COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (July 4, 2016) – Micha Hancock (Edmond, Oklahoma) served up some fireworks on the Fourth of July as her record-tying nine aces helped the U.S. Women’s National Team rally past Cuba 19-25, 25-20, 18-25, 25-15, 15-7 on Monday during the Pan American Cup in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Hancock, who started the last four sets at setter after being a sub in the opening set, scored nine of her 11 points via aces. Her nine aces tie the tournament record set by American Nicole Branagh during the inaugural Pan Am Cup held in 2002. Through three matches, Hancock now has 20 aces in 11 sets. She had eight aces in the tournament opener against Peru, despite not starting any of the three sets.
“I just tried to serve hard and it is cool to tie the record,” Hancock said. “We played good defense and the key for us in the fifth set was to keep the opponents on their toes with the variety of our attacks.”
Opposite Alex Holston (Olney, Maryland) scored a team-high 16 points with 14 kills on 21 attacks and just two errors to go with two blocks. Middle Rhamat Alhassan (Glenarden, Maryland), who plays at University of Florida with Holston, contributed 11 kills on 19 swings with just one error to go with three blocks and an ace for 15 points. Outside hitter Madi Kingdon (Phoenix, Arizona) charted 14 points with 13 kills on 29 attacks and just two errors while putting up one block.
“I am very proud of my team which keeps growing up,” said U.S coach Dan Fisher, who is leading the team as head coach Karch Kiraly is in Thailand with the main National Team competing in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals. “Hancock was a difference but also Holston did a great job.”
Middle Carly Wopat (Santa Barbara, California) chipped in eight points with seven kills on 12 attacks and a block. Outside hitter Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) and opposite Nikki Taylor (Honolulu, Hawaii) scored five points each. Courtney, who started all but the second set, totaled five kills on 25 attacks. Taylor, who started just the opening set, tallied two kills and three blocks as she moved into the double-sub the final four sets.
Middle Kelsie Payne (Austin, Texas), who started the third set, scored two kills on three swings in the victory. Lauren Carlini (West Aurora, Illinois), who started the match and was the double-sub setter the final four sets, rounded out the scoring with one ace.
Libero Justine Wong-Orantes (Cypress, California) was credited with a team-best nine excellent receptions on 23 chances and 10 digs. Kingdon chipped in seven excellent receptions on 30 chances. Courtney handled the remaining 23 service receptions with six excellent passes to go with six digs.
The U.S. converted 44.4 percent of its attacks into points with a .298 hitting efficiency (55-18-124) as Hancock had nine running sets on 67 set attempts and Carlini added three running sets on 32 set attempts.
Team USA held an 11-9 advantage in aces, as well as an 11-8 margin in blocks. The American offense netted a 55-43 edge in kills to help offset 32 team errors during the match. The U.S. committed 17 service errors in the match. The American defense limited Cuba to a 39.8 kill percent and .231 hitting efficiency (43-18-108).
With the FIVB World Grand Prix running concurrently with the Pan Am Cup, Team USA is using a roster of athletes either still in college or just recently graduated. For many of the players the Pan Am Cup is their first international competition including the junior and youth ranks.
The U.S. has won the Pan American Cup three of the past four years and four total times since the inaugural event in 2002.