FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (July 31, 2016) – After sailing past Cuba in the semifinals, the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team faltered against Dominican Republic in Sunday’s NORCECA U20 Continental Championship gold medal match.

Dominican Republic won the tournament, hosted at NOVA Southeastern University, upsetting the defending champion Americans 25-22, 25-14, 23-25, 25-17. Iit was a bittersweet finish to a remarkable two-week run for the U.S. which included sweeping both its NORCECA pool and the U20 division at the 2016 High Performance Championships, dropping only one set along the way to Puerto Rico in NORCECA pool play prior to Sunday’s final.

“They’re young and they’re a phenomenal group and I’m very proud of all they’ve accomplished these last three weeks,” Head Coach Laurie Corbelli said. “Yeah, we didn’t get the victory tonight. However there’s more opportunity for USA to qualify for World Championships, and I have no doubt they will.”

Dominican Republic used powerful serving – the toughest the team has seen in the two competitions, Corbelli said – to neutralize the U.S.’s potent offense. The opponent also repeatedly tested the U.S. block; the Americans recorded just five total blocks – three by the tournament’s “Best Blocker” Brionne Butler (East Bernard, Texas) – after dominating the net in previous matches.

“It was unbelievable,” Corbelli said of Dominican’s serving. “They didn’t care where it went. They just ripped and it was a good night for them. They were on. They played great defense, they had a great game plan and I think they deserved to win.”

After struggling to point score in Set 2, the U.S. came out swinging hard in Set 3, playing aggressive volleyball that served as the team’s calling card during the tournament. Thayer Hall (Moore, South Carolina) tallied three of her five kills off the bench as Corbelli altered lineups to try and change match momentum. 

Lexi Sun (Encinitas, California) again led the U.S. with 14 points (13 kills, one block) and was named the NORCECA U20 “Best Spiker” during the awards ceremony following the final. Butler added 11 points (seven kills, three blocks, one ace) and fellow middle blocker Taryn Knuth (Johnston, Iowa) added 10 points (nine kills, one block) while Paige Hammons (Louisville, Kentucky) had one of her best matches with eight kills, cutting hard shots to the deep corner down the line and consistently receiving powerful Dominican serves.

Dominican’s Natalia Martinez dominated the match with 23 kills and four aces for a match-high 27 points; she was named the tournament’s MVP.

By winning the Continental Championship Dominican Republic automatically qualifies for the 2017 FIVB U20 World Championships. In previous years the top two finishing teams have earned bids, however the policy was altered this year. The U.S. will have additional opportunities to qualify, either at the 2017 Pan Am Cup or through international rankings.

NORCECA U20 Continental Championship Final Standings:
1. Dominican Republic
2. United States of America
3. Cuba
4. Puerto Rico
5. Mexico
6. Costa Rica
7. Haiti
8. French St. Martin

U.S. Starters vs. Dominican Republic
Outside hitters: Paige Hammons, Lexi Sun
Middle blockers:  Bri Butler, Taryn Knuth
Opposite:  Mackenzie May
Setter: Sydney Hilley
Libero: Jamye Cox

U.S. Statistics vs. Dominican Republic
Kills: Sun 13, Knuth 9, Hammons 8, Butler 7, May 6, Thayer Hall 5, Hilley 1, Madison Lilley 1
Blocks: Butler 3, Knuth 1, Sun 1
Aces: Butler 1, Hilley 1, Lilley 1, May 1

2016 U.S. Women’s Junior National Team 
No. Name (Position, Hometown, Height, High School Grad Year, Cub, Region)
1. Brionne Butler (MB, East Bernard, Texas, 6-3, 2017, Houston Juniors, Lone Star)
2. Jamye Cox (L, Oregon, Ohio, 5-3, 2017, Michigan Elite, Lakeshore)
3. Paige Hammons (OH, Louisville, Kentucky, 6-2, 2017, KIVA, Pioneer)
5. Thayer Hall (OH, Moore, South Carolina, 6-3, 2018, Upward Stars Upstate, Southern)
6. Hailey Harward (L, Phoenix, Arizona, 5-9, 2016, Aspire 18 Rox, Arizona)
7. Sydney Hilley (S, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, 5-11, 2017, Minnesota Select, North Country)
8. Taryn Knuth (MB, Johnston, Iowa, 6-3, 2017, Iowa Power, Iowa)
9. Madison Lilley (S, Overland Park, Kansas, 6-0, 2017, KC Power, Heart of America)
10. Mackenzie May (OH, Dubuque, Iowa, 6-3, 2017, Adrenaline Volleyball Academy, Iowa)
12. Lauren Sanders (MB, Snohomish, Washington, 6-5, 2017, WVBA 18 Mizuno, Puget Sound)
13. Stephanie Samedy (OH, Clermont, Florida, 6-2, 2017, Top Select Volleyball Academy, Florida)
20. Lexi Sun (OH, Encinitas, California, 6-3, 2017, Coast VBC, Southern California)

Head Coach: Laurie Corbelli
Assistant Coaches: Brian Wright and Genny Volpe
Technical Coordinator: Jesse Tupac
Team Leader: Lizzy Briones

NORCECA U20 Continental Championships Schedule (All times listed in eastern standard time)
Tuesday, July 26:

Cuba def. Haiti, 25-8, 25-9, 25-14
Dominican Republic def. Costa Rica, 25-7, 25-6, 25-3
Puerto Rico def. Mexico, 25-23, 23-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-7
United States def. French St. Martin, 25-2, 25-4, 25-5

Wednesday, July 27:
Mexico def. French St. Martin, 25-7, 25-3, 25-8
Dominican Republic def. Haiti, 25-15, 25-6, 25-10
Cuba def. Costa Rica, 25-9, 25-9, 25-10
United States def.  Puerto Rico, 25-15, 23-25, 25-15, 25-20

Thursday, July 28:
Costa Rica def. Haiti, 25-23, 25-23, 25-17
Puerto Rico def. French St. Martin, 25-5, 25-4, 25-7
Cuba vs. Dominican Republic, 25-21, 25-18, 26-24
United States vs. Mexico, 33-31, 25-12, 25-5

Friday, July 29:
Cuba def. Mexico, 25-21, 25-19, 25-20
Puerto Rico def. Costa Rica, 25-18, 25-15, 25-10

Saturday, July 30:
Dominican Republic def. Puerto Rico, 25-17, 25-19, 25-19
USA def. Cuba, 25-13, 25-14, 25-22

Sunday, July 31: 
Bronze Medal Match: Cuba def. Puerto Rico, 18-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-16
Gold Medal Match: Dominican Republic def. USA, 25-22, 25-14, 23-25, 25-17