USA Women Win Pan Am Bronze Medal

Aug. 18, 2003

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Mission accomplished!

Wiz Bachman (Lakeville, Minn.) scored a match-high 18 points and Nicole Branagh (Orinda, Calif.) added 17 as the U.S. women's national volleyball training team captured the bronze medal at the XIV Pan American Games with a decisive 3-1 over Brazil Saturday night.

High-school phenom Cynthia Barboza (Long Beach, Calif.) added 11 points in the 25-23, 25-19, 17-25, 25-19 victory at the Pabellon de Voleibol at Olympic Park.

In the gold medal match, the Dominican Republic won its first-ever Pan American Games volleyball gold medal with a thrilling 3-2 win over three-time defending Olympic gold medallist Cuba.

Team USA headed into the tournament with the goal of winning a medal, and when they stepped onto the steamy court for the bronze medal match they made certain Brazil would not get in the way of them accomplishing that feat.

Aside from its goal, the team discussed some extra motivation for beating Brazil in a players-only meeting before the match.

'We focused on three major factors,' explained Bachman, who had nine kills, a match-high six blocks and a match-high three service aces. 'First, this Brazilian team beat us (3-0) in our first match at these games. Second, Brazil beat the USA to take the bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics. And finally, Brazil beat our men's team last night to win the bronze medal.'

Branagh had a match-high 12 kills and five blocks while Barboza calmly collected nine kills and two blocks as the Americans exacted revenge on the Brazilians with a systematic attack.

Before the loss to Cuba in the semifinals Thursday night, the United States' only loss in the tournament was to Brazil in the first match of pool play on Aug. 3.

The Brazilians scored a 3-0 win against a USA team playing in its first international match together. Their inexperience showed as Brazil won the match by scores of 30-28, 25-13 and 25-18.

On Saturday night, a 'different' team took the court wearing red, white and blue.

'It was a matter of confidence tonight,' said Bachman. 'We found our rhythm; we believed in each other; and overall we held our composure very well.'

Erin Aldrich (Dallas, Texas) posted another solid performance, earning eight points on six kills and two blocks, while collegiate All-American Ogonna Nnamani, who will be a junior at Stanford in the fall, chipped in with five points.

'We played extremely well at the beginning of tonight's match,' said Team USA head coach Mike Hebert (University of Minnesota). 'In our first match against Brazil we did not do that. Tonight for the first 15 minutes of the match we were in control, and we let (Brazil) know that we were going to be in the match for the duration.

'Erin and Wiz were virtually unstoppable...and Cynthia is a prodigy-that's all there is to it.'

The United States captured the bronze medal at this tournament for the second-straight time. At the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg the Americans earned the bronze with a 3-0 win over the Dominican Republic.

'The players were really united,' said Hebert. 'They really wanted to bring home a medal.'

The top teams for both Brazil and the USA did not compete in this year's Pan Am Games. Both countries were represented by their 'second' team or 'training' team.

That provided the young Americans with yet another factor for doing well in this tournament, said Hebert.

'I think this team has a bit of a chip on its shoulder as the 'second' team,' he added. 'They had something to prove...and they did.'

Hebert was the head coach of a USA team that earned a bronze medal at the 1991 World University Games in Sheffield, England, and he is very familiar with the long road a team must travel to achieve a top-three finish.

'I have done this enough to know that it is very difficult to win a medal of any kind,' admitted Hebert. 'I leave this assignment with a great sense of pride for what this team accomplished.

'I hope USA Volleyball fans back home can appreciate the magnitude of what this team did tonight,' he added. 'They had to fight through so many distractions-inexperience, climate, raucous crowds-to earn their place on that podium.'

courtesy of USA Volleyball

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