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Puerto Rico stuns the USA to reach Final Four in Men’s Pan Am Cup

GATINEAU, Canada, July 28, 2017 - Puerto Rico kept their winning campaign at the 12th Men’s Pan American Cup as they defeated the United States 3-1 (25-21, 25-22, 20-25 and 25-14) at Gatineau’s Robert Guertin Arena.

Both teams started out well. Puerto Rican libero Dennis Del Valle made an almost impossible save, before Maurice Torres and Steven Morales blocked the USA attack to keep the match even at eight points. Both Morales and Torres were also crucial to move the Islanders ahead 16-15 at the second technical timeout. The gap stayed close, but Torres hit hard again and Sequiel Sanchez followed with an ace and strong attack to win the opening set 25-21.

The Puerto Ricans kept the momentum in the second set as they led 8-4 at the first technical timeout. Kyle Ersing kept the Americans in contention from the hitting zone, as they trailed 13-16. Roman Mannix’s ace advanced the Islanders 20-15, but the Americans closed the gap to 19-20 with Brendan Sander and Ersing leading the way. Captain and setter Edgardo Goas and Mannix Roman closed the set for Puerto Rico with a double block to win 25-22.

The tallest and youngest team in the tournament, the USA showed their higher block as Jeffrey Jendryk II, Brenden Sander and Jonah Seif stopped their rivals in the net to lead 7-4, but Puerto Rico bounced back and score four consecutive points to move ahead 8-7 at the first technical timeout. Reception and hitting errors ensued as the Americans came back on top and 11-8 and led leading for the first time in the match after a technical timeout (16-14).

The Americans did not slow down. Led by Mitchell Stahl, Sander, Ensing and David Wieczorek, the went on to take the third set 25-20.

Puerto Ricans came back on fire early in the fourth set. Setter Edgardo Goas paved the way for six consecutive points as they reached the first technical timeout comfortably 8-1 ahead. Sequiel Sanchez, Maurice Torres and Pablo Guzman responded in the serve and attack as Goas and Mannix Roman did by blocking their rivals to extend the lead to 16-4. That gap proved to be unsurmountable as the Islanders maintained their composure and sealed the historic win with Sequiel Sanchez’s spike from the left angle.

Winner of two medals in the 11-year history of the event, Puerto Rico aims to return the podium for the first time in seven years. They last claimed the bronze in 2010.

Pablo Guzman and Maurice Torres were Puerto Rico’s top scorers with 18 points, two more than Sequiel Sánchez. Kyle Ensing led the USA output with 14 points. Sander Brenden (13) and Jeffrey Jendryk II (10) also totaled double digits.

Ramon Hernandez, coach of Puerto Rico: “We knew it would be a difficult match against a talented team. But our team came out focused and with a well-defined plan. They played well in every aspect of the game and that’s why we achieved this performance. This is only our fourth game this summer and our team is growing, building our game progressively. This is a very important step. We will prepare to play well and have our best possible showing.”