August 07, 2003 - The US Men’s national team advanced unbeaten to the semifinals of the Pan American Games’ Volleyball tournament after defeating Venezuela in a tough five set battle 25-18, 25-20, 20-25, 13-25, 15-10 on Thursday.
After wining the first two sets, the Americans could only watch as Venezuela made a sensational comeback to tie the score at two sets apiece in what has been the best match of the competition so far. However, USA's big match temperament came to the fore in the tie breaker has they sealed the set and the match by five points to finish with a 3-0 record in Pool A.
“Winning that fifth set was very encouraging,” said Doug Beal, the American coach. “I don’t think we played better in the tie-breaker than in the first two sets but we got a couple of breaks and took advantage of it.”
“Being able to come back after losing the third and fourth sets says a lot about our team,” said Reid Priddy, who suffered a strained stomach muscle during the match. “Going directly to the semifinals will give us a chance to rest and be prepared to battle for the medals.”
Brook Billings led the US's scoring with 18 points followed by Gabriel Gardner and Mackay Wilson with 14 and 10 respectively. Ronald Mendez had 16 and Harry Gomez 15 for Venezuela.
In the other men’s action the Dominican Republic moved to the quarterfinal round with a 3-0 victory over Barbados. The Dominicans only had to battle in the second set against the less experienced Barbados before winning 25-22, 31-29, 25-18.
“We played our worst match of the tournament and we won it,” said Miguel Beato, the Dominican coach. “We had a five-setter against Venezuela and presented a strong opposition to USA and lost both games.”
Robin Batista led the Dominicans with 18 points and Juan Almonte added 14. Fabian Cox had 19 and Elwin Oxlby 15 for Barbados.
The final positions in men’s Pool A are: USA 3-0, Venezuela 2-1, Dominican Republic 1-2 and Barbados 0-3
In the women’s competition, Brazil booked a semifinal spot after defeating Puerto Rico 3-1 (25-21, 25-16, 21-25, 30-28) and although the South Americans finished tied with USA with a 2-1 record their better set-ratio saw the green and golds take pole position in Pool A.
Fabiana Claudino had 16 spikes and 3 blocks to lead Brazil with 19 points while Puerto Rico's Aurea Cruz was the top scorer of the match with 16 spikes and a total of 21 points.
USA advanced to the quarterfinals after a 3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-22, 25-22) victory over Peru with a sensational performance from Nicole Branagh who scored 19 points.
“This is the best blocking game we have had in all the tournament,” said USA Coach Michael Hebert. “I am very glad with the way we played together.
The preliminary round in Pool A finished with Brazil 2-1, USA 2-1, Puerto Rico 1-2 and Peru 1-2.