COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 23, 2019) – The U.S. Women put together a complete match to defeat Puerto Rico 25-19, 25-16, 25-22 on Friday at the NORCECA Champions Cup at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center.
The U.S. Women will face Dominican Republic on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT with both teams heading into the final match with 2-0 records. The winner will earn the gold medal. The match can be watched live at go.usav.org/USAVwatch.
Team USA outside hitter Sarah Wilhite Parsons (Eden Prairie, Minnesota) led all scorers with 17 points on a match-high 13 kills, a match-high three aces and one block. Opposite Simone Lee (Menomonee, Wisconsin) added 13 points on 11 kills, one block and one ace.
Middle Jenna Rosenthal (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin) chalked up seven points with four kills, two blocks and an ace. Middle Paige Tapp (Stewartville, Minnesota), who started and played just the third set, chipped in three kills on four swings and two blocks for five points.
Middle Rhamat Alhassan (Glenarden, Maryland) and outside hitter Kadie Rolfzen (Papillion, Nebraska) contributed four points in two sets each. Setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson (Minnetonka, Minnesota) and Roni Jones-Perry (West Jordan, Utah), who started the second set at outside hitter, each totaled two points.
Seliger-Swenson set Team USA to a 52.6 kill percent and .397 hitting efficiency (41-10-78). The American defense limited Puerto Rico to a 34.4 kill percent and .144 hitting efficiency (31-18-90).
Libero Amanda Benson (Litchfield Park, Arizona) had a USA-high nine digs and had seven excellent receptions on 14 errorless chances. Rolfzen had 10 excellent receptions on 19 chances and five digs. Wilhite Parsons had six digs and six excellent receptions.
The U.S. led in attacks (41-31), blocks (6-4) and aces (7-3). It scored 21 points on Puerto Rico errors and committed 19.
“I think we remained disciplined, and that’s a great testament to this team and the hard work that they’re putting in,” U.S. coach Tayyiba Haneef-Park said. “Even when we were down by five or six at one time, they were still fighting, they were still keeping their composure. Ultimately, that’s what brought us back.”
Haneef-Park said the theme for the team this week was patience.
“In a timeout (when we were down) I reminded them to be patient and to minimize their unforced errors,” Haneef-Park said. “For a while we got into a spot where we were serving out; we were trying to be too aggressive and going for the ace instead of just serving in. As soon as we changed our serving game, the rest of the match started to unfold for us as well.”
Lee agreed that the team kept its composure, even when they were down.
“On our side, it didn’t really feel like we were down,” Lee said. “It was more like ‘next side out, next ball, next point.’ Our captain, Sarah (Wilhite Parsons), did such a good job of bringing the whole team together. Even in the first set, she was saying ‘let’s hold in the middle, let’s look each other in the eye, keep our composure even more,’ and I think that helped our team so much.”
Lee also praised setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson, who had two points.
“Sam puts up so many good balls, especially in the back row, and I think that’s one thing that really caught the Puerto Rican defense off guard,” Lee said. “By her being able to set both back row and front row, that opened up so many options for us. A lot of times we had one-on-ones and for us, that was like a free-for-all.”