Long Beach. California, May 9, 2012 – Canada delivered the first shock of the NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament on Wednesday by beating world No. 5 Cuba to top Pool B while hosts USA remained unbeaten to wrap up Pool A at the competition in Long Beach, California.
Both countries earn a direct berth to the semifinals of the qualifying event, which will see the eventual winners move on to the 12-team 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Mexico and Cuba finished second in Pools A and B, respectively, after suffering their first losses of the competition. Cuba will now meet Trinidad & Tobago in the quarterfinal round on Thursday with the winners moving on to take on Olympic champions USA, while Mexico will face Puerto Rico for the right to face Canada.
Canada v CubaWorld No.18 turned the form book on its head as they defeated Cuba in straight-sets (25-21, 25-17, 25-21) on Wednesday to finish with a win-loss record of 3-0 to top Pool B. Cuba entered the tournament ranked No.5 in the world and No. 1 in NORCECA.
Gavin Schmitt collected 21 points for Canada and Frederic Winters added 16 points in the victory. Cuba was led by Fernando Hernandez’s 13 points, followed by nine points from Rolando Cepeda and Wilfredo Leon. Canada took advantage of 21 errors by Cuba and held margins of 6-2 in blocks and 5-2 in aces. Canada converted 62.3 percent of its attacks (43 of 69) for points thanks to setter Joshua Howatson’s 22 running sets and 44-of-52 successful service receptions.
“We’re obviously happy with the result,” Canada coach Glenn Hoag said. “We only have one chance for this. Now we’ll focus on the semifinal. This Cuban team is much younger than the Cuban teams we’ve played in the past. I thought we had very few errors and our serving was really good.”
United States v MexicoWorld No.6 the United States earned a 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-14) victory over Mexico to remain unbeaten and clinch Pool A.
USA captain Clay Stanley led the USA with 14 points, while Matt Anderson chipped in 12 points and William "Reid" Priddy 10 points. Mexico’s Carlos Guerra produced a team-high 12 points and captain Gerardo Contreras added nine points. USA held advantages of 40-31 in attacks, 8-4 in blocks and 6-3 in service aces.
“First of all I would like to congratulate Mexico for coming out ready to play,” USA coach Alan Knipe said. “They put pressure on us early and often. We haven’t allowed teams to earn many points that teams don’t earn. I think we have room for improvement and things on video we can clean up on our day off tomorrow. Tonight we had our offense going and we served well, which has been consistent for our first three matches.”
Puerto Rico v Dominican RepublicPuerto Rico captured their first victory of the 2012 NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament with a 25-15, 25-18, 25-16 victory over Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico had four players reach double-figure scores topped by Ezequiel Cruz Lozada’s 13 points, while Juan Figueroa tallied 12 points in the victory.
Dominican Republic was led by Elnis Palomino Castillo’s nine points.
Puerto Rico’s offense was the key difference with a 42-27 advantage in attack points and converted 58.1 per cent of attacks. Puerto Rico also produced a 9-1 margin in blocks and charted 39 successful receptions on 42 chances led by Jose Rivera’s 20-of-20.
“I am happy with the victory,” Puerto Rico coach Carlos Cardona said. “We needed to win this match for the playoffs. It helps our hopes for the future. We had a good game. We are improving little by little. There was an opportunity for everybody to play without the pressure of winning. It was a good performance.”
Trinidad & Tobago v Costa RicaTrinidad & Tobago were also victorious with a straight-sets (25-18, 25-23, 25-19) victory over Costa Rica. Marc Honore led Trinidad & Tobago with 17 points, while the captain Nolan Tash contributed 13 points. Costa Rica was paced by Richard Smith Hall’s 11 points.
Trinidad & Tobago out-blocked Costa Rica 11-3 in the victory. Both teams committed one significant amount errors as Trinidad & Tobago had 26 and Costa Rica 22.
“I just want to say it was a tough game for us against Costa Rica,” Trinidad & Tobago coach Gideon Dickson said. “If you look at these scores, you will see that although we won the game, Costa Rica increased in terms of points as compared to last time we played. They are improving and we are also improving.”
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