Costa Rica wins five-set thriller to Belize

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala, March 14, 2023.- Costa Rica won a five-set thriller 3-2 (25-14, 21-25, 30-32, 25-18, 15-11) over Central American rival Belize at the NORCECA U19 Pan American Cup in Guatemala.

This was Costa Rica’s first win in pool A improving their record 1-1, while Belize stands with 0-2.

Belize turned up the heat winning the second set but not before missing two set points. Brayden Richardson put an end to a marathon third set 32-30 with a monster block. Costa jumped to an early 8-0 advantage in the fourth and remained on top to reach a tie-break finish.

Costa Rica led in blocks 15-13, while Belize dominated 53-50 in kills and 3-2 in aces. Costa Rica scored on 49 Belizean errors and handed out 31 points.

Outside hitter Stanley Grant topped Costa Rica with 24 points on 20 kills and 4 blocks, joined by outside hitter Julian Araya with 13 points (12 kills, one ace) and opposite hitter Yulius Brown with 12 points (10 kills, 2 blocks).

Belizean Eleazar Mejía led all scorers with 28 points, the most so far in the tournament, on 26 kills, one block and one ace. Opposite hitter Daniel Musa added 14 points on 9 kills, 4 blocks and one ace; and outside hitter Preston Smith scored 13 points on 11 kills and 2 blocks.

On Wednesday, Costa Rica (1-1) plays against the United States (2-0) and Belize (0-2) faces Mexico (1-1).

Huge celebration of Gabriel Obando (12) of Costa Rica

Stanley Grant, top scorer of Costa Rica: “Belize is a strong opponent, it has very good players that can make the difference during a match. Costa Rica had a lot of courage to recover coming from behind, we were superior. We are happy and hoping for more wins”.

Robertocarlo Argüello, head coach of Costa Rica: “Since we saw them at the Central American championship, where they finished third place, we were expecting them to be a tough opponent. We had difficulties in the second and third sets, committing too many errors. We were able to order them giving the necessary instructions during time-out, they understood that they must give the ball to the setter for us to manage the game. I believe Costa Rica still isn’t performing at its level, we must go on learning”.

Nicanor Requena, captain of Belize: “Costa Rica had a little more hustle than we did, but the team played well, and we are very proud of our performance”.