USA places fourth by losing to Puerto Rico; Brazil wins the championship
Aurea Cruz may have slender shoulders, but they were big enough to carry the whole Puerto Rican team to victory.
Easily the best player in the tournament, Cruz tallied 27 points Saturday afternoon on 23 kills and four blocks. Not an exceptionally tall player, Cruz uses her mobility and instincts to always be in the right place at the right time. In the Pan-Am games, she led everyone with 151 points, finished first in spikes, fourth in blocks, and tied for first in service aces. Cruz scored 43 more points than the closest player.
The US could never figure out Cruz, and it didn't help that Jordan Larson and Kristin Richards turned in another collective clunker. (They failed their teammates in the game against Brazil on Friday.) The pair combined for only 19 points and one ace. Larson is Team USA's best option to serve, but she never could get it going and finished with two service errors. It was for Larson, and for many of her teammates, a first taste of elite international competition.
Even when triple-teamed, Cruz liked her odds.
Avenging their head-scratching loss to the Dominican Republic, Brazil cruised against that same team in the final in only three sets; 25-18, 25-20, and 25-14. Hours before the game, determined spectators wearing yellow and green could be seen entering the BankUnited Center. Brazil used its height to outblock the Dominican Republic 14-5 and Sheilla Castro scored 15 points while Natalia Pereira added 10.
Brazil's victory over defending champion Dominican Republic is the nation's second Pan-Am title. For America, a fourth place finish should be disappointing. The team looked unbeatable in its first five matches, only dropping one set. In the two playoff matches (both losses), the US lost six sets while only winning two.
Larson is probably the best volleyball player in America and even though her team was defeated, she has plenty of competitions waiting for her to dominate.
Final Tournament Standings:
2) Dominican Republic
3) Puerto Rico
4) United States
8) Costa Rica
10) Trinidad & Tobago