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Cuba ends undefeated on top of Group A after 5-set win over the USA


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.”