The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team settled for the silver medal at the XV Pan American Games after dropping a three-set match to top-ranked Brazil 25-16, 25-20, 25-22 Saturday night during the championship match in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Americans were denied their fifth gold medal at the Pan American Games. However, the U.S. improved upon its previous Pan American Games finish of fourth place in 2003 at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, while using a young group balanced with veterans to win the silver.
The U.S. had 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. has played into the final match on eight occasions at the Pan American Games and has advanced to medal-round matches 11 times.
“It is good result for us,” Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.) said. “Right now it is still a little hard to accept so close after losing. We did not want to lose like that. I am already looking forward to the future to have chance to get back at them.”
Brazil rallied from a 10-7 deficit in the opening set on the strength of a 7-0 run en route to a 25-16 victory. Brazil broke free from a 13-12 lead with a 4-1 run in the second set, then held off the Team USA late rally to win 25-20. Brazil finished off the match with a 25-22 victory in the third as it never trailed in the set.
“That is the best team in the world out there,” U.S. Team Capatin Jim Polster (Laguna Nigel, Calif.) said. “They proved it again. I think we could have played better. I think the younger players were a little nervous, all the people and the gravity of the situation. I am proud of the medal. It is a younger team. Last time at the Pan American Games, we took fourth. It was really unsatisfying. I take pride in winning the silver.”
Brazil dominated on defense with a 13-1 advantage in blocks and 28-20 in digs. Brazil also committed just four attack errors while hitting .551 for the match to Team USA’s .250.
“Brazil is clearly the best team in the world,” said Ron Larsen, head coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Pan American Games. “I thought it was a wonderful experience for our younger players to have an opportunity to play against them in a match that really mattered and something really on the line for them. It was great to play in front of a large crowd. It is a wonderful crowd to play in front of.”
Larsen pointed out the speed of the game factored into Brazil winning the championship.
“The speed of the game Brazil plays is exceptional,” Larsen said. “Young players have to play against this to get an idea of what it will be like. Brazil sets the standard, and I hope we are closing that standard. Brazil receives the ball really well and are in system. Therefore they can diversify their offense and run the ball very fast. Decisions must be made instantaneously by blockers, and that is difficult.”
“USA has a young team and played a great tournament,” Brazil Head Coach Bernardo Rezende said. “But under pressure and in a new situation for all these young players in the final match, we are more experienced in this situation.”
Rooney and Polster shared high-point honors for the U.S. with 10 apiece on nine kills and an ace. Brook Billings (Santa Barbara, Calif.) added seven points all on kills, while David Lee chipped in five kills. Thomas contributed four points. David McKienzie (Littleton, Colo.) charted three kills, while Andy Hein (Carol Stream, Ill.) and Kevin Hansen both were credited with two points. Hansen added seven assists and eight digs. Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.) provided five digs in the loss.
“Coming in here with these guys, we have not had much experience on the court,” Billings said. “But we have known each other for two or three summers now. It just goes to show that we a have a group of young guys who are experienced volleyball players.”
At the conclusion of the tournament Rooney was named as the Best Spiker with a .421 attack percentage and Delano Thomas (Sacramento, Calif.) was tabbed as the Best Server with a 0.56 service ace average.“We did a pretty good job at passing the ball most of the tournament,” Rooney said after the gold-medal match. “Rich (Lambourne) and Jim (Polster) passed the ball really well and that helped (Kevin) Hansen most of the time to be able to get a good set, and that made my job all the easier.”
Team USA advanced to the championship match with a four-set victory over Cuba in the semifinals after going undefeated in pool play against Venezuela, Argentina and Puerto Rico. Brazil reached the title match with a sweep over Venezuela after going through pool play without a loss against Mexico, Canada and Cuba.
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. Dave McKienzie (Littleton, Colo.) was subbed into the first set, then started the second set. Andy Hein (Carol Stream, Ill.) was subbed into the match in the second set and started the third period. Brandon Taliaferro (San Clemente, Calif.) was replaced Hansen in the middle of the third set.
Gilberto “Giba” Godoy Filho produced a match-high 18 points, while Andre Nascimento and Dante Amaral each totaled 11 points. Gustavo Endres added 10 points in the victory.
Brazil entered the Pan American Games championship match with a 56-68 record against the U.S. and winners of the last two meetings. However, Team USA had won the last contest held in Brazil, a five-set victory in the America’s Cup championship as both teams fielded top squads at Sao Leopoldo on Aug. 7, 2005.
“It was a big challenge to win a big tournament,” Giba said. “We put this challenge on ourselves as we have not won a big tournament in Brazil. The U.S. won the America's Cup. We lost the World League in 2002. Winning the Pan Am Games is a big win in front of our home fans.”
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. Brazil is the top-ranked team in the FIVB rankings.
Earlier today, Cuba captured the bronze medal with a 25-16, 23-25, 27-25, 17-25, 18-16 win over Venezuela. Puerto Rico downed Argentina 25-22, 25-22, 30-28 in the fifth-place match. Canada defeated Mexico 26-24, 25-22, 25-20 to finish in seventh place.
The U.S. gained the first two-point cushion of the first set after Thomas and Billings connected for kills at 7-5, then Polster notched an ace to put the Americans up 8-5 at the technical timeout. Brazil forged ahead at 11-10 on a 4-0 run that was punctuated by three consecutive blocks forcing a U.S. timeout. Brazil added to the lead with three additional points out of the timeout for a seven-point run to hold a 14-10 advantage. Brazil reached the second technical timeout leading by five, 16-11. The U.S. was unable to score consecutive points the rest of the set as Brazil finished out the period 25-16.
Brazil took the first two-point lead of the second set at 5-3. The U.S. rattled off three unanswered points on kills from Polster and Thomas around a Brazil error to take a 7-6 lead. However, Brazil went into the technical timeout on a 2-0 run and leading 8-7 after a Team USA attack error. Brazil bumped its lead back to two at 10-8, then increased the advantage to three at 15-12. Brazil jumped the lead to four points at 17-13 before Polster knocked a kill of the block. Brazil extended the lead to six on consecutive U.S. attacks into the net. After gaining the side out, Team USA continued on a 4-0 run as Billings scored a kill, Hansen served an ace and Lee took an overpass and pounded into the court to narrow the score down to two at 21-19. Brazil answered with consecutive points to return its advantage to four points, 23-19. Out of a timeout, Brazil fired the crowd up even louder by claiming a lengthy point and a set point at 24-19. The U.S. saved the first set point, but could not hold Brazil back as the period concluded 25-20.
Brazil took charge early in the third set with a 3-0 run establishing a 6-3 advantage. The Brazilian extended their lead to five points with a 3-0 run capped by an ace forcing a Team USA timeout down 10-5. The U.S. inched to within 11-8 on consecutive Brazil miscues. Billings downed a kill and followed with a service winner to close the U.S. to within two at 12-10. Team USA moved to within one at 16-15 as Rooney turned in a kill then found open court on the serve. Brazil answered with a consecutive points to return to a three-point lead, 18-15. The U.S. called its second timeout as Brazil reached a four-point lead at 22-18 and only three points away from victory. Team USA scored the next two points on a Rooney kill and Brazil attack error to close to within two, 22-20. Brazil picked up its first match point try at 24-21 on a U.S. service error. After a Lee kill, Brazil won the match off a service error at 25-22.
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.)
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) def. Mexico (A4), 25-19, 25-19, 25-18 (5th-8th Place Bracket)
July 27: Brazil (A1) def. Venezuela (B2), 30-28, 25-18, 25-16 (semifinal)
July 28: Canada def. Mexico, 26-24, 25-22, 25-20 (7th Place)
July 28: Puerto Rico def. Argentina, 25-22, 25-22, 30-28 (5th Place)
July 28: Cuba vs. Venezuela, 5 p.m. (3rd Place)
July 28: Brazil vs. USA, 10 p.m. (1st Place)