PINAR DEL RÍO, Cuba, June 3, 2022.- Cuba made its home debut after more than two years without playing as a team with a victory over the Dominican Republic 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-23) in the opening match of the Challenger Final Four of Norceca playing in the hall 19 de Noviembre.
Despite the heavy rains that hit precisely this western part of the Island that forced the opening times to be postponed, both teams offered a lively game despite the obvious superiority of the hosts over a very young and inexperienced rival team.
Virtually all of their players played for Cuba, including a setter in each set. The top scorer of the challenge was the corner hitter Osniel Mergarejo with 11 points, and he was escorted by the opposite player Miguel David Gutiérrez and spiker Miguel Ángel López, both with 10 points.
Dominican auxiliary hitters Henry Antonio López and Wilfrido Hernández scored 10 and 8 points, respectively.
Nicolás Vives, coach of Cuba: “We are getting into the game, doing team work. That is why the possibility of everyone going out to play is important for the group and to continue working to achieve victories. I liked everything my team did, what sometimes annoys me when we relax a bit and stop pressing, it’s normal sometimes, but in general I saw the team very well”.
Miguel David Gutiérrez, second best scorer: “Despite the fact that we haven’t played together for a long time, the first result was quite good. We were able to connect as much as we could, each one brings their personal experience in the leagues, it is what we are looking for, although we still have a long way to go and we have other important competitions”.
José A. Gutiérrez, coach of the Dominican Republic: “Cuba is a very good team, but it has weaknesses, and if you attack them you will have more options, but right now it is more important to organize ourselves and be more consistent in our approaches, beyond do the opposite and that is what we are looking for, that growth in achieving what we want to do. Precisely this type of game allows us to grow, the most difficult thing is to maintain and endure what comes when you face a team like Cuba, that’s part of learning “.
Wilfrido Hernández, outstanding corner player for the Dominican Republic: “We are quite excited, we are almost entirely a young team and what we are looking for is development, that we improve every day and at the same time gain more experience. In the third set we improved our reception, we listened to what our coach told us and we tried to comply with it. Individually, I felt good, but I think I can offer more with a higher level of play.”