Eight current and 10 former UCLA athletes represented teams from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Jamaica at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, from July 26 to Sunday. The United States finished with the most total medals, 293, which included 120 gold.
Eight current and former Bruins have won gold in the pool.
UCLA rising redshirt senior goalie Alex Wolf – along with former Bruins Matt Farmer, Max Irving and Chancellor Ramirez – helped Team USA to an 18-6 win over Canada in the men’s water polo gold medal match. For the women, rising senior attacker Maddie Musselman, alumna Rachel Fattal, alumna Alys Williams and former Bruin coach Adam Krikorian guided Team USA to a 24-4 triumph over Canada in the gold medal match.
Wolf made 13 saves in the title game versus Canada, matching the 13 saves he made to stifle Argentina in Team USA’s 17-1 semifinal victory. Irving contributed one goal in the gold medal match.
Musselman provided three goals in the gold medal match and four in the team’s 31-7 win over Cuba in the semis. Fattal and Williams scored three and two goals against Cuba, respectively, but were both unable to play in the gold medal match because of illness.
UCLA men’s and women’s water polo coach Adam Wright said the opportunity for his current athletes to play at the international level with professionals gave them experience and poise that are hard to find.
“Confidence is so critical,” Wright said. “You gain confidence through experience and you gain confidence through succeeding and failing. In the end, those experiences are different than what you can get (in the United States) domestically.”
Neither the men’s nor women’s team dropped a match at the tournament, and, now that the men’s team qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with the Pan American win, both the Team USA men’s and women’s water polo teams have qualified for the Olympics.
Team USA fell six points short of a gold medal.
Rising junior forward Michaela Onyenwere of UCLA women’s basketball competed with the Pan American Games’ U.S. women’s basketball team, which went undefeated for the entirety of the tournament before falling 79-73 to Brazil in the final.
Team USA earned group stage wins over Argentina, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Colombia to move on to the semifinals. Onyenwere averaged 12.7 points and nine rebounds across the three games.
Onyenwere notched eight points and six rebounds in the U.S.’s 62-59 win over Puerto Rico that earned the team a spot in the finals.
UCLA coach Cori Close said Onyenwere’s coaches on the USA basketball 3×3 team and at the Pan American Games have been impressed with the forward’s character as well as her talent.
“I’ve just been talking to people there, and just like we experience here at UCLA, (Onyenwere’s) joy, her constant hard work, her relentless effort is captivating everyone she comes in contact with,” Close said.
In the final, Team USA led 42-41 with seven minutes, 57 seconds to go in the third period, before Brazil went on an eight-point scoring streak to take the lead. Brazil did not relinquish that lead for the remainder of the game.
With this year’s silver medal finish, the U.S. women have collected seven gold medals, six silvers and two bronze medals as a program.
Onyenwere will return to Westwood this week, and after a few days to rest, she will rejoin the Bruins in preseason training.
“I already knew that she was going to be one of the best players in the country, let alone in the conference,” Close said. “But I’m excited to see about all these diverse basketball experiences, how these have added to her tool box that will in turn be applied to our program.”
Four Bruins helped the USA team to gold.
Rising redshirt senior pitcher Rachel Garcia, along with former Bruins pitcher Ally Carda, infielder Delaney Spaulding and assistant coach Tairia Flowers, competed with Team USA in the Pan-American Games, defeating Canada in the Grand Final game 3-1 to win gold.
Team USA lost only one game during the tournament – a 3-2 loss to Canada that was avenged with the championship win later in the week. Overall, the Americans went 7-1, outscoring opponents 45-6 total and recording four shutouts.
Garcia made three pitching appearances for Team USA, including a 4 2/3 inning start versus Venezuela in which she gave up just one hit and struck out five batters. At the plate, Spaulding hit three home runs in the tournament.
At the same time Garcia and Team USA were winning gold in Lima, rising sophomore UCLA pitcher Megan Faraimo pitched a perfect game for the USA national team in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-19 Women Softball World Cup against Mexico. Faraimo pitched all four innings of the mercy-rule game, with all 12 outs coming via the strikeout.
UCLA freshman guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. represented Team Mexico at the Pan American Games.
Jaquez Jr. scored 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting and secured four rebounds in Mexico’s 92-81 victory over the Virgin Islands in the seventh-place match. Jaquez Jr. also put together 10 points and two rebounds in Mexico’s lone group stage victory over Argentina.
Mexico dropped its first two games to the Dominican Republic and Uruguay, with Jaquez Jr. totaling two points in each contest.
Argentina claimed the gold medal, while Puerto Rico and the United States took home silver and bronze, respectively.
One former Bruin and one future Bruin competed in Lima.
Danusia Francis, who graduated from UCLA after the 2016 season, represented her father’s home country of Jamaica in the competition, while Brooklyn Moors – a verbal commit to UCLA for the 2020-2021 season – competed for Canada.
Francis made history as the first Jamaican gymnast to qualify for an apparatus final by qualifying for the balance beam final and finished the event with a seventh place finish with a score of 11.733. Francis also competed in the individual all-around final, where she also placed seventh.
Moors collected two medals during her time in Lima – first winning silver in the team all-around and then taking home gold in floor exercise with a score of 13.900. Moors also competed in the uneven bars, finishing sixth.
Incoming freshman Alexandra “Sasha” Vagramov represented Canada in both singles and doubles.
Vagramov won her first round singles match in three sets (3-6, 6-4, 6-3) over Bolivia’s Noelia Zeballos, winning almost two-thirds of her return points in the third set. Vagramov’s run was cut short, however, as she dropped her second-round match against Usue Arconada of the United States 7-5, 6-2, committing 42 unforced errors in the match.
In doubles, Vagramov partnered with fellow Canadian Jada Anne Bui. The duo fell in the first round to the Peruvian pairing of Dana Guzman and Dominique Schaefer 6-4, 6-4.
UCLA rising sophomore Jamie Hsu took home the silver medal in women’s doubles playing for Team USA alongside Kuei-Ya Chen.
The pair bested the Mexican, Cuban and Brazilian teams to reach the gold medal match, only dropping one set up to that point. The group dropped the final match in straight sets to the Canadian team of Rachel Honderich and Kristen Tsai by a score of 21-10, 21-9.
Hsu said badminton often gets overlooked – especially in comparison to other larger NCAA sports – but the support and energy of the badminton fans in Lima was great regardless.
“You do feel kind of overshadowed,” Hsu said. “But when you get to competition, and we see all of our familiar (badminton) players, it turns into a huge event. All of our supporters are huge badminton fans and people that know about badminton, and the spirit was really strong at the (Pan American Games).”
Hsu said the enormity and variety of the Pan American Games were eye-opening, as was the feeling of representing one’s country alongside many other athletes.
“Leading up to this point in my career, it was one of the largest events I had been to,” Hsu said. “It opened up my view to multisport games. Winning a silver medal at this event, and knowing there are other people fighting for the same medal, was so special.”