The United States made up for its late arrival to the U21 Pan American Cup with plenty of drama in its opening group-play match.
UCLA outside attacker Zach Rama finished with a match-high 20 kills as the United States defeated Mexico 25-13, 24-26, 25-21, 22-25, 15-12 on Tuesday in Cuba.
Rama had two kills in the decisive game, including one kill as part of an 8-1 run to start the fifth game. In addition, Rama was on the service line for the final points of that opening-game run.
This victory comes after the United States arrived late to the international tournament because of travel delays resulting from the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. The team’s initial tournament opener against Chile on Monday was rescheduled to Thursday.
UCLA setter Andrew Rowan guided the United States offense to out-hit Mexico .374 to .184.
All three U.S. pin-hitters also had double-digit kills in the victory. Along with Rama, Ohio State opposite Shane Wetzel ended with 15 kills on a team-best .591 attack percentage, and USC outside attacker Noah Roberts added 13 kills.
The United States overcame committing 29 service errors and finished 10 aces – five more aces than Mexico. Four U.S. players had multiple aces with Rowan leading all players with three aces.
The United States will continue group-play as it plays the Dominican Republic on Wednesday. The Dominican Republic enters its group-play finale having lost to both Mexico and Chile and must defeat the United States in order to remain in contention for a possible quarterfinals berth.