Puerto Rico knocks off United States to earn fifth-place finish at Pan Am Games

Photo courtesy of NORCECA and the FIVB

Puerto Rico will end the Pan American Games with a top-five finish thanks in part to one of the youngest players on its roster.

Purdue Fort Wayne outside attacker Pelegrin Vargas had nine kills on a 47.37 percent offensive efficiency as Puerto Rico defeated the United States 22-25, 25-21, 25-22, 20-25, 15-8 in the tournament’s fifth-place match on Saturday in Lima, Peru.

The All-MIVA selection was one of four Puerto Rican players with more than five kills in the victory.

Former Pepperdine opposite Maurice Torres finished with a match-high 21 kills on a 53.85 attack percentage, while former Springfield middle attacker Jonathan Rodriguez added 10 kills. In addition, outside attacker Pablo Guzman had 15 kills against the United States.

Vargas to accompany his offensive performance also had six digs — the most digs of any pin-hitter in the match.

Despite the loss, the United States had a better offensive efficiency than Puerto Rico at 49.57 percent to 48.78 percent.

Hawai’i outside attacker Colton Cowell was one of three U.S. players to lead the team with nine kills. Both former BYU All-American outside attacker Brenden Sander and former Stanford All-American setter and now opposite James Shaw joined Cowell with a team high in kills.

Cowell and Vargas were among the three current NCAA players to participate in this match. BYU All-American opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez came of the Puerto Rican bench and contributed a kill.

Both the United States and Puerto Rico qualified for the fifth-place match after finishing in third place in their opening-round pools.