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Cuba sweeps Guatemala to reach final of U21 men's championship


GATINEAU, Canada, July 9, 2016 – Cuba advanced to the final of the U21 NORCECA Men's Continental Championship by beating Guatemala 3-0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-17) in the semi-final on Saturday.


Cuba showed its hitting and serving power, with Miguel David Gutierrez drilling six aces among his 16 points. Jose Romero Gonzalez contributed 14 (including 11 kills on 19 attacks) and Miguel Lopez had 13 (10 kills on 16 attacks). Guatemala, the Central America representative in the last four at Centre Sportif de Gatineau, received 18 points from captain Erik Flores (including 17 kills on 25 attacks).


The tournament winner qualifies for the 2017 FIVB U21 world championship.


“We are excited to get ready to play in the final,” Cuba setter Luis Taboada said. “We will gather our whole team in one room to speak about it. We have to play our best.”


There was little doubt Cuba would win, but coach Jesus Angel Cruz sent a message by using a timeout with a 16-15 lead in the third set, after Flores secured the first point following a technical timeout.


“We're ready, whichever team [Canada or Team USA] that we play,” Cruz added. “The gold medal is the target. It is the only way to have the classification for the world championship. We have to win.”


On top of a discrepancy in experience, Cuba averages 194 cm in height, compared to Guatemala's 181. Scoring in the mid-teens in every set was a moral victory.


“Here, we learn to play against tall teams – players who are much bigger than we are and more experienced than us,” Flores said. “These kind of games give us more experience for the next tournament we have in Central America in two weeks (U-23 Central American Championship in Panama). It’s useful for us because in Central America there are not as many teams with this much experience playing at this level.”


Amid that challenging atmosphere, Guatemala's back-row players each had strong nights. Adan Ruano had a 73.5 per cent night setting, going 36-of-49 (73.5 per cent) on sets. Libero Luis Santa Cruz had a match-high seven digs.


“We knew we were going to play against a big team, with a high level, and we are just trying to improve,” Guatemala coach Reider Lucas said. “We were just approaching the opportunities the other team gave us and did our best with what we have to offer during the match.”


The bronze-medal game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday, with Cuba facing the Canada-USA winner in the championship gold-medal game at 8 p.m. 


Matches live streamed at