Palo Alto High graduate Lily Zhang helped the U.S. women's table tennis team take home the gold at the Pan American Games on Tuesday in Unionville, Ontario.
Zhang, 19, who earned a bronze medal in both the individual and team competitions in 2011, arrived at these 2015 Games seeking even better results.
The trio of Zhang, Jiaqi Zheng and Yue Wu took home gold in the women's team competition by defeating No. 1-seeded Brazil.
"This is absolutely incredible," Zhang said. "The crowd was really incredible and seeing this many people come to watch table tennis is a great sight to see."
In the table tennis team event, the first team to win three matches wins, with the first two matches being singles, the third doubles and the final two singles.
The first singles match of the night was Zheng against Brazil's Lin Gui. Zheng fell to Gui in the first game, 11-7, in six minutes. The second game belonged to Zheng, who won 11-9. In the third game, Zheng took a quick lead on Gui, who never recovered, winning 11-6. The best-of-five match then belonged to Zheng with her 11-8 win in the fourth game, earning a point for Team USA.
In the second singles match, Zhang took the court against Brazil's Caroline Kumahara. Zhang jumped out to a quick 5-0 start in the first game, setting her pace for a dominant 11-3 win. After dropping the second game, 11-7, Zhang again made quick work of the Brazilian with an 11-4 win in Game 3. Zhang lost Game 4, but earned the second point for Team USA with a come-from-behind win in the fifth game, 12-10.
"Winning the second match and leading 2-0 took a little bit of the pressure off of us," Zhang said. "We had a lit bit more leeway."
With the Americans only needing one more point to secure the gold, Team USA sent Zheng and Wu to the floor for the doubles round and swept to victory and the gold medal.
"Getting bronze last time," Zhang said, "was good, but it was a little bit heartbreaking. Being able to finally come back here and win gold feels incredible."
The USA men's team competing at the Pan American Games let a 2-0 lead slip away and fell to host Canada, 19-25, 25-27, 25-23, 25-16, 15-12 to finish third in Pool B of the men's volleyball tournament at Exhibition Centre in Toronto.
Stanford's Brian Cook started at outside hitter and finished with nine kills and six digs for the Americans (1-2), who will play Argentina (2-1) in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The winner will advance to the semifinals against Canada or Brazil. The losing team will play in the fifth-place match on Wednesday against the loser of the quarterfinal between Puerto Rico and Cuba.
The United States led Canada in attacks (56-54) and in aces (10-3). Canada led in blocking (12-8). Canada scored on 40 U.S. errors while committing 29.
The USA women, meanwhile, were edged by Brazil, 22-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-22, 15-11, on the final day of pool play in Toronto.
The U.S. (2-1, 12 points), which is using a split squad for this event with the FIVB World Grand Prix running concurrently, finished second in pool play and will now face Cuba in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday.
Outside hitter Kristin Hildebrand from Stanford contributed 14 kills on 51 swings and two blocks for 16 points. She also had 19 digs to go with 21 excellent receptions on 38 chances.
Fellow Stanford grad Cassidy Lichtman, mainly used as a serving sub, was on the serving line 11 times in the five sets while allowing Team USA to gain several runs on her serve.
Brazil out-blocked the Americans 19-14 and held a 5-0 advantage in aces. Team USA managed a 69-50 margin in kills, but 31 errors proved costly against Brazil's 21. Brazil won despite converting just 28.4 percent of its attacks.