Both teams played very hard,” said Ron Larsen, head coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Pan American Games. “I thought we did a very good job of controlling the ball and maintaining the momentum for a large part of the match. I thought that had a large part of the victory.
“It is always great to play Cuba. They are so physical and jump high and hit hard. They have a very physical game at the net. We knew that was going to come and we withstood that pretty well and played our game.”
Brook Billings (Santa Barbara, Calif.) led the U.S. scoring with 16 points on 14 kills and two blocks. David Lee (Alpine, Calif.) and Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) each totaled 15 points in the victory. Rooney reach his point total on 14 kills and a block, while Lee provided 11 kills and a team-leading four blocks. Jim Polster (Laguna Nigel, Calif.) charted 14 points via 13 kills and an ace. Delano Thomas (Sacramento, Calif.) contributed 10 kills and three aces in the victory. Kevin Hansen (Newport Beach, Calif.) added 39 assists, seven digs and a kill. Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.) tacked on five digs and five excellent service receptions on 10 attempts.
“We passed really well,” Polster said. “Our setter ran our middles a lot and had a lot of success doing it. We handled their serve well.”
The U.S. held a 60-50 advantage in kills and 4-3 margin in service aces. However, Cuba won the battle at the net with 13 kills to Team USA’s 10. The U.S. tallied 40 assists to Cuba’s 33. Team USA attacked at a 33.05 clip and limited Cuba to a 28.30 percent as a team.
“I was impressed with our ability to serve the ball, which caused problems for Cuba’s serve receive early,” Larsen said.
Larsen also commended the play of his squad, which includes several young players making contributions.
“We have some young players, but they have been training hard,” Larsen said. “Our setter is doing a nice job distributing the ball for balanced scoring.”
The U.S. is now 7-0 versus Cuba over the last four years. However, the all-time series is basically even with the Americans holding a slim 70-67 advantage.
Team USA moved from eighth to fifth in the latest FIVB world ranking released on July 23 incorporating the FIVB World League results in which the Americans finished with the bronze medal. Cuba is slotted in the 13th position.
The U.S. earned a berth into the semifinals winning Pool A without dropping a set to Venezuela, Argentina and Puerto Rico.
Larsen started Lee and Thomas at middle blocker, Rooney and Polster at outside hitter, Billings at opposite and Hansen at setter. Lambourne is Team USA’s designated libero for the Pan American Games. Andy Hein (Carol Stream, Ill.) entered the match as a sub in all four sets. Pieter Olree (Reading, Pa.) was subbed into the match in the first set. Dave McKienzie (Littleton, Colo.) was entered as a sub in the third and fourth sets.
Oriol Camejol paced Cuba with 16 points with 11 kills, three blocks and two aces. Rolando Jurquin tacked on a 15 points, while Raydel Corrales turned in 11 points in reserve role.
Earlier today, Argentina outlasted Canada 16-25, 25-23, 30-28, 19-25, 25-23 in the fifth-place bracket. Later today, Puerto Rico challenges Mexico in the opposing fifth-place bracket match at 5 p.m.
Team USA reached the first technical timeout of the first set leading 8-7 with four different players scoring and neither team enjoyed a two-point cushion in the early going that included seven ties and two lead changes. Out of the break, Lee blocked a Cuba and Thomas found open court on the serve to put the U.S. ahead 10-7 on a 3-0 run forcing a Cuba timeout. Cuba gained a 14-13 lead on a 5-1 run. However, the U.S. answered with consecutive Cuban errors for a 15-14 lead. Team USA picked up a two-point cushion at 17-15 as Thomas slammed a kill to end a long rally. Cuba called its second timeout after hitting long to give the U.S. an 18-15 lead. Cuba answered with three consecutive points to tie the set back at 18-all. Thomas picked up his second ace of the set to return the U.S. into the lead at 21-19, followed by Rooney kill off the block for a three-point margin. Cuba picked up three consecutive points on a service error, kill and block to once again tie the set at 21-all. Polster slammed a kill to give the U.S. a set point at 24-23, then Cuba hit outside the line for an error at 25-23.
The U.S. gained a 3-1 lead in the second set as Billings turned in a kill and block on consecutive plays. Cuba scored three unanswered points to take a 5-4 advantage. Thomas put up a block to return the lead back over to the U.S. at 7-6. Billings took the U.S. into the technical timeout with a kill and Team USA added to the cushion with a Cuba error at 9-7. Rooney collected a kill following a Cuba service error to extend the U.S. lead to three, 11-8. After a Cuba timeout, Thomas served an ace and Lee and Rooney put up a block to push the margin to five at 13-8. Lee turned in consecutive points with a kill and block to extend the lead to 15-9. Cuba cut into the deficit following an ace at 16-12. Polster hammered a kill and the U.S. kept the serve on a Thomas block for an 18-12 lead. Cuba answered with consecutive points to move back to within four at 18-14. Polster served an ace that followed up a Rooney kill to move the score back to a six-point cushion at 21-15. The U.S. margin extended to seven points, 23-16, after consecutive Cuba miscues. Team USA closed out the set 25-17 on a Rooney kill.
The American built an early 4-2 advantage in the third set as Lee canned a kill followed by a Cuba error. However, Cuba immediately knotted the score back up at 4-all. Team USA returned to a two-point cushion on a Polster kill and Thomas overpass kill at 6-4. Billings added to the scoring run with a kill off the Cuba block forcing a timeout at 7-4. The U.S. scored its fourth consecutive point off a Cuba error going into the technical timeout up 8-4. Cuba cut the deficit in half with consecutive points at 11-9. The U.S. held a 16-13 lead into the second technical timeout on the consecutive sideout. Cuba ended the streak of sideout with consecutive aces by Rolando Jurquin tying the score at 16-all. The U.S. rebuilt a two-point margin on Jurquin’s service error and Lee’s kill at 18-16. Cuba tied the set at 19-all on consecutive blocks. Team USA returned to a two-point lead on a Rooney back-row kill and Cuba attack into the antenna at 22-20. Cuba put together a 3-0 run to take its first lead of the third set at 23-22. Polster saved a set point with a kill and tying the score at 24-all. Cuba gained the set victory at 26-24 with a kill that skimmed the U.S. block.
The U.S. rattled off a 4-0 run to take a 5-2 advantage in the fourth set with kills from Billings and Polster after Cuba committed consecutive miscues. Cuba tacked on consecutive points to inch to within one at 6-5. The U.S. headed into the first technical timeout leading 8-6 as Billings scored his third point of the fourth set on a kill. Team USA exited the break with a combined block from Thomas and Rooney for a 9-6 lead. However, Cuba answered the call with a 3-0 run to tie the set at 9-all. Lee hammered a quick kill after a Cuba ball handling error to give the U.S. a 12-10 lead. Lee and Billings combined for a block and a third consecutive U.S. point for a 13-10 advantage. Billings spiked a kill to put the U.S. into the lead 16-13 at the technical timeout. Out of the break, Thomas put up a block to give Team USA a four-point lead at 17-13. However, Cuba ran off three straight points to move within one at 17-16. Cuba continued the charge by tying the set at 20-all on a block. Team USA scored consecutive points on a kills from Billings and Polster to give the Americans a 23-21 lead. Polster gave the U.S. its first match-point opportunity at 24-22 with a cross-court kill that went off the block. Thomas connected on a quick middle kill to finish the set at 25-23.
To view the U.S. Men’s National Team Press Kit for the Pan American Games, go to http://www.usavolleyball.org/media/national/07MNTPAGPressKit.pdf.
2007 U.S. Men’s National Team Pan American Games Roster
# - Name (Position, Height, College, Hometown
1 – David Lee (MB, 6-8, Long Beach State, Alpine, Calif.)
2 – Sean Rooney (OH, 6-9, Pepperdine, Wheaton, Ill.)
3 – Jim Polster (OH, 6-6, Long Beach State, Laguna Nigel, Calif.)
4 – Brandon Taliaferro (S, 6-5, UCLA, San Clemente, Calif.)
5 – Rich Lambourne (L, 6-3, BYU, Tustin, Calif.)
9 – Andy Hein (MB, 6-11, Pepperdine, Carol Stream, Ill.)
11 – Brook Billings (OPP, 6-5, Southern California, Santa Barbara, Calif.)
12 – Pieter Olree (OH, 6-6, Ohio State, Reading, Pa.)
14 – Kevin Hansen (S, 6-5, Stanford, Newport Beach, Calif.)
16 – Dave McKienzie (OPP, 6-4, Long Beach State, Littleton, Colo.)
17 – Delano Thomas (MB, 6-7, Hawai’i, Sacramento, Calif.)
18 – Nils Nielsen (OH, 6-4, Cal State Northridge, Fallbrook, Calif.)
strong>Head Coach: Ron Larsen
Assistant Coach: John Speraw
Team Leader: Rob Browning
Trainer/Therapist: Jamie Morrison
Medical Support: Aaron Brock
Pool A Standings
Pool A Schedule
July 23: Cuba def. Mexico, 25-20, 25-18, 25-20
July 23: Brazil def. Canada, 25-19, 25-18, 25-17
July 24: Canada def. Mexico, 17-25, 25-19, 29-27, 25-19
July 24: Brazil def. Cuba, 25-23, 25-20, 25-20
July 25: Brazil def. Mexico, 25-17, 25-23, 25-21
July 25: Cuba def. Canada, 25-19, 25-17, 25-22
Pool B Standings
United States 3-0
Puerto Rico 1-2
Pool B Schedule
July 23: Puerto Rico def. Argentina, 22-25, 26-24, 25-21, 25-22
July 23: USA def. Venezuela, 25-19, 25-22, 25-20
July 24: Venezuela def. Puerto Rico, 29-31, 25-16, 25-18, 25-19
July 24: USA def. Argentina, 25-17, 25-22, 25-21
July 25: Venezuela def. Argentina, 25-17, 25-21, 25-21
July 25: USA def. Puerto Rico 25-22, 25-17, 25-23
July 27: Argentina (4B) def. Canada (3A), 16-25, 25-23, 30-28, 19-25, 25-23 (5th-8th Place Bracket)
July 27: United States (B1) def. Cuba (A2), 25-23, 25-17, 24-26, 25-23 (semifinal)
July 27: Puerto Rico (B3) vs. Mexico (A4), 7 p.m. (5th-8th Place Bracket)
July 27: Brazil (A1) vs. Venezuela (B2), 10 p.m. (semifinal)
July 28: Losers of 5th-8th Place Bracket, 1 p.m. (7th Place)
July 28: Winners of 5th-8th Place Bracket, 3 p.m. (5th Place)
July 28: Semifinal losers, 5 p.m. (3rd Place)
July 28: Semifinal winners, 10 p.m. (1st Place)