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Venezuela tops Mexico 3-2 to finish seventh at Pan American Cup

GATINEAU, Canada, July 30, 2017 - Venezuela defeated Mexico 3-2 (22-25, 25-16, 23-25, 25-17 and 15-13) to finish seventh at the 12th Men’s Pan American Cup at Gatineau’s Robert Guertin Arena.

Determined to achieve their first win of the tournament, both teams played evenly the first set, before Mexico found an extra gear to take gear to win 25-22.

Venezuela came back with a more efficient game in the second period. The serve caused more damaged and the block responded to win 25-16 and even the match.

The close match continued in the third set. Led by left-hander opposite Ridl Garay, Mexico led 8-6 and 16-14 at both technical timeouts. Emerson Rodriguez came back on top in the attack and the serve to equal the set at 21, before his teammate Edson Valencia’s ace put Venezuela ahead for the first time in the set.

Gabriel Cruz, Pedro Rangel, Jorge Barajas produced two consecutive blocks and Garay responded again with a strong hit from the right angle to give Mexico the partial win 25-22.

Venezuela returned to the court more motivated to even the match and force a tie-break. Opposite Emerson Rodriguez produced his fifth ace of the game and Fernando Gonzalez added a block and two solid attacks to put the South Americans 10-5 ahead. Mexico bounced back with two successful blocks to close the match 10-12, but Venezuela responded with four consecutive points to lead 16-10 at the second technical timeout. Ronald Fayola and Edson Valencia also made their contribution with solid spikes and Valencia added an ace to seal the set victory 25-17 and force a tie-break.

Two consecutive blocks and a net violation put Mexico 3-0 in front in the decisive set. But Venezuela did not give up. After two consecutive blocks, Emerson Rodriguez hit hard again with a spike and his sixth ace of the game to move ahead 6-5.  A series of hitting and reception errors paved the way for Venezuela to increase the lead 14-9. Mexico reacted with four consecutive points, but Emerson Rodriguez sealed the victory with his 35th point of the game.

Rodriguez, who scored 31 points in another tie-break match three days earlier, became the second highest scorer in the 11-year history of the tournament. Only Dominican Republic’s José Cáceres has scored more (37), back in 2009.

Edson Valencia added 13 and Gonzalez Fernando 10 for the winning team. Ridl Garay led Mexico with 19 points and Jorge Barajas contributed with 13.

Emerson Rodriguez: "I have been playing as opposite for two years, replacing the role of our captain who could not be here. We did not achieve what we wanted but we managed to win at least one game. We will now look forward to the South American Championships and the World Championships qualifier.”

Ronald Sarty, head coach of Venezuela: “Except for the first game against Canada, we played well against Argentina and Puerto Rico, the two finalists. We were close to winning against Puerto Rico. At this level, every detail is important. We have to work a lot on the reception and learn to finish the sets. These are inexperienced players. Emerson just started to assume the role of opposite.  He did it very well. We rely a lot on our captain Kervin Piñerúa. We are not a tall team and we learn to play more as a team and not depend on one player. This is an important victory in the lead-up to the South American Championships and the World Championships qualifier.”

Ridl Garay, Mexico’s opposite: “We all worked hard, but we made mistakes that cost us matches. This is a young team. We are in transition after the Olympic Games. We have a new bench. We have to keep working because small mistakes can cost you a set, a match and a tournament. Our next goal is the World Championships qualifier”.

Jorge Azair, head coach of Mexico: “We had a very inconsistent game. It is expected of a team playing at this level for the first time. We struggled in the middle of the court and that’s where we lost the game today. We learn by playing. We have to now focus on the NORCECA World Championships qualifier.”