SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The USA men’s national volleyball team improved to 2-0 in Pan American Games pool play with 3-0 win over the Dominican Republic at the Pabellon de Voleibol at Olympic Park Tuesday night.
Gabe Gardner scored a match-high 16 points on 11 kills, three service aces and two blocks in the 25-22, 26-24, 25-20 victory as the United States improved to 2-0 in Pool A.
“I thought the team stepped it up a notch from the first night (an easy win over Barbados on Sunday),” said Team USA head coach Doug Beal. “I thought we played a solid first set, and we were real close with our block on a bunch of points throughout the match. We made some nice blocks when we needed to on some transition swings.”
Brook Billings added 13 points on 13 kills and posted a hitting percentage of .526 as the United States won its ninth straight match to improve to 9-1 on the season.
“I thought Gabe hit really well for us,” Beal added. “He dug us out of a hole a couple of times on some pretty poor passes and we were able to sideout on those balls.”
Reid Priddy scored eight points on seven kills and one block before leaving the match in the third set with an apparent abdominal injury. Middle blocker Scott Bunker scored five points off the bench on three kills and two blocks while playing just the final set.
“The only downside is that I think that Reid may have re-injured his abdominal muscle and may not be able to go against Venezuela (Thursday),” admitted Beal. “We’ll see how bad it is.”
Elvis Contreras scored 11 points on 10 kills and one ace in the loss for the Dominican Republic, which dropped to 0-2 in pool play. Wilfredo Pascual chipped in with nine points on nine kills and Juan Almonte added eight points on six kills and two aces.
Competition in Pool A concludes on Thursday, Aug. 7 as the United States takes on unbeaten Venezuela (2-0), a 3-0 winner over Barbados earlier Tuesday.
The winner of that match wins Pool A and earns a berth in the tournament semifinals, which begin on Wednesday, Aug. 13. The loser earns Pool A’s second seed and will play the No. 3 team from Pool B in the quarterfinals on Sunday, Aug. 10.
“I obviously would like to win the pool, but I am certainly not going to risk Reid’s health,” cautioned Beal. “We’ll see how he is. Venezuela is a better team then the Dominican Republic, probably by a fair amount…We certainly respect Venezuela; we have played them quite a bit in the America’s Cup. They have a wonderful player in Ernaldo Gomez; he’s a world-class player.
"They are a very good volleyball team. They have been in the World League the last three or four years; they’ve been getting better. It’s going to be a nice test for us.”