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Cuba wins Pan American Cup bronze after 3-1 win over Canada

GATINEAU, Canada, July 30, 2017 - Cuba claimed the bronze medal of the 12th Men’s Pan American Cup after beating Canada 3-1 (25-18, 25-21, 22-25 and 25-23) in almost two hours at Gatineau’s Robert Guertin Arena.

The gold and bronze medallists from the 2016 edition, Cuba and Canada met for the first time in this tournament with the host country fielding a younger team after claiming a historic bronze medal at the FIVB World League.

In front of an enthusiast home crowd, Canada started out well, but Miguel Angel Lopez led the attack and Cuba took advantage of their rivals’ hitting and serving errors to move 16-11 in front. Javier Jimenez and Miguel David Gutierrez also contributed in the attack as the Caribbean side took the opening set 25-18.

Both teams played evenly in the second period. With the score tied at 19, Miguel Anguel Lopez hit an ace and the Islanders also took advantage of their rivals’ serving and hitting errors. Ryan Sclater kept Canada in contention with a strong attack and serve, but Cuba defended well and sealed the partial win 25-21 with another strong spike by Lopez.

Blake Scheerhoorn and Max Burt hit hard and blocked the powerful Cuban attack to put the host team in front 8-4 at the first technical timeout. Coming from the bench, Dariel Albo joined Miguel Angel Lopez in the attack to keep Cubans in contention 10-11.

With Casey Schouten from the service line, Canada scored four consecutive points to keep the Canucks 19-14 in front. Cuba closed the gap, but Scheerhoorn completed the partial win 25-22 with a strong spike from the right angle.

Both teams maintained a close battle in the fourth set, with Lopez and Sclater leading their respective teams from the hitting line as Cuba led 16-15 at the second technical timeout. Lopez and Gutierrez caused more damage with their powerful spikes. Blocking and attacking, Sclater closed the gap for the Canadians 22-23, both the Lopez-Gutierrez duo sealed the victory with two more solid hits.

Miguel Angel Lopez led the Cuban offensive with 21 points as Miguel David Gutierrez added 16, including three aces. Captain Livan Osoria and Javier Jimenez totalled 10 each.  Ryan Sclater was Canada’s top player with 25 points and Blake Scheerhoorn contributed with 12.

Miguel Angel Lopez, wing spiker of Cuba: “The team performed well. We recovered psychologically from the defeat vs. Puerto Rico y entered this match with a different mindset. This game was as important as yesterday’s. We wanted a better result overall, but we fulfilled our goal.  It’s been an unforgettable experience for many us competing in our first senior tournament. Many of us will play the U23 World Championships in two weeks.”

Nicolas Vives, head coach of Cuba: "Our guys recovered mentally from a loss and that’s important in any team, especially for this young side. Our players improved as the tournament progressed. We achieved our goal, winning a medal here. We will now prepare for the U23 World Championships and the World Championships qualifier.”

Ryan Sclater, player of Canada: “It was a tough game for me, I felt that things were not going well at the start, but then it was a process trying to build back in….  It was sweet though because our team is really tight and does a good job of supporting each other. So it was really helpful for me to have them build me up and get back into the game.  It was tough down the stretch because they are a great team, but we played some good volleyball at times.

“A lot of us are playing at this level for the first time, so we have a lot to take away and process over time. It was good to see the level that we need to raise our game to and be more consistent and steady.”

Larry McKay, head coach of Canada: “It was a good developmental game for us.  At times we matched the level of that Cuban national team, which was very good for our group. What we are trying to do with these guys is continue on what other coaches have developed over time that has led to the success of the current senior A team.  I think we’re doing a good job with the developmental aspect and hopefully these guys will be able to populate the senior A national team in the future.”