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Argentina and Puerto Rico to play for Men’s Pan American Cup final in Gatineau

GATINEAU, Canada, July 29, 2017 - Argentina and Puerto Rico will meet in the final of the Men’s Pan American Cup as the Islanders defeated defending champions Cuba 3-1 (16-25, 25-17, 25-22 and 25-21) in almost two hours at Gatineau’s Robert Guertin Arena.

Neither Argentina or Puerto Rico have won the continental tournament. The South Americans will play their third straight final and Puerto Rico will play its first one in 10 years.

In a Caribbean derby, both teams exchanged points early in the opening set, with Puerto Rico taking an 8-6 lead the first technical timeout. The score stayed even at 12, but Cuba moved ahead with a solid block and an efficient attack by Miguel David Gutierrez and Miguel Angel Lopez.  Livan Osoria was also key blocking in the net and Lopez scored an ace to break away as Cubans went on to post an easy 25-16 win.

The Puerto Ricans did not give up and pushed right from the start of the second set. Mannix Roman caused damage from the service line. A smart serve from Edgardo Goas added up as the Cubans could not stop their Caribbean rivals who took a comfortable 16-8 lead. Cubans reacted and closed the gap to 12-16 but Ulises Maldonado and Maurice Torres put Puerto Rico back on track with a solid attack and Torres added an ace. Steven Morales and Arturo Iglesias stood to a double block to close the set 25-17.

Miguel David Gutierrez led the Cubans at the start of the third match, producing to solid attacks and an ace, but Puerto Rico bounced back and blocked the Cuban spiker twice to take the lead 9-6 after five consecutive points.  Cuba recovered but Puerto Rico managed to stay in front by three points at the second technical timeout.

The defending champions only managed one good block to close the gap 15-16, but faced problems in the reception to see the gap increased to 17-21. Dariel Albo, who replaced Gutierrez and both Javier Jimenez and Conception started to block their opponents’ attack again to put their time back in contention to tie the set at 22. Manix Roman and Pablo Guzman Rico blocked the Cuban spikers twice to take the third period 25-22.

The Cuban block started to perform well again in the fourth set to put the team in front 8-5. But Puerto Rico kept the pressure. Maurice Torres started to hit more efficiently and join Steve Roman in the block to regain the lead 16-15. Miguel Angel Lopez blocked Torres and produced a good attack to keep the score even at 20.

Puerto Rico broke away from that point. Pablo Guzman scored an ace and Mannix Roman, Sequiel Sanchez and Edgardo Goas followed with a block to pave the way for a 25-21 and a historic win.

Maurice Torres led the Puerto Ricans with 14 points as Steven Morales and Sequiel Sanchez added 10 each. Miguel Angel Lopez scored 16 for Cuba, two more than Miguel David Gutierrez.

Nicolas Vives: “We played extremely bad. They were very anxious and desperate. Our substitutes were very inconsistent and the reception continued to be our weakest point. We had what it takes to win this match, but Puerto Rico played better and they deserve the win. We will come back tomorrow and fight for a medal, one of our goals here. Puerto Rico is a strong rival and we need to prepare better next time we meet at the World Championships qualifier.”

 

Ramón Hernández, coach of Puerto Rico:  “We just made history; we are going to play the final against probably the best team in the tournament, and it’s our first final in the Pan Am Cup. We’re really happy with our performance tonight and our performance throughout the tournament.  The team has been growing every time we have an opportunity to play. I’m really happy and satisfied with the way our team is playing.”

 Maurice Torres, opposite, Puerto Rico: “The team played fantastic. I personally had a lot of ups and downs, but the team pulled together.  Everyone from the first guy on the court to the last guy on the bench played a role in today’s match and to make history like this – being able to win a medal for the first time in seven years is a great, great opportunity for us in the first tournament of the new Olympic cycle. So things are looking up, which was exactly what we were hoping for.”