McLaughlin-led U.S. Men's A2 Team Wins Pan Am Cup Pool

May 27, 2010

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The U.S. Men's A2 Volleyball Team secured a victory in Pool B with a 19-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-23 victory over Puerto Rico on Wednesday at the 2010 Pan American Cup at Roberto Clemente Coliseum. UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball coach, Rick McLaughlin, currently serves as head coach of Team USA.

However, both the United States (2-0) and Puerto Rico (1-1) will have to play in Thursday's quarterfinals. Idle Brazil joined Argentina in Friday's semifinals with a better points-ratio (1.105) than Team USA (1.085), which will face Dominican Republic at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday. Puerto Rico will play Canada in the early quarterfinal.

Carson Clark (Santa Barbara, Calif.) led all scorers on Wednesday with 24 points on a match-high 21 kills (0.63 attack percentage), one block and two aces. Jayson Jablonsky (Yorba Linda, Calif.) added 14 points on 11 kills (0.48 attack percentage) and three blocks.

Robert Tarr (Cape Canaveral, Fla.) contributed 12 points on eight kills (0.42 attack percentage) and a match-high four blocks.

Jose Rivera led Puerto Rico with 20 points and Victor Rivera added 11.

Puerto Rico won the first set comfortably, but its dependence on opposite Hector "Picky" Soto became obvious when he suffered a left groin injury early in the second set and was lost for the rest of the match.

"Unfortunately Picky got injured but that is not an excuse," Argentinean Coach of Puerto Rico Carlos Cardona said. "We made many errors in defense and also in our attacks. Obviously we didn't have an opposite to score 30 points every night so we will have to distribute the load in our next matches."

Among other U.S. scorers, David Smith (Saugus, Calif.) scored six points on six kills (0.40 attack percentage). Theo Brunner (Ridgefield, Conn.), a UCSB graduate, added six points on three kills and three blocks.

Setter Brian Thornton had one point on one block and was also credited with 28 running sets on 88 attempts. He set the team to a 0.50 attack percentage.

Libero Dustin Watten (Long Beach, Calif.) was credited with six digs on 19 attempts and 12 receptions on 17 attempts. Tarr had 18 receptions on 36 attempts.

The teams were close in overall statistics as the U.S. Men's A2 Team out-blocked Puerto Rico 12-8 while Puerto Rico had slightly more aces (3-2) and kills (51-49). But the big difference was in team errors where Puerto Rico had 32 and Team USA held to 22.

McLaughlin started Jablonsky and Tarr at outside hitter, Brunner and Smith at middle blocker, Clark at opposite, Thornton at setter and Watten at libero.

Matt McKinney (Santa Ynez, Calif.) and Dean Bittner (Lakewood, Calif.) played as substitutes.

The U.S. got off to a slow start in the first set, committing five errors on its way to trailing 8-3 at the first technical timeout (TTO). Clark posted two kills to bring the United States closer at 8-5. Puerto Rico made a few errors and allowed Team USA to pull to within one at 11-10. But Cardona called timeout and Soto came out with a kill to keep Puerto Rico ahead. Later, with Puerto Rico leading 15-13, it scored four straight points on three U.S. errors and a block to increase its lead to 19-13. McLaughlin called timeout, but the damage had been done. Puerto Rico led 23-16 when Team USA scored two straight points on a Jablonsky kill and Puerto Rico error. Puerto Rico reached set point first at 24-18 on Soto's kill. Team USA scored one more point on a Puerto Rico error before Puerto Rico won the match on a U.S. error. Puerto Rico scored 10 points on U.S. errors in the set.

Team USA settled down in the second set, taking a 5-3 lead on kills by Clark, Jablonsky and Smith along with two PR errors. That was when Soto injured himself and was replaced by Alexis Matias. Rivera scored on a kill before Team USA scored three straight points on kills by Jablonsky, Clark and Tarr to lead 8-4 at the first TTO. Puerto Rico came back with two successful attacks to make it 8-6. Tarr responded with a kill before PR came back with three straight kills, causing McLaughlin to call timeout with the scored tied at 9-9. With the score tied 10-10, Team USA scored five straight points, including three kills in a row by Clark, to lead 15-10. The U.S. led 16-11 at the second TTO. Later, with the U.S. leading 17-12, Clark had two aces in a row to increase the lead. PR did not give up. With the U.S. leading 23-15, Muniz had two straight blocks, causing McLaughlin to call timeout. The reached set point on a Tarr kill, but Puerto Rico scored on two Rivera attacks before Clark finally ended the set with a quick kill.

The U.S. took an 8-5 lead at the first TTO of the third set, scoring its first seven points on two kills by Clark, two by Tarr, a block and kill by Smith and a kill from Jablonsky. From there, the two teams traded points until the U.S. lead was 14-12. That's when Team USA scored four straight points on a PR error, a Brunner block and kills by Tarr and Clark to increase its lead to 18-12. The U.S. lead was 22-15 when Puerto Rico scored three straight points on two kills and a U.S. error. McLaughlin called timeout and Clark responded with a kill followed by two Tarr blocks to give the United States the set victory.

Team USA led 8-6 at the first TTO of the fourth set, including three Jablonsky kills. PR stayed close and pulled to within one point at 11-10 when the U.S. men scored three straight points on two Puerto Rico errors and another Jablonsky attack. Team USA led 16-12 at the second TTO. But Puerto Rico was not finished and it used a 6-2 run to tie the score at 18-18. Team USA came back with kills by Clark and Tarr to pull ahead by two. From there the teams exchanged points until the U.S. Men reached match point at 24-22. PR scored on a kill. But Smith's kill ended the match with a U.S. victory.

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans, usavolleyball.org