Rio de Janeiro, August 1, Brazil – Beijing Olympic Games silver medallist the United States assured its first win in the FIVB World Grand Prix 2009 here Saturday at Maracanazinho Gymnasium, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The American overcame Puerto Rico in a thrilling five-set match, winning by 3-2 (21-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-14 and 15-13) in the teams’ second match in Pool A.
With the win, the USA, that was overcame by Germany in the first match, has now three points in the tournament while the Puerto Rican scored two with looses to Brazil and the American.
American opposite Nicole Fawcett led all scorers with 27 points – 24 in spikes and three in blocks-, followed by Puerto Rican wing-spiker Aurea Cruz, who scored 21.
Puerto Rico scored the first two points of the match, but after three straight blocks the American assured a 7-3 lead. The Puerto Rican reacted and reduced the disadvantage to a single point (14-13) before the second technical timeout 16-13. The match had many reversals, with the teams changing the lead every moment. In the end, led by opposite Sarai Alvarez, Puerto Rico kept ahead and won its first set in the World Grand Prix history with Aurea Cruz spiking from the backcourt: 25-21.
Excited by the achievement, Puerto Rico led the second frame from the beginning until the end. In the first TTO, the Caribbean had an 8-5 lead. With opposite Nicole Fawcett spiking powerfully, the American reduced the difference (9-8), but not for a long time as quickly the scoreboard showed 18-12 to Puerto Rico. The American scored four straight points (18-16), but could not avoid the defeat, confirmed when wing-spiker Karina Ocasio stopped middle-blocker Christa Harmotto: 25-20.
Led by Nicole Fawcett, which scored eight points, the American reacted in the third set. More efficient in spiking and blocking, the team coached by Hugh McCutcheon had a 9-5 after a fault committed by Puerto Rican setter Vilmarie Mojica. Making the rivals reception difficult, Beijing silver medallists were only threatened in the end, when a mistake of setter Courtney Thompson reduced the advantage to a single point (23-22). However, Nicole Fawcett confirmed the win spiking to score 25-23.
In the fourth set, the American kept the good rhythm and quickly had a five-point lead (12-7) when Nicole Fawcett spiked powerfully. From that moment on, the Puerto Rican committed several mistakes and the scoreboard showed 23-13 to the American when Vilmarie Mojica had a double contact. In the end, middle-blocker Laudevis Marrero served out and determined the rivals’ win: 25-14.
The Puerto Rican recovered their best game in the fifth set and had na 8-6 lead in the side switch. With a serve point of Aurea Cruz, the Caribbean scored 10-7, but the American scored six straight points to lead the score 13-10, before finally closing the match 15-13 when wing-spiker Kristin Richards spiked against the block.
In the third and last match day in Rio de Janeiro, here Sunday, the USA will have an Olympic final rematch against unbeaten Brazil. In the closing match of the Pool, the Puerto Rican will fight for the country’s first ever win in the World Grand Prix against Germany.