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Argentina claims Pan American Cup for the first time after 3-1 win over Puerto Rico


Gatineau, Canada, July 30.- Argentina became the fifth country in the history of the Men’s Pan American Cup to win the title after a hard-fought 3-1 win (25-23, 25-18, 23-25 and 25-20) over Puerto Rico after two hours of play at Gatineau’s Robert Guertin Arena.


Led by Julio Velasco, selected by FIVB as the world’s best coach of the 20th century, Argentina played a perfect the tournament losing one set in five matches. In its third consecutive final, the South American country finally claimed gold at this continental event for the first time.


The two teams who opened the tournament six days earlier- Argentina won 3-0- displayed a top-class volleyball that led them to the gold medal match. Led by Maurice Torres and Pablo Guzman, Puerto Rico led by one point at both technical timeouts. The set remained even at 21, but after a net violation, Argentina’s block shot down their rivals to move 24-21 ahead. The Caribbean side managed to close the gap, but left-handed opposite Santiago Darraidou closed the win for the South Americans with a strong spike from the left angle.


The Puerto Ricans kept the pressure in the second et with Torres and Sequiel Sanchez leading the attack. Mannix Roman scored an ace and Setter Edgardo Goas blocked the Argentinean attack to put them 8-6 in front. The set stay at 10 points for each team and from then on Argentina broke away. Diversifying the attack among Nicolas Bruno, Sebastian Solé and Bruno Lima, setter Luciano De Cecco added an ace and joined Solé in the block to contain their inspired opponents en route to a 25-18 win.


Puerto Rico took the initiative in the third set leading 4-1. Argentina fought back and tied at seven, before Maurice Torres’ spike put Puerto Rico back on top 8-7 at the technical timeout. Torres kept hammering the ball as the Islanders increased their lead to 20-14.  Argentina fought back with Cristian Poglajen and Martin Ramos leading their efforts, but Puerto Rico held them off to win 25-23 in the first set lost by Argentina at the tournament.


The South Americans came back on fire, taking an early 4-0 lead and held it to 8-4 at the first technical timeout. Pablo Guzman kept Puerto Rico in contention but their best man Maurice Torres was not playing at his top form. With Luciano De Cecco setting the attack in all areas of the net, Pablo Crer, Poglajen, Martin Ramos and Nicolas Bruno were again efficient hitting the ball to increase the lead Puerto Rico never gave up, but lend-handed opposite Santiago Darraidou close the fourth set as he did in the first one to bring his historic gold to Argentina.


Martin Ramos led the winners’ offensive with 13 points. Nicolas Bruno, Sebastian Solé (11) and Pablo Crer (10) also scored double digits. Maurice Torres was Puerto Rico’s top scorer with 22 points and Pablo Guzman contributed with 12.


Nicolas Bruno, wing spiker of Argentina: "As we saw on the court and as results show, we played a good tournament. We only lost one set in the final. We came here to win and improve on some aspects in preparation for the American Championships starting in a few days. This is a great boost. Luciano (Gecco) is the best setter of the tournament. This team has played together for a while, including the World League and this is reflected on the court. It makes a difference.”


Julio Velasco: "I am happy. We lost a set. The team was tired. Puerto Rico was very motivated and more aggresive. We had to get back into the game progressively. We needed to play games before the South American Championships. I would have liked to play Cuba, another good team with a different style, but overall it was a great experience. I am happy with how our block-defense system did, the ability to play youngsters like Bruno Lima and how Martin Ramos played as opposite. This is the base team for the South American Championships”.


Ramón Hernández, coach of Puerto Rico: “I am really happy with our performance throughout the tournament. We improved as a team and we played better with every single match.  I am really pleased – this is only our third medal ever in the Pan Am Cup and this is our first tournament of the year.  So to be able to have a silver medal performance; I am excited about the future of this team.  We have to recover from this tournament and prepare for the NORCECA Championship in the US.”