Stanford sophomore Carol Zhao captured a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games, pairing with Gabriela Dabrowski for a 6-1, 4-6, 10-5 victory over Mexico's Victoria Rodriguez and Marcela Zacarias on Saturday in Toronto.
The win was particularly rewarding for Zhao, who originally wasn't on the Canadian Pan Am team until an injury to Sharon Fichman opened up a spot for the 20-year old from Richmond Hill, Ontario.
"It feels amazing," Zhao said. "You don't get many chances to play in games like this in your home town. Winning it on home court was really incredible."
Zhao also reached the quarterfinals of the singles draw, prevailing in a pair of three-setters before eventually falling to Rodriguez.
The 2015 NCAA singles runner-up, Zhao was named an All-American in both singles and doubles for the second consecutive season in 2014-15. Zhao concluded her sophomore season at 35-5 overall, 21-2 in duals (all at the No. 1 spot), 14-3 in tournament play and 22-3 against nationally-ranked opponents.
The ITA Northwest Region Player to Watch, Zhao was also tabbed an All-Pac-12 First Team pick and joined Taylor Davidson as the Pac-12 Doubles Team of the Year. Zhao was equally successful in the classroom, earning Pac-12 All-Academic Second Team accolades.
The U.S. National Team swept Puerto Rico, 25-17, 25-22, 25-14, to remain undefeated on Saturday evening in Toronto.
The U.S. (2-0, 10 points), which is using a split squad for this event with the FIVB World Grand Prix running concurrently, faces Brazil (2-0, 8 points) on Monday to conclude pool play matches.
Outside hitter Krista Vansant scored a match-high 12 points with 10 kills on 22 attacks, one block and one ace. Outside hitter Kristin Hildebrand, a Stanford grad, totaled seven kills on 13 swings and three aces for 10 points. Opposite Nicole Fawcett reached double-figures with 10 kills on 17 attacks.
"We did a good job fighting back from 22-20 (in the second set) as we made the plays with our serves and good blocking and defense," Hildebrand said. "I am really happy. We did a good scouting against Puerto Rico as we were able to control their fast offense."
Palo Alto High grad Lily Zhang begins competition on Sunday at the Atos Markham Pan Am Centre.
The 2015 Pan American Games serve as the beginning stage for Team USA as it's the first time that team members can qualify individually for the 2016 Olympics. Round-robin singles competition decides who reaches the medal stand. The gold medalist of the event goes on to Brazil.
Team USA also will participate in team match play. However, team competition doesn't directly influence Olympic qualification.
Zhang, a 2011 Pan American Games bronze medalist and 2012 U.S. Olympian, headlines the women's team. She won the 2014 U.S. women's championship.
Zhang also was the first American to earn an Olympic or Youth Olympic medal in the sport, when she took bronze at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.
The women's team is unique as it enters competition as one of the top-seeded teams. The team is relatively young, but has a lot of experience.