Friday, December 15, 2017

US denied Pan Am hat-trick

THE Dominican Republic gained sweet revenge and denied the United States a hat-trick of titles when the curtain fell on the Women’s Pan American Volleyball Cup Thursday night in Mexico.

The Americans, ranked second in the world, started the tournament as the overwhelming favourites to capture their third gold medal in succession and their odds shortened as they reached the final without dropping a set.

But the players from the Dominican Republic, the other top-ten ranked team in the tournament, were determined not to go down in the title match for the second straight time and prevailed in four sets; 25-18, 25-18, 17-25, 25-21. It was the third title in the tournament—inaugurated in 2002—for the eighth-ranked DR, tying them with the US and the world No.1 Brazilians, who withdrew from the tournament at the last minute. 

Cuba is the most successful nation with four titles, but the DR is certainly the most consistent as they have also picked up six silver and three bronze medals. The only time that they did not finish on the podium was two years ago.

After losing their round-robin group clash in straight sets on the opening day of the tournament on June 12, Puerto Rico nosed out Argentina in five sets; 24-26, 25-15, 24-26, 25-15, 16-14 just before the final for the bronze medal.

Almost the same thing had occurred the day before when the Cubans bounced back after losing to Canada in straight sets a few days earlier, to defeat the North Americans 26-24, 23-25, 25-21, 25-15 for fifth place. Colombia edged hosts Mexico 19-25, 25-19, 18-25, 31-29, 15-11 for seventh place and Peru took ninth spot with a 25-12, 25-18, 26-24 triumph over Costa Rica. The top eight countries qualified for the next year’s World Grand Prix in July in the US.

Trinidad and Tobago, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament at No. 31, lost all five matches in the round-robin phase to finish at the bottom of Group A. And since there were only five teams in the other group, there was no playoff and they ended up 11th and last.

The five-time Caribbean champs were beaten in straight sets by the US, Canada and Peru, but captured a set from the Cubans for the first time and failed to shut the door on the hosts (Mexico) after winning the first two sets.

T&T will get another chance at the Mexicans when the last qualifying tournament for the World Championships is staged here in the middle of next month. Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama will also be involved and the winning team will earn the 24th and final ticket to the World Championships, which serves off in Italy on September 23.