Cuba ends undefeated on top of Group A after 5-set win over the
GATINEAU, Canada, July 27, 2017 -
Cuba completed an undefeated campaign on top of Group A of the
12th Men’s Pan American Cup with a five-set win over
the United States (24-26, 25-21, 25-21, 19-25 and 15-11) in over
two hours at Gatineau’s Robert Guertin Arena.
The match between the youngest and
tallest teams in the tournament lived up to its billing with a
top-quality volleyball being played right from the outset. The
USA found spaces in the Cuban defense to lead 8-4 and 16-13.
Cubans kept fighting and with two consecutive blocks managed to
tie at 24, but the Americans kept their composure and won 26-24.
The defending champions Cuba came
back to the court determine to even the match and they showed
their strength early in the second set by taking an 8-5 lead,
which they increased to 17-11. The Americans never gave up and
closed the gap to three points (21-24), before Miguel David
Gutierrez sealed the win with a strong attack.
The third set started out evenly,
with the USA taking a narrow 8-7 lead. Cubans keep an aggressive
game. After a long rally, Javier Gutierrez blocked the tall
American attack to the crowd’s delight and equal the set at 11.
Miguel David Gutierrez scored an ace and Miguel Angel Lopez
followed with a strong hitting to put the Cubans 16-14 ahead at
the second technical timeout. Both Gutierrez and Lopez kept
hitting hard from the angles and despite a late US surge, the
Caribbean country went on to take the third set 25-21.
The North Americans bounced back and
after an even start broke away to build a comfortable 20-13
lead. Despite some net violations, the Americans regained their
composure and closed the set 25-19 to force a tie-break.
A substitute in the previous set,
Osniel Melgarejo put Cubans in front early on with a solid
serve. Before they changed sides, Cuba led 8-6 and increased the
lead to 12-8, but left-handed Michael Saeta caused a lot of
damage from the service line and closed the gap to two points
(10-12). The Caribbean squad regrouped after a brief timeout as
Miguel David Gutierrez scored his six hitting point of the set
to secure the victory 15-11.
Gutierrez was again Cuba’s top scorer
with 30, followed by Miguel Angel Lopez (14). Arvis Greene Jr.,
Brenden Sander and David Wieczorek each totalled nine for the
North American squad.
Cuba will advance automatically to
the semifinals on Saturday. The USA will play the third-ranked
team from Group B for a place in the final four.
Nicolas Vives, head coach of Cuba:
“Our team performed well and improved as the match progressed,
but they were desperate and anxious for the win. They put too
much pressure on themselves. The USA is a good team, but we
could have won in three sets. Our next match will certainly be
difficult, but our mindset in on the win.”
Miguel David Gutierrez: “This win
means a lot to me and to the whole team. We are a young team and
despite the ups and downs, everyone did their best in the last
set and we managed to win. This is a new generation determined
to move Cuban volleyball forward.”
Robert Neilson, coach of Team USA:
“We wanted to see our team compete and I was proud of the way
our guys worked. Hats off to Cuba – that’s a really nice team
and we hope to see them again in this tournament. Today, we were
just more aggressive from the service line, and just the overall
willingness to get in there and compete.
Again, I’m really proud of our team.”