It wasn’t pretty at times, but the U.S. Men’s Volleyball Pan American Games Team survived an upset scare in its group-play opener.
The United States rallied from A 2-1 deficit to win the final two games and defeat Puerto Rico 22-25, 25-19, 20-25, 25-16, 15-13 on Monday in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The United States (1-0, 1-0 Group B) in the decisive fifth game trailed 12-9 before going on a 6-1 run to close out the match.
U.S. outside attackers Evan Patak and Tony Ciarelli each had a match-high 18 kills in the victory.
Patak was the lone member of the U.S. Men’s National Team competing at the Pan American Games. The former UC Santa Barbara All-American also led the United States with eight blocks and two aces.
Ciarelli, an All-American outside attacker at USC, is one of four current college players on the U.S. roster. UCLA setter Kyle Caldwell played throughout the match and helped the United States out-kill Puerto Rico 53-52 while adding three blocks.
Puerto Rico (0-1, 0-1 Group B) outside attacker Ezequiel Cruz in the loss had a team-high 13 kills.
With this victory, the United States moves into second place in Group B. The first-place team in each of the two groups will receive a bye into the semifinals, while the second and third place teams will compete in the quarterfinals.
The United States will continue the three-match group-play round with a match against Canada on Tuesday. If the United States defeats Canada it could potentially clinch in a spot in the quarterfinals.
The United States won the silver medal at the last Pan American Games in 2007, while Puerto Rico failed to advance beyond group play.