One of the favorites in the gold medal conversation, Brazil faced an upset in the semis by eventual gold medalists Argentina. Heading into the gold medal match, Argentina nearly faced their own upset, facing a very talented Cuban team.
Despite winning the first set by a 21-17 tally, Argentina endured a 24-minute long set that saw them lose by two points to Cuba in the second. Bouncing back from the loss and the windy conditions, Argentina only required 16 minutes to dispose of the Cubans in the third and final set.
In service, Cuba’s Lianma Flores had 21 attempts and 1 ace, while teammate Leila Martinez registered 25 attempts and 2 aces. Of note, Martinez would have a game high 18 digs. Argentina’s Ana Gallay would also have 25 attempts (and 1 ace), but teammate Georgina Klug exceeded them all with 29 attempts. Both would provide 12 digs, part of a balanced attack.
In the bronze medal matchup, the promising Canadian team of 22 year-old Taylor Pischke and 23 year-old partner Melissa Humana-Paredes were defeated by the Brazilian team of Liliane Maestrini and Carolina Horta. Of note, Brazil only needed 17 minutes to take the first set by a score of 21-9, while 20 minutes was required to complete the sweep against Canada, taking the second set by a 21-14 margin.
Horta would log 25 attempts, more than Pischke and Humana-Paredes combined (13 and 11). In addition, Horta had 10 digs, which matched the total of the Canadians, while her 6 service aces topped all competitors in the bronze medal match.
Pischke, who was a former star in the indoor game with the University of Manitoba had lamented that Brazil had successfully kept them outside of their game. Compounded by the windy conditions, and possibly still upset over the loss to Cuba in the semifinals, it made winning very difficult on this day.
For host country Canada, a podium finish looked highly possible. Winning their first four consecutive matches (against Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Costa Rica), Pischke and Humana-Paredes were establishing themselves as favorites to reach the gold medal game. As a side note, they had not even lost a set until their semi-final defeat against Cuba.
Displaying great sportsmanship, Humana-Paredes returned immediately after the match and acknowledged the fCanadian faithful, thanking them for their support throughout the Games. Had they managed to defeat Brazil, they would have made history as the first Canadian female duo to capture a medal in beach volleyball at the Pan Am Games.
Their defeat signifies the fourth time that Canada has advanced to the semi-finals of beach volleyball at the Pan Am Games, only to emerge without a podium finish. Considering their youth, their skills should only improve, ensuring that the elusive medal shall be proudly placed around their necks at the next Pan Am Games.